The Art of Cake & Coffee - Cafe Etch, Middlesbrough

26 Nov 2019

One of my most recent favourite platforms to spot new independents in Boro is Instagram (you should totally follow Independent Teesside - it's a hotspot). It's so fab to see our town growing and thriving, and one of the latest places that I'd seen setting up shop on the 'gram was Cafe Etch. From what I could see, it was a cute and cosy place for cake and coffee, which you guys know I'm all for, so we headed there for a little look.

I'll be honest, I really didn't know too much about the cafe before we set foot through the door. I knew it was slap bang in the centre of town, which is an ideal spot, given all the Christmas shopping that's about to start dominating the area. I also knew it had been set up inside an old, uninhabited shop that used to be a jeweller's and engraver's, but apart from that, I didn't really have a clue! I was mainly excited to try out their hot chocolates and cake, but what we were met with was so much more than that.

A rich history

Despite trying to be inconspicuous and exploring the place without disturbing anyone too much, we met the co-owner, Mike Guess, on the top floor, who talked us through the history of the building. The father and son duo, Mike and Mick, bought the jeweller's in June 2019 and did all of the work themselves to bring it to the cafe that it is today. This includes ripping up the floors, exposing the brick work, re-inventing all of the lighting and electrics... they really went the whole nine yards.

However, the pair were keen to keep the history of the 1878 Victorian build alive and you can very clearly see the old skeleton of the house before the extension was added, thanks to the somewhat wonky window that looks through from the main room into the back workshop-style seating area. Mike had also clearly done his homework on the place and can re-count all of the businesses that had stood there in the years before they'd bought the spot - a gin shop, a bookmaker and a sheet music shop, to name just a few!
During the huge refurb, Mike was also keen to bring parts of his industrial background into the interior. Having worked in the steel industry for years (and taking that fantastic photo that you can see in the image above), it was so obvious to see that he'd brought elements of his career into the cafe, with the gorgeous exposed bricks, the pipes, steampunk-style pendant lighting and the work benches from one his steel plants. You guys know how much I love an industrial interior, so I was practically drooling over it all - especially the work benches, which had been set up next to plenty of plug sockets, so individuals or groups could go along and get some work done.

However, I think my most favourite bit of history was the gorgeously curved counter that you can spot as soon as you walk through the front door. It's where you'll be served your food and drinks, and I just had to know where it came from. Turns out, it's actually a quarter of a table from the Saltburn Conservative Club! It's such a stunning antique and it adds a touch of softness against the industrial elements. It's worth a look in just to see the piece!

Part of the arts and culture scene

If I'm not shouting about Boro local life in general, I'm shouting about the growing arts scene. It's something I care so much about and it deserves to be shouted about more, and the father son duo totally agree! In order to add a bit more of Teesside to the walls of the building, local artists are being encouraged to come forward and have their work displayed, either just for a bit of exposure or to sell to customers in the cafe. With a rotating diary, this means that there could be different artwork on the walls every two weeks or so, which I'm all about!

While the artwork idea was pretty much an immediate thing, Mick told us that there are a few more plans in the pipeline, like a feminist book club on the top floor, plus craft classes and a pop up vinyl shop in the back workshop room. How exciting is that? I'll definitely be sharing details of all of these events when I hear about them, so keep your eyes peeled on social.

Inclusive food

While the pair don't shout about their cafe being vegan and gluten-free friendly (because places should just be like that anyway), they have an extensive amount of options that will appeal to everyone, including those of us who don't fall into those categories. The food on the menu is labelled, but the cakes, for example, didn't have any obvious signage to say if something was vegan or gluten-free (all vegan goodies are made by the super talented Sunflour Vegan Bakery). We unknowingly ended up with a homemade raspberry and elderflower drizzle cake that was gluten-free, and it was absolutely beautiful. Of course, if you ask, they'll tell you your options, but it's a great way to try out something new.

We went along just after lunchtime, so we weren't set on a sandwich or pie, but there were lots to choose from and all of them sounded fantastic. Next time, I'm definitely grabbing a chicken, chorio and gouda sandwich! Instead, I opted for a hot chocolate and a Jammy Dodger blondie (created by The Blondie Baker) - both of which were so delicious.

I'm picky about hot chocolate because sometimes, you don't get the chocolate flavour through, but this one was spot on. As for the blondie... it made me jealous that I can't make blondies. It was very clearly homemade and had that yummy crisp-outside-soft-inside blondie thing that you need and want. There was just the right amount of raspberry jam inside and a mini Dodger on top that I felt kind of bad about eating. Basically, it was scrumptious!

Alex went for the raspberry, lemongrass and rosehip tea, and a slice of the raspberry and elderflower drizzle cake that I mentioned before (clearly, we were feeling very raspberry-y). He mainly opted for the tea because he fell in love with the angular teapots that he'd seen in the cafe's Facebook photos, but ended up thoroughly enjoying the tea. It was punchy and fruity with a stunning citrus aftertaste - the perfect wake me up tea. As for the raspberry and elderflower drizzle, we were both floored by how unbelievably good it was. It was so tasty and the tart raspberry paired so perfectly with the sweetness of the elderflower. It was absolutely sensational!
So, fellow Teessiders, my verdict on the newest cake and coffee hangout to hit Boro's centre is that it's a must-visit. Even if you aren't into the whole arts thing, we can all get on board was reasonably priced food and drinks, and supporting a local independent. I'm predicting that it'll be popular with students, thanks to the trendy Insta-vibe, the laptop-friendly workspace in the back room and the eclectic music. I also think it'll be the perfect Christmas shopping stop off point - you know, when you've spent too long on your feet carrying bags and you just want to chill out a second? That.

I absolutely can't wait to go back to Cafe Etch and try out their lunch menu, so I'd keep your eyes peeled for an update, if I were you!

Cafe Etch (5 Gilkes Street, Middlesbrough, TS1 5ET) is open Monday - Saturday from 8:30AM to 6:30PM, and Sunday from 9:30AM - 6PM. For more information, check out the Facebook page.

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