The rumours are true. bubble tea has officially arrived at M&S cafe, shaking up its new 2024 menu, along with stacks of pancakes to help brighten the February blues.

After creating a storm on social media we headed down to the M&S cafe situated in the Manchester Market Street store to see for ourselves whether the highly-anticipated bubble tea lives up to the hype – and to test out a few of the other new additions on the menu.

We ventured over to the cafe on a typically grey and dreary January morning and opted for a booth next to the window for optimal people watching. Being 9am on a Wednesday, the cafe was pleasantly quiet, making it easy to forget its location in a busy M&S store.

The cafe’s industrial interior, reminiscent of a converted warehouse, and extensive menu also gives it the vibe of a trendy up-market brunch spot, rather than your typical run of the mill supermarket cafe. By 10am it did begin to fill with customers and, around an hour later, a queue started to form but, despite the increasing bustle, the service remained fast.

We tested out some of the new items on the M&S cafe menu
We tested out some of the new items on the M&S cafe menu
(Image: Manchester Evening News)

Mango and Passionfruit Bubble Tea

First up we tried the bubble tea that has created a buzz on TikTok. Sadly the Strawberry flavour, the more popular of the two options on offer, had completely sold out, so we opted for the Mango and Passionfruit flavour.

The drink is served with ice in a tall glass with bright orange tapioca balls at the bottom. For the uninitiated, bubble tea, or boba tea, is made with sugar, tapioca starch, and water, and has tapioca balls or pearls within it – edible translucent spheres produced from tapioca starch that comes from cassava root.

Originating in Taiwan, bubble tea has now become somewhat of a global phenomenon, so it was only right to give M&S’s version a whirl.

On first sip, the staggering sweetness of the drink is pretty overwhelming and, before you have time to fully absorb it you are hit by explosions of intense passion fruit flavour as the tapioca balls burst in your mouth.

After a couple of swigs you do gradually become more accustomed to the drink’s sweet taste and can begin to appreciate its potential as a refreshing summery pick me up on a grey day.

The novelty of the popping pearls and its unique, sickly sweet flavour is likely what has driven the drink’s popularity and fuelled the craze that surrounds it. M&S’s tea with a twist certainly offers a punchy taste sensation – but isn’t for those lacking a sweet tooth.

Looks: 4/5

Taste: 3/5

Price: £3.75

Overall rating: 3.5/5

(Image: Manchester Evening News)

Pancake Stack with Bacon

We decided to treat ourselves to the classic American combo of pancakes with bacon. The high protein pancakes came within minutes in a neat stack, with four sizable bacon rashers placed on top and a small jug of Canadian maple syrup on the side.

As soon as the pancakes arrive at your table you are immediately hit by the irresistible sweet smell of maple syrup. After tucking in, we’re happy to report the bacon is cooked to crispy perfection and the pancakes are light and fluffy, never veering into the realm of stodgy.

There are three pancakes in the stack, which is quite modest in comparison to other stacks, but the portion size proves to be plenty and you’re left feeling satisfyingly full.

The accompanying maple syrup also allows for a good deal of drizzling and the pancakes soak up the syrup nicely and pack plenty of flavour.

For vegetarians, and perhaps the more health conscious, you can also opt to have 0% fat Greek yoghurt and berries instead of bacon.

Looks: 3/5

Taste: 5/5

Price: £6.50

Overall rating: 4/5

(Image: Manchester Evening News)

Limited Edition Magic Maple Coffee

We couldn’t have a brunch without coffee and this new addition to the menu is billed as being the ‘biggest thing to happen since the introduction of Flat White’ – quite the claim.

The drink comes in a 6oz glass and does look similar to a Flat White in appearance. The coffee (ristretto) is topped with steamed milk with maple syrup added to the mix.

The coffee has a rich velvety texture but the maple syrup taste is slightly overpowering, however, considering we also went for the pancakes with maple syrup, it’s possible we just over did it on the syrup front. Definitely a good option for coffee lovers after a sweet hit.

Looks: 4/5

Taste: 3/5

Price: £3.60

Overall rating 3/5

(Image: Manchester Evening News)

Percy Pig Frappe

We couldn’t come to the M&S cafe without trying the new Percy Pig Frappe that has also proved a hit on TikTok – and it did not disappoint.

The pale pink frappe comes with a topping of whipped cream, layered with multi-coloured sprinkles and a miniature Percy pig.

The iced drink is a combination of all the flavours that make up the iconic Percy pig– apple, raspberry and grape – and has a sweet creamy taste. Hints of vanilla and berries also shine through, making the drink essentially a Percy Pig in liquid form. A top pick for fans of the sweet.

Looks: 5/5

Taste: 3/5

Price: £3.75

Overall rating 4/5

(Image: Manchester Evening News)

Cheesy rarebit crumpet served with tomato chilli chutney

Feeling very full, we finally tested the cafe’s cheesy rarebit crumpet. Normally it comes as one giant crumpet but, after selling out, we were given two smaller crumpets instead.

Despite being described as a ‘light bite’ the portion size is generous and the crumpets are very filling – with a soft texture that soaks up all the rich flavour of the creamy rarebit which melts in the mouth.

The tomato chilli chutney adds a hint of sweetness to the meal. Overall, the decadent crumpet is the perfect warming comfort food choice for winter.

Looks: 3/5

Taste: 4/5

Price: £4.50

Overall rating 3.5/5

The verdict

Overall the M&S cafe’s new menu offers a wide range of classic brunch favourites, along with some more unique options, packed with flavour and not unreasonably priced. The portions are generous and the atmosphere in the cafe is relaxed with staff offering quick and friendly service.

The cafe has also introduced a new range of vegan and gluten free options, which will come as welcome news to many.

Visitors on Wednesday included friends, couples, and solo eaters looking for a rest and bite to eat mid-shop, or a place to read a book and get some work done.