A year in Staffordshire and Cheshire food

When Covid-19 hit the UK last March, restaurants across the country were forced to close their doors and think on their feet. Many launched takeaway and delivery services, whilst others were just able to open between lockdowns last summer. Some even opened their business for the first time during the pandemic – and been a roaring success.

I wanted to share a round up of all of my favourite Staffordshire and Cheshire food businesses I’ve had the joy of visiting or ordering from over the past 12 months. From pink vegan burgers, to bacon and wild boar hotdogs, to afternoon tea and brownies that have shot to social media stardom.

Here are some Staffordshire and Cheshire based cafes, eateries and food businesses you should absolutely check out when you get the chance – plus what I ordered, in case you’re in need of inspiration for your order.

Wild and Wild

Wild and Wild, in Congleton, are a vegan coffee house and kitchen making plant based food both exciting and accessible. Over the past 12 months I’ve popped in whenever passing through Congleton, and picked up a loaded croissant and a cuppa, or a slice of vegan cake.

But on a few occasions I’ve dined in on their wellness-focused menu, and have sampled the Mac and Cheeze – which I think is my favourite, featuring their own recipe ‘cheese’ sauce. Their Oreo Mylkshake is also super creamy and perfect for summer.

I think the coolest thing I tried on their menu was their Rainbow burger with the pink bun – but their cheezeburger was also great, absolutely loaded with flavour, using produce from other local independents and local fruit and veg. Their skin on fries are amazing, too.

North Kitchen and Bar

North, on Piccadilly, Hanley, was conveniently around the corner from the office, so quickly became my go-to for a lunch-time brew. The scandi-style venue has a real hyyge vibe, and offers delicious, cosy, home cooked food.

During Eat Out to Help Out, Jake and I took a trip into the city centre and pulled up a seat at the window, where I ordered the bacon and blue dog. I still drool just thinking about it. Wild boar and pork sausage, crispy bacon bits and blue cheese dressing served in a gorgeous pretzel bun with fries. We also ordered mozzarella dippers and mac and cheese bites to share, because we’re both cheese obsessed.

Their menu is ever-changing, and I’m always excited to check out their latest creations. It’ll be one of the first places I book a table when we’re allowed.

Qarma Tandoori

Set in an old cotton mill in Leek, Qarma Tandoori is a stunning location serving the best curry in the Moorlands, having recently been taken over by new management.

Jake and I ordered the poppadoms, which came with a gorgeous selection of pickle tray dips, as well as a mixed platter, featuring chicken tikka, lamb tikka, seekh kebab and a large onion bhaji. For mains, I opted for tikka masala, and Jake a keema balti. Everything was super fresh and the flavours were so authentic, and service was more than attentive.

With huge portion sizes, stellar service and great prices, this is definitely somewhere we’d book ahead of a night drinking in Leek, or for someone’s anniversary.

GG’s Cafe and Grill

An unusual setting for a cafe, but we love that GG’s Cafe and Grill is nestled inside the DK Motorcycle showroom, near Newcastle. The team have been working so hard over the past 12 months to offer afternoon tea deliveries and takeaways after recovering from Covid-19 themselves.

We enjoyed an Afternoon Tea which included a selection of cupcakes, chocolate eclairs, macaroons, sausage rolls, mini quiches, pork pies and finger sandwiches, as well as scones with jam and cream, and a selection of fruit. There was so much food packed onto the stand you couldn’t see the bottom, and we ended up taking quite a bit of it home! The sausage rolls and macaroons were absolutely the highlight.

We also had an amazing fruit platter, which I would definitely order if we were to host a family barbecue. It was full of figs, pineapple, watermelon, apple slices, strawberries and grapes, some of which was dunked in milk and white chocolate.

This was the first time I’ve taken Jake out for Afternoon Tea and he’s asked when we can go back – you can take the mechanic out of the garage, but he’ll always want to marvel at motorbikes.

Hilton Garden Inn Hotel

This brand new Hilton Hotel, in Hanley, opened in October, so of course I had to take a trip to meet up with some of my former colleagues for a cuppa and a catch up.

The 140-room hotel has its own restaurant and bar which is open to the public, and it’s in the ideal location for cocktails before a gig at The Underground, or for meeting with friends for lunch. It’s decorated with Staffordshire heritage items, from pottery to a Spitfire structure.

I ordered the hand pressed British beef burger – a quarter pounder patty came served on a brioche bun, fried onions, tomato relish, tomato and lettuce with fries on the side, which was really well seasoned and cooked beautifully. My friends – far healthier than I – went for the Poke Bowl, which was bursting with colour!

The hotel wasn’t able to open for long until the second lockdown hit, so I’m looking forward to taking Jake here for an evening meal, and seeing how the venue transitions from day to night.

Emma Bridgewater

We are so lucky to have the Emma Bridgewater factory on our doorstep, and you can really make a day of it there. There’s the factory shop, the outlet, as well as a cute community garden and the cafe. You could even book to paint a pot.

I took my nan for Afternoon Tea, having visited with friends for a jacket potato and Victoria Sponge a few weeks before, and it was such a lovely setting brimming with history.

Nan ordered a coffee, and I opted for a pot of tea, with the afternoon tea served on Emma Bridgewater crockery on a three tiered stand. The traditional tea is priced at £12.50 per person, which is one of the least expensive I’ve ever booked in the city, and has an amazing selection. It featured finger sandwiches, homemade sausage rolls, four scones and six cakes – and they let us take what we couldn’t fit in away in takeaway boxes.

It’s definitely worth paying the £10 to become a lifetime member for exclusive access to discounts and events.

KLAY Pizzeria

Eating pizza at home will never hit the same as these Klay Pizza in a Pan boxes ever again. Now under new management – the lovely Rusty and Gemma from North, mentioned above – the Cultural Quarter venue has been takeaway only over the last year.

In lockdown three, they launched their DIY Pizza in a Pan boxes, which includes all the toppings to make your own Klay style pizza at home, with their top quality ingredients and special 48 hour dough. One kit makes two pizzas, so me and my parents had a bit of a two day pizza party.

The Rega house tomato sauce is incredible, and Rusty has even incorporated it into a Bloody Mary cocktail – and the base is the perfect combo of crispy and fluffy.

Weeks later I still couldn’t stop thinking about the pizza, so Jake and I ordered a takeaway from Klay and we’re really excited to head here pre-theatre when everything begins to reopen.

Scrumbles

Scrumbles cake shop, in Leek, were mentioned in Stacey Solomon’s brand new book Tap to Tidy, so of course, I had to place an order for delivery.

I’d previously tried their cupcakes at the Totally Locally Leek markets, so I was super excited to try their now-famous brownies. Orders for Scrumbles open at 4pm each Saturday, and I ordered mixed brownie and blondie box for £12.50. The flavours are listed in the description, and change weekly. In my box, I received a Creme Egg brownie, Caramel Freddo brownie, white chocolate and raspberry brownie, Cherry Bakewell blondie, Nutella blondie and Milky Bar blondie.

The brownies were so good, and my parents and I simply couldn’t choose which flavour we wanted, so cut them into thirds so we could try them all! They’re now offering collection and postal orders, and they make such a lovely gift for occasions like Easter and Mother’s Day.

Gallagher’s Deli and Kitchen

I mentioned in a recent blog post that I’d been to Gallagher’s three weekends in a row – and I’m pretty sure I’m addicted to their food.

In previous weeks, I’ve enjoyed fresh pastries and an incredible meringue tart. On my most recent visit, I went for Tiny Taties – which are the best potatoes you’ll ever eat – The Boss deli sandwich, which is massive, and their rhubarb, custard and ginger tart. Their tart of the week changes weekly and I’m always so excited to see what it is.

I love the freshness of the food at Gallagher’s, and when telling anyone (everyone I speak to) about it, I always describe it as ‘thoughtful food’, with carefully curated flavours and textures. I love the grab and go concept, and that the 30 minutes free parking outside is the perfect amount of time to order your food and eat it in town.

The deli is an absolute must-visit if you’re in Leek, as their Garlic and Olive Focaccia is incredible. Really friendly service and well priced – it’s always a joy to pop in, even if it’s just for a brew.

Also…

This year, I feel like Shepherd Street Chippy, in Biddulph, deserves a shout out, for always serving up the goods when we can’t be bothered to cook.

Gelato Fusion, in Tunstall, also deliver in my area, so if you’ve got a sweet tooth and want something delivered in the next 20 minutes, their cookie doughs and waffles will surely hit the spot!

I also ordered from Becky’s Cookie Jar back in February, and their cookie/cake hybrids are incredible – pop them in the microwave for 20 seconds and add double cream, and it’s divine.

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