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.

First Look: The Cultural Quarter’s new independents

Considering today is ‘Small-business Saturday,’ this presents the perfect opportunity to discuss the explosion of independent businesses that have opened up in Hanley’s Cultural Quarter. Our independent game is already going strong with the likes of tsp, Klay, 51-53 Store, Bottlecraft, The Art Department and RAWR so it’s fantastic to see even more places that can be added to the list! Here’s where you need to be heading next time you’re in town…

Piccadilly Brasserie

This restaurant is a real broad church when it comes to cuisine, clearly influenced by all sorts of European cultures. The menu boasts a range of grills, fish dishes, pastas and burgers as well as daily specials and they cater for “brunch, lunch and dinner.” You can find them just opposite the Regent Theatre, making Piccadilly Brasserie the perfect spot for a pre-theatre meal. However,they also offer coffee, cake and a Christmas Afternoon Tea so there’s something for all occasions. According to their website, the owners have 25 years of experience in the business so you’ll certainly be in safe hands.

The Quarter 

Opening on Monday 5th December, The Quarter brings something entirely different to the city centre. You can expect a cosy cafe by day and a bistro-style eatery by night, along with a delicatessen which is open right through their trading hours; but best of all, they will be hosting regular live entertainment from every genre you can imagine. Comedy shows, poetry reading, music to suit all tastes; customers will be able to enjoy events that they perhaps won’t find anywhere else. I had a quick peek inside their window last time I was in town and I can’t wait to bag a sofa and try out their food!

Sweet. 

I fear I might be pushing the boundaries of ‘small businesses’ by including this new venture, as there are already three other branches across the country, but I’m going to go ahead and include it anyway because folk need to hear about it! Sweet is a desserts bar like no other – you name it, they’ve got it! We’re talking waffles, crepes, classic puds, cookie dough, milkshakes and gelato to name a few, along with an extensive drinks menu and speciality hot chocolates. Launching next Friday 9th December, you can find them on Stafford Street for all your sweet-tooth needs.

My Christmas holidays start just at the right time to give these new businesses a try, so keep your eyes peeled for reviews in the next few weeks.

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/

Scattering Kindness: Ruff & Ruby Rooms, intu Potteries

I’ve heard rumours, seen social media updates and even read articles about the fab things happening in a particular first floor unit of intu Potteries shopping centre, but today was the first time I ventured inside the Ruff & Ruby Rooms for myself.

As you walk in, you’re welcomed by a cafe counter on the left hand side with some uplifting messages on the wall behind it. The menu offers very reasonably-priced hot drinks as well as free cuppas five days a week and lots of squishy sofas to drink them on. At the back of the store there is a super snazzy sewing workshop (called Sew Cool  which must be a 10/10 for pun-iness!) featuring 6 top quality sewing machines. This facility enables them to offer a variety of workshops in textile customisation and more general DIY skills which I, for one, am very excited to attend.

For younger visitors, there is a free ‘Just Kidding’ soft play area and those using it today sounded like they were having a whale of a time. A wide range of second-hand clothing is also on sale throughout the shop along with a handful of original and customised items. Reading their leaflet on the bus home fills me in on the things that I missed, including a beauty bar, DJ booth and bike workshop on the upper floor where bicycles are “customised and personalised” and can then be reinvested into the city.

Somehow, the Ruff & Ruby Rooms have found the perfect balance between retail store and community space and nothing evidenced this more than the varied mix of people that were using the venue earlier this afternoon. The team were lovely too and patiently answered all the questions we bombarded them with. Nevertheless, perhaps the most impressive aspect of this project is everything that’s happening behind the scenes. There are 1:1 mentoring sessions and employability skills programmes to give just a few examples, all making such a positive difference in the lives of young people within Stoke-on-Trent.

Overall, it’s so encouraging to see such an innovative venture here in Stoke, and all with the aim of raising the aspirations and self-belief of the young people in our city. The Ruff & Ruby Rooms are totally sound. Or wicked… (I think I’ll work on my Ruff & Ruby lingo…) Go check them out when you’re next in town – and if you’ve got any clothing or bike donations, take them with you!


For more information:

http://www.rubygirluk.com/about/

http://www.ruffandruby.com/

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

Top 5: Latest Discoveries

As you may have gathered, I am currently in the middle of my university dissertation research and my focus is Stoke-on-Trent. Walking interviews are a key part of my methodology and I have therefore been exploring entirely unfamiliar areas of Stoke-on-Trent, as well as seeing places I know like the back of my hand with fresh eyes. Approximately 2 weeks into my data collection, here are my top 5 latest discoveries in The Potteries…

  1. Abacas Books, Milton.
    How I’ve managed to be back in Stoke-on-Trent for nearly 4 years and not visited this bookshop I do not know. Its collection of second-hand books is second to none and they cover just about every topic imaginable. Classics, Foreign travel, Biographies, Cars, Leather-binded copies, Local history, Modern Fiction; you name it, they’ve got it. However, the thing that makes Abacas a truly fantastic place for browsing has got to be the layout. What looks like 3 terraced houses side-by-side have been converted into the shop floor and yet all of the little nooks and crannies have been maintained, so cookery books can be found in a back room while literature classics are housed in what appears to be a cupboard once under the stairs. Finally, like all good second-hand bookshops , the prices are more than affordable so you don’t even need to feel bad when you leave with 10 new summer reads.

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    One of the cubby holes in Abacas Books!

  2. The (tsp.) cafe makeover, Hanley.
    As I was moving from one interview in Stoke town to another in Central Forest Park, I thought I’d pop in to (tsp.) and grab some lunch. (Having walked for an hour with the midday sun beating down I was in desperate need of a strawberry milkshake before I fainted) I walked into the shop to find a completely new arrangement: the window benches have been newly replaced and a swanky new counter runs along the left hand side of the floor, with updated menus sitting on top. Needless to say, (tsp.) 2.0 looks fantastic and the upstairs seating (which, rumour has it, will hopefully be finished by the end of the year) will bring even greater improvement.
  3. Our hidden canals.
    Some of my participants have taken me on walks along or past Stoke’s canals and what an eye-opener that has been. I’ve obviously explored the canal down in Norton Green, guarded by the Foaming Quart pub, but aside from that tiny stretch I’ve always thought the city’s canal network was quite grimy and industrial. Earlier today I explored the waterway as it runs past Milton which looked particularly glorious in such great weather and on Monday evening I found the canal in amongst Baddeley Green’s fields.The Trent & Mersey network has some truly beautiful walks and I hope it hasn’t taken everyone else in Stoke as long as me to enjoy them.

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    The Canal in Baddeley Green

  4. Stoke City’s Victoria ground.
    Everyone knows that Stoke City’s current home is Britannia Stadium and most will remember it’s previous home, the Victoria ground, with perhaps even fonder memories, but I didn’t quite grasp the impact that Stoke City’ s relocation had until I explored it earlier this week. Another participant accompanied me down Lonsdale Street and then Boothen Old Road, describing exactly how they remembered walking to a game. The sandwich shop; the ladies sat on their steps; the ever-growing throng of fans advancing to the stadium. The atmosphere was described so vividly that I could almost imagine it too and I therefore felt that same sense of profound sadness when we finally reached the once-inspirational motherland of Stoke football. I cannot believe that St Modwen have been able to leave the site to decay for the last 19 years, and the back end of Stoke town along with it. It’s evident that the Victoria ground was its lifeblood, surely it’s about time that some soul was pumped back in…
  5. There’s more to Stoke than meets the eye.

    Like most folk in Stoke-on-Trent, I thought I had the city pretty much pegged. I was confident I knew the most picturesque places to visit and the local history and the areas to be avoided, and yet only 2 weeks into my research I couldn’t have been more wrong. Cobridge (just the name of which makes most people wrinkle their nose!) was once a thriving, community-spirit-filled neighbourhood; nearly every town and suburb has a green space to call their own and the hump in the centre of Church Street, Stoke is entirely man-made as a result of building right on top of disused canals. If I, a born and semi-bred Stokie, can discover this much about my own city in a fortnight, then the rest of the UK have got a lot to learn about about us…

IN THE NEWS: Northern Quarter, eat your heart out…

During the obligatory 3pm scroll through my Facebook news feed at some point last week, a new Sentinel article caught my eye as they had likened Hanley’s very own Piccadilly to Manchester’s Northern Quarter.

At first, I was thrilled. The Northern Quarter is the epitome of cool. A quick wander around and you will find more hummus, start-up coffee roasters and craft beer than you can shake a stick at. However, you can’t help but notice that the overwhelming demographic roaming the area is bearded, cardigan-clad hipsters. Anyone who’s not wearing a rainbow-coloured, crocheted jumper and carrying a shopping bag full of quinoa and avocados might feel slightly out of place…

And I think here lies my slight objection to the comparison of these 2 places. The difference between Piccadilly and TNQ is that anyone can walk down the former without feeling too ‘uncool.’ Evidently, we have some incredible independent retailers, original galleries and unfathomably good food but I’m not sure we’ll ever be as polished or edgy as Manchester’s creative district…and that is no bad thing.

Part of Stoke-on-Trent’s charm is that it’s messy around the edges. We are a city that has been built with clay, and you don’t have to be a quality potter to know that you will struggle to create something beautiful without getting your hands dirty. Stoke will forever be a work in progress and that truth is what makes us unique. We’re in danger of cities becoming indistinguishable from one another, of one urban sprawl looking very much like any other, so let’s not exacerbate it by constantly comparing their strengths and weaknesses.

So, with this in mind, I’m proposing that we stop these cross-city comparisons and simply celebrate the fantastic things that are happening here. After all, we can have delicious coffee without it needing to compete with a cafe in Manchester and visit quirky pizzerias without worrying about fellow eateries in Birmingham. The atmosphere on Stoke’s Piccadilly is refreshing, welcoming, exciting…let’s just leave it at that!

tsp cafe

(tsp.)

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Klay Pizzeria


The original Sentinel article this post is based on: http://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/Piccadilly-Hanley-s-answer-Northern-Quarter/story-29217287-detail/story.html

My reviews of (tsp.) and Klay which are both featured in The Sentinel’s article:

https://stokeingthefire.wordpress.com/2015/07/18/review-tsp-cafe-hanley/

https://stokeingthefire.wordpress.com/2016/04/05/review-klay-pizzeria-bar/

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