Review: The Quarter, Hanley

Another recent addition to Hanley’s emerging food and drink scene, The Quarter can be found just opposite Pockets on Piccadilly. If (Tsp.) and RAWR appeal to the hipsters of the six towns with their psychedelic cupcakes and quirky superfood creations then this venue is their cosy older cousin, offering home comforts and the perfect place to relax. After hearing about its launch, Mum and I decided to investigate for a mid-Christmas shopping lunch and I’m delighted to say we certainly weren’t disappointed.

Mismatched furniture and a variety of decorative signs filled the large, open-plan ground floor, including my personal favourite, “I like big cups and I cannot lie.” We chose a small table by the window and were greeted with warmth and enthusiasm as one of the team brought over our menus. Having deliberated over all the options, I finally settled on the The Quarter Bagel- stuffed full of smoked salmon, cream cheese, avocado and rocket, while Mum opted for bacon and cheese oatcakes. I ordered our food and coffees at the till and paid on a very snazzy card machine.

Back at the table and looking out of the window, I was struck by the progress the city is making. I could see another fabulous cafe, a quality menswear store, an art gallery and a theatre all in my line of sight, and The Quarter felt like a natural addition to the scene.While you certainly wouldn’t feel out of place just popping in for a coffee, they also open throughout the evening for food, cocktails and even prosecco. The Quarter themselves will also be hosting a range of entertainment each week, making it an ideal spot for a Saturday night too.

Our food arrived promptly and my bagel exceeded expectations. Smoked salmon and cream cheese will no longer be enough for me – I’m going to need that avocado and rocket in there too and Mum was also very contented with her oatcakes. Accompanied by good quality coffee, we had a wonderful meal and will definitely be returning to support this local business again soon.

Review: Looky Bag

Looky Bag is described by Nicola Winstanley & Sarah Nadin, its creators, as a seasonal bagazine (what a fabulous word!) focusing on Stoke-on-Trent’s exciting cultural scene. Imagine a magazine, only the adverts and contributions are neatly packed into a brown paper bag and rather than reviewing a play that’s only showing in London’s West End or Brighton’s latest coffee shop, everything featured is happening right here in our city.

I grabbed my copy when I popped into RAWR’s newly-opened cafe in Hanley, but Looky Bags are freely available in all sorts of establishments within the city centre, as well as Burslem, Newcastle-under-Lyme and Leek . I tipped the contents straight out onto the table and eagerly sifted through each feature.

A postcard of the Spode Works by local artist Frederick Phillips is heading straight for my bedroom wall and I thoroughly enjoyed Rob Amos’s ode to the North Staffordshire Oatcake. I encountered some familiar faces too with adverts for Appetite Stoke‘s Roundabout Festival (more to come on this later!) and a snippet from one of Rebel Culture‘s latest articles. However, perhaps best of all, I found a whole raft of exhibitions, performances and local businesses that I desperately need to explore. ‘Women’s Work’ at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery at the end of this month has been penciled into my diary; I must pop into Valentine’s Curious Closet the next time I’m in Stoke town and the story of Lidice & the North Staffordshire Miners has just been captured in the newly published ‘A Ray of Light.’

For me, 2016 seems to be the year in which Stoke-on-Trent has really found its feet. I thought I was beginning to keep track of the cultural goings on in our city but Looky Bag has shown me that I have so much left to discover, and I cannot wait. If you want to get exploring too, go pick up a copy!

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The Autumn/Winter 2016 edition was sponsored by ‘Stoke-on-Trent for City of Culture 2021.’ Back the bid at http://www.sot2021.com/


More information on ‘Looky Bag’: http://www.winstanleynadin.uk/lookybag/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lookybag/

Twitter: @lookybag

 

Review: RAWR juice & superfood bar

I first clapped eyes on RAWR a couple of months ago on Twitter, when I stumbled across their Kickstarter project for a second store in Hanley. Their first shop has been open in Newcastle for a good while now but I have still failed to pop by for a visit thus far…

Such was my joy when I heard that the Hanley store had opened this week! Before we’d even made it down Piccadilly, we were greeted by two smiling staff members who were laden with free samples. Their ‘Super Green Machine’ was highlighter-bright but absolutely delicious, which was unexpected to say the least as they assured me there were 81 different greens hidden in there.

When we eventually made it inside, we were encouraged to head upstairs and take a seat, where we found a lovely room flooded with light. The food menu had so much choice and each option had a witty little title [Case Example #1: “All the feta for it.” Genius.] I settled on a Mexicana wrap stuffed with avocado, chilli jam & hummus and while there were a million and one juices and smoothies on offer, I had to give their coffee a go.

Now I usually don’t give a monkeys about how my food looks so long as it tastes good, but RAWR’s presentation was on a whole new level. Like food-magazine-worthy. I tucked in right away and it tasted even better; the hummus was particularly delicious and why isn’t chilli jam a bigger deal? My cappuccino was also excellent and after investigating the Climpson & Sons coffee that RAWR serve, it was encouraging to see that the Hackney-based coffee roasters are striving to build “sustainable & ethical relationships” during the sourcing of their coffee beans.

RAWR’s attention to detail has really brought their Hanley store to life, whether it’s through the book exchange that’s lining the upstairs windowsill or the free tasters or the dinky little boards that each coffee is served on. What’s more, the team were super friendly & welcoming throughout our visit. And why wouldn’t they be, they’ve crafted an establishment to be proud of!

Go see them soon at 31 Piccadilly, Hanley!


 

More info at: http://www.bemorerawr.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/bemorerawrhan/?fref=ts 

Climpson & Sons Coffee: http://www.climpsonandsons.com/

REVIEW: BottleCraft, Hanley

Bottlecraft is now a well-established kid on the Piccadilly/Marsh Street South block, so I know my review will hardly be groundbreaking but up until now I’d never had a reason to pop by. (After all, I’m not the biggest fan of beer – I know, I know I’m sorry!) Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Stoke’s first (and only?) craft beer shop and came away very pleased with my purchases.

I was in need of a gift as part of my boyfriend’s 21st birthday present and even my limited knowledge (“Err, I think he likes Amstel a bit?”) wasn’t a problem for the chap behind the counter (“Ah. You’ll be wanting to look at the continental lagers then and possibly the pale ales as well.”)

I was shown maybe 15 different bottles and that was just from the UK-brewed stuff- there were even more overseas options available too! After a few minutes of browsing I selected 3 different bottles: an ‘East India Pale’ from Freedom; a ‘Collapsed’ from Front Row Brewery and a ‘Pail: Mosaic Calypso’ from Shiny. (I know it’s meant to be about the taste and not the branding but those are some cool names for beer you can’t deny it!) For an extra 20p they were packaged in a swanky ‘BottleCraft’ gift box, making for a really great gift for well under a tenner.

Towards the back of the shop, BottleCraft even has a tasting room where you can enjoy one of your purchases or a range of their beers on tap, and while I may not be back to enjoy an ale anytime soon, I would definitely like to give one of their ciders a whirl. Great staff, great products and a great atmosphere are clearly their key to success – get down there and check it out for yourself.

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Beers in a box


For more information on opening times & beer: http://www.bottlecraft.beer/  & https://www.facebook.com/bottlecraftsot/?fref=ts

 

 

REVIEW: Tristram Hunt at Hot Air 2016

Last Friday night, I made my way to the Emma Bridgewater Factory to hear Tristram Hunt speak at Stoke’s very own literary festival, Hot Air 2016. The factory itself was the perfect setting; the central courtyard had been accessorized with a gazebo-turned-box office and the factory shop was transformed into an author’s book-signing spot. All the while, the cafe continued to refresh each visitor and I even saw some glasses of wine which I’m certain aren’t usually on the menu- how posh!

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The Box Office

Hunt’s talk was held in The Meakin Room; a large whitewashed room with exposed beams and brickwork, albeit a little hot once the 200ish guests were all seated. Matthew Rice, Emma Bridgewater’s husband and author of one of my favourite books, “The Lost City of Stoke-on-Trent” introduced Tristram to the stage with a string of jokes about how he had finally been given the opportunity to host a talk, now there was no one else available…

The session was based on one of Hunt’s books, ‘Ten cities that made an empire’ and together we explored the role that cities as varied as Boston, Mumbai and Hong Kong played in the creation of the British empire. He began with the horrific slave trade triangle of Boston, Bridgetown & Dublin, and then continued on to the opium trade that criss-crossed between the cities of British India and Hong Kong.Both examples continue to reinforce the darker nature of British imperialism and its ruthless pursuit of power and influence. After a trip right across the globe, we finally arrived in Liverpool. Once a crucial part of the British empire, it found itself on the wrong side of the country when the empire collapsed and we looked to Europe. In a particularly bizarre turn of events, Hunt argues that the city now finds itself depending on primarily Chinese and Indian capital to fuel its regeneration effort- the very countries that Liverpool exploited in order to build its wealth!

The discussion was particularly poignant with regard to the EU referendum and the questions from the floor certainly reflected this. Nevertheless, Tristram argued that the original British empire model is not one that can or should be repeated and I fervently agree. The British empire was built on exploitation and destruction, the remains of which can still be seen today all over the globe, whereas the European Union offers hope for the future through open dialogue and problem solving between countries.

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Tristram Hunt’s ‘Ten cities that made an empire’

Overall, I am mightily proud and impressed with Hot Air 2016. It was fantastic to hear one of Stoke’s MPs discussing one of his own interests and the factory was a hive of activity. What’s more, the impact of the festival extended far beyond the factory walls with authors visiting local schools and colleges and festival fringe events taking place all over the city. Sometimes, it feels a real struggle to encourage city-wide engagement with anything other than football, but I’m confident that Stoke-on-Trent’s Literary Festival has captured the imagination of both residents and visitors from further afield.


For more information about Hot Air 2016:

https://www.facebook.com/SOTLiteraryFestival/ 

http://www.stokeliteraryfestival.org/

REVIEW: Professor Pigment’s Trail & Error- The Movie

Last night, I spent part of my evening down at the Staffordshire University Film Theatre, for the premiere of Professor Pigment’s ‘Trail & Error- The Movie’. In case you missed it, Professor Pigment is a street artist, dubbed Stoke-on-Trent’s answer to Banksy and he has been sharing his Stoke-inspired art with the rest of the city for nearly 3 years.

Monday night’s event celebrated the creation of ‘Trail & Error’: an urban art trail that allows the visitor to explore the best of ProPig’s work to date, while reflecting on the trial and error process that life so often follows. More specifically, the gathering allowed guests to watch the never-seen-before ‘Trail & Error: The Movie.’ The film celebrates the impact that Professor Pigment’s artwork has had within the community and told a number of inspiring stories that showcased the artist’s generosity as well as his talent. Perhaps the best example of this is his lasting memorial for Jordan Burndred. ProPig customised the football stand named after the 17-year-old, after he so sadly died from a cardiac arrest that he suffered on holiday in Turkey. Jordan’s mother was featured in the documentary expressing just how much of a boost this gesture gave her, especially over the difficult Christmas period.

The overwhelming theme running throughout the documentary (made by Inspired Film & Video) is that Stoke-on-Trent is a unique city which has a great deal to celebrate, if only we’d stop whinging about Hanley bus station and look around a bit more. His passion for the area is plain to see and his desire to depict the best of Stoke-on-Trent is infectious, whether it may be talented musicians like Slash; the mighty Staffordshire oatcake or Stoke City Football club. I came away from the premiere determined to do the same. (The celebrating-the-best-bits-of-Stoke-on-Trent part that is, not the street art!)

The biggest surprise of the evening was undoubtedly the revealing of Professor Pigment’s true identity. At the end of the documentary and his message to the audience, the 21 year old Staffs Uni student stood up and thanked everyone for coming. He also discussed his plans to take a bit of a break from street art, but promised to return under the alias “DODDZ” (taken from his ‘Defy the Odds’ motto I presume). No doubt this change represents an attempt to broaden his art and impact beyond Stoke-on-Trent, as defying the odds is an idea that everyone can relate to, not just Stokies. While it’s certainly tempting to try and limit ProPig’s canvas to just our city, I’m sure we can all agree that other areas and communities could benefit greatly from his perceptive social commentary.

Good luck Professor Pigment, just don’t forget where you came from!

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The ‘Trail & Error’ Guide


For more information on ProPig’s Trail & Error:

https://www.facebook.com/ProfessorPigment/?fref=ts 

http://www.doddz.co.uk/trail-and-error 

 

TOP FIVE: Breakfasts in the Potteries

Breakfast might just be my favourite meal of the day…(but then I say this about lunch and tea so perhaps I’m just a huge food fan all round?) and Stoke & its surrounding areas appear to have developed quite a range of tasty places to start the day. Here are 5 that I think are worth a try…

  1. Chiquito, The Hive

A Mexican breakfast might not be for everyone, but Rach & I are massive fans. There are various dishes on the menu but the Eggs Bravos is truly spectacular: poached eggs sit on top of guacamole and salsa-smothered sauteed potatoes in a spicy tomato sauce. They also serve a range of breakfast burritos as well as more traditional cooked breakfasts alongside coffees and smoothies. With a Student Chiquitos card, you can also receive 25% discount on your bill. ¡Hurra!

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Eggs Bravos & A Veggie Breakfast Burrito

2. (tsp.), Piccadilly

Yes I know I go on about how much I love this cafe, but they’ve got the lighter breakfast covered and most importantly of all, quality coffee. (tsp.) offer lots of pastries, bagels and crumpets- even their toast is absolutely delicious, which I believe is from Live Love Loaf Bakery in Leek. Sitting in the cafe, particularly on a sunny morning, is the perfect way to ease yourself into the day…

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(tsp.)’s trusty coffee

3. Melice, Intu Potteries

If pancakes and crepes are your cup of tea, then this is the place to come. They serve both savoury and sweet options – I can wholeheartedly recommend the nutella, banana & chantilly cream pancake. Melice also have a good range of drinks and with so many different French pastries in their cabinet, I challenge you to visit without taking a Strawberry Tart or a Mille Feuille home for lunch…

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The banana, nutella & chantilly cream pancake

4. High Lane Oatcakes / London Road Oatcakes / Any reputable oatcake shop

It saddens me to think that the rest of the country don’t get to begin their day with some delicious & freshly-made filled oatcakes. Considering I’m a vegetarian, cheese & mushroom are my personal favourite but I know cheese & bacon is another cracking combination. I couldn’t possibly begin to comment on the best place to get your oatcakes, for it is a debate that will continue until the end of time, but High Lane Oatcakes and London Road Oatcakes are always a safe bet.

5. Bailey’s Tea Room, High Street

The first entry from Newcastle comes in the form of Bailey’s Tea room. Their breakfast menu features everything you would expect to find in a British tearoom, from a full English to eggs any way and toasted teacakes. Bailey’s scrambled eggs & smoked salmon is one of my favourites but I can’t deny I’m also partial to a toasted teacake.


Chiquito: http://www.chiquito.co.uk/

(tsp.) : https://www.facebook.com/tspcoffee/?fref=ts & Live Love Loaf Bakery http://www.liveloveloaf.net/ 

Melice: http://www.melice.co.uk/

Bailey’s Tea Room: http://www.baileystearoom.com/index.html