Stoke-on-Trent isn’t necessarily well-known for its architecture. Not many industrial cities are, I suppose. We’re known for our pottery, ceramics and oatcakes, our potter’s dialect and Robbie Williams.
Having lived in the city for 21 years, I often forget we have some beautiful building in the area, when you see them every day you almost forget to admire them. The Exchange Bar and Kitchen sits in the Grade II listed building of the former historic telephone exchange on Trinity Street, Hanley. I’ve been a regular diner here for around three years now (probably more). I love to slink into a booth with my laptop, preferably the corner one, which is lined with old, colourful doors along one side, and my favourite boozy wallpaper on the other.
Last week The Exchange launched a brand new menu, so Jake and I went to go and check it out.
Our server welcomed us at the door and took us straight to our seats – one of the high-walled booths. They are cosy and personal, which makes them perfect for a girly gossip night or a cute little date spot. Scatter cushions are dotted in the corners – and trust me when I say you’ll need a lie down after a meal.
My favourite drink at The Exchange was discovered when I passed my driving test. I was usually designated driver and sick of ordering a coke with ice. A bar tender ran me through a list of cordials, and one has remained a firm favourite – Fitzpatrick’s Rhubarb and Rosehip. Served with lemonade and a slice of lemon, it’s a syrupy sweet summer sipper. Bet you can’t say that after a gin.
Let’s dig into the food then, shall we?
Steak and Ale Pie £11
Steak and Ale pie is a traditional, British favourite, and everywhere has its own twist on the classic. The pies are individually made, rather than tray baked, which keeps presentation neat. It is served with bacon and chive mashed potato and a jug of thick gravy. Whoever thought of putting bacon in mashed potato is a genius – the chefs at The Exchange really do know what they’re doing when it comes to flavours.
The Exchange Burger £12
With a bit of an American vibe, it’s only right for The Exchange to serve up some whopping burgers. The Exchange Burger features a 6oz beef patty, salt smoked bacon, vintage cheddar, BBQ sauce and three beer battered onion rings. It’s huge, and certainly would have been my ‘usual choice’ if I hadn’t gone for the Steak and Ale pie. Jake upgraded his fries to Rock ‘n’ Roll Fries, which are loaded with bacon, cheddar, mozzarella and Cajun spice. You can also order these as a side/small plate, which is my go-to for when I’m getting a bit of work done and want something to pick at.
Mac and Cheese Fritters £5
This is a revamp of one of my old favourites from a few menus ago – the mac and cheese bites. The fritters take on a rounder shape and use larger pieces of macaroni, but they still taste great and are the perfect side to any dish. They are served with a home-made jalapeno mayo that really packs a kick. I’m so glad they’ve bought these back to the menu, and £5 for four fritters is great value for money.
Piggy Fries £4
The Piggy Fries are another variation of the loaded fries, alongside Brisket Fries and Garden Fries. The Piggy Fries are served with salt smoked bacon, bacon bits and baconaise… you heard right, bacon flavoured mayonnaise. I don’t even like mayonnaise but this sauce is incredible – nothing makes bacon taste better than more bacon.
You can order a larger portion of the loaded fries for £6.50, which is great for sharing – perfect for a girl’s day out or the quiz nights! Who is going to the Game of Thrones Quiz next Wednesday (15 May)?
The bar already has a very reasonably priced menu, but they also have some great offers that run during the week. 2-4-1 cocktails is an obvious favourite of mine, but I also love the idea behind Beat the Clock. On Fridays from 5pm, the cost of your bill depends on the time you order. At 5pm, your food will cost £5, at 6pm it costs £6 – and so on. This is awesome for a cheap meal, and there are even some drinks included in the offer. Additionally, on Monday’s you can bag 50% off on mains, burgers and steaks!