Maxine Gordon queues up for a table at Mannion & Co in York - will it be worth the wait?

I DON'T mind waiting for a table at York deli-cafe Mannion & Co in Blake Street.

That's because I can greedily gaze upon the cakes in the glass display cabinet and leisurely read the special's board.

Mannion's is a York institution. For many years it was a fruit and veg store, but since 2011 it has been building a reputation as one of the best daytime eating out spots in York.

From the outside, what catches your eye are the meringues the size of dinner plates.

The other thing you might notice are the queues.

That's because Mannion's has a no reservations policy – so it is strictly first come, first served.

Happily, I only had to wait five minutes for a table. My friend K and I were given two spots at the large wooden table at the front of the cafe, which is designed for sharing.

It was lunchtime (Mannion's isn't open in the evenings) and we were hungry. There are just enough options to give diners plenty of choice: a daily selection of sandwiches and specials dishes chalked up on blackboards, as well as a menu featuring "Mannion's Famous Deli Boards", offering a choice of charcuterie, cheese, smoked salmon and sausage rolls with prices from £7.50. Sarnies are about a fiver while the specials dishes cost between £6.95 and £11.

K is a pescatarian and dithered between the soft polenta, Gorgonzola tomato sauce with roast chestnut and purple sprouting broccoli (£10), and the grilled mackerel with taramasalata, poached salsify, pickled cucumber and samphire (£11), opting for the fish dish in the end, but requesting they hold the taramasalata.

This was no problem. When the plate arrived, a surprise addition was a doorstep of bread, which acted as the foundation stone. Spears of milky-white salsify were tucked under meaty fish fillets, generously covered in glossy green twiglets of samphire. "Delicious," was K's verdict. "A real assault on the senses." The salsify, she said, tasted like a sweet onion, with the texture of soft turnip, while the samphire and pickled cucumber added salt and sharp notes. The fish had a lovely buttery-ness to it and she loved the nuttiness of the sourdough. "I feel I am eating something tasty but healthy," was her conclusion.

My Bits and Bobs platter (£10) was a feast for the eyes and its generous portion defeated me – it was easily big enough to share, perhaps with some extra bread. Layers of salami (four different types in all, including a hot and spicy one) and ham were matched with three different cheeses (an oozy Italian taleggio; a delicious Mrs Kirkhams Cheddar from Lancashire and a tangy Yorkshire Blue) and an assortment of olives, capers, gherkins, herby sun-dried tomatoes, onions pickled in balsamic vinegar and a pot of sweet tomato chutney. There were five long fingers of focaccia, perfect for piling with slices of meat, cheese and chutney. It was all very good.

Besides lunch, Mannion's is a popular spot for breakfast and afternoon tea. It has a charming panelled room at the back as well as an L-shaped sheltered courtyard for dry days.

The coffee is delicious. K had an Americano (£2.20) and praised its smooth, rounded flavour. I couldn't fault my decaf flat white (£2.70) – giving top marks for the strong, bitter-free taste, which was as good as the real thing.

The only disappointment were the cakes. After deliberating for ages, we picked a chocolate banana cake and the pear and frangipane tart (£3.50 each). Both were quite dry. The banana cake was heavy and felt more wholesome than wicked. It was covered in a sticky coating that we wished contained more chocolate. The tart could have been rescued with a generous layer of jam between the pastry base and the frangipane filling.

With a fruit drink each, the bill came to £38.35.

Mannion's provides a take-out service too for sandwiches, which appears to be popular. It also has a sister outlet in Castlegate, Helmsley.

Service is good: the staff are informative and engaging and work swiftly. The cafe has a homely, welcoming feel to it and if you are in the front section there is an open kitchen where you can see the chefs at work.

Mannion & Co is an independent business with a loyal clientele. We'd go back, but would try some different cakes.


Mannion & Co, Blake Street, York

Tel: 01904 631030

Opening times: Monday-Saturday: 9am-5pm, Sunday: 10am-4:30pm


Ratings (out of ten): Food 8, Service 8, Ambience 8, Value 8