In the News: An open letter to John Domokos, at The Guardian.

Mr Domokos has made a plea for residents of the city to get in touch and tell him about what matters to them, in attempt to rectify the somewhat skewed image of Stoke-on-Trent that was presented during the recent by-election in February. What challenges are we facing? What projects or ideas are really taking off? Who should he talk to and where should he film? So here is my two pence, for what it’s worth…

Dear John,

You’re not wrong. A huge swathe of Stoke-on-Trent did feel angry and misrepresented by the sudden influx of national reports written in response to our recent by-election, myself included.

Stoke-on-Trent is not a city in decline. We’ve done decline. We’ve done decimating deindustrialisation, a chronic lack of funding and laughable leadership, but that is SO five years ago. It’s behind us, and Stoke is very much on the up.

Piccadilly is undoubtedly the centre of Hanley’s cultural revolution. Tsp., Rawr and The Quarter have now firmly established a quality coffee shop culture; incredible food can be found at Klay Pizzeria and Piccadilly Brasserie and cultural activity is overflowing. Whether it’s the beautiful Regent Theatre, edgy Upstairs Gallery at the 51-53 Store or the wonderful Potteries Museum, ‘culture’ doesn’t stop.

Our ceramics heritage is being rediscovered both by locals and the rest of the nation alike, thanks in small part to the success of BBC2’s Great Pottery Throwdown, hosted by the newly refurbished Middleport Pottery. The Emma Bridgewater Factory is also more popular than ever, especially over a certain weekend in June when it hosts the Stoke-on-Trent Literary Festival, Hot Air.

But the most important thing that the posse of journalists missed back in February is the overwhelming generosity of the city. I suppose this is unsurprising considering the focus of the coverage was the small minority of UKIP thugs who saw no problem in urinating on other people’s garden fences, but that’s an issue for another blog post… Stoke-on-Trent is a compassionate, giving city and this characteristic deserves to be recognised.

Having just finished organising and running the Stoke-on-Trent Churches Community Night Shelter over the past 4 months, which welcomed 82 different guests who were supported by over 100 volunteers, I know this to be true. The project was funded and resourced entirely by the people of this city. I’m talking every sleeping bag, every toothbrush, every home-cooked meal, it was all provided by Stoke-on-Trent. And how many organisations across the country can really attest to the same? No loans or grants from huge groups or celebrity donors, just everyday individuals working together and playing their part in order to care for those in need. Just people helping people, if you will.

So please don’t paint us as a bunch of ignorant and intolerant fools because it’s not, nor has it ever been true, and I’m sure you will reach this same conclusion when you come to explore the city in more depth. I would be more than happy to give you the real tour of Stoke-on-Trent, that which encompasses the new life and community spirit at work within the Potteries.

All the very best,

Carrie.

(ps. Make sure you try a Staffordshire Oatcake – they are not to be missed!)

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.

Top Five: Things I really wanted to go to this summer but didn’t quite make it to…

Has anyone else spent the last 4 days saying “How is it already September???” or is it just me? I swear it was the start of July just a few days ago and I don’t even know where August went. At the end of June, I wrote an article detailing my top five plans for the summer in Stoke so I thought I’d finish the season with a different list of stuff that I really wanted to get to but somehow failed to do so. If you managed to get to any of these events, let me know what you thought!

  1. Potters Soup
    I first heard about Birmingham ‘Soup’ so I was thrilled to find out the idea had reached The Potteries. The idea is so simple which I think is what makes it so successful: you pay £5 on the door for soup, salad, bread & a vote. Everyone listens to a couple of different pitches by different people & organisations and you vote for the project you think will benefit the local community the most. The winning pitch then takes home the cash raised from the evening to plough straight into their project. IT’S GENIUS! I can’t believe I couldn’t be there to see it in action but I will be ready and waiting with my fiver next time. I might even give pitching a go…
  2. The Enchanted Chandelier
    This magical performance by Transe Express was Appetite Stoke‘s summer headline event. The floating chandelier filled Central Forest Park and while I’m sure the photos don’t even do it justice, the lights and acrobatics looked completely mesmerising. There were food and drink stalls available too which definitely makes it my kind of evening. 
  3. Deliveroo Launch Party @ The Exchange
    Stoke’s independent food scene is getting better and better by the minute, and the launch of Deliveroo in the city now means you can eat KLAY pizza at home in your onesie or a Portofino risotto with none of the effort. I only wish I’d been at the launch considering they were giving out free goody bags and I LOVE goody bags.
  4. Entrepreneurs Store 2nd Birthday
    I have become a major fan  of the entrepreneurs store, and their upstairs gallery even more so. The Famous When Dead exhibition was the first I went to see and the whole building has such a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. They celebrated their second birthday in style by the looks of it with a bbq, DJs and some limited edition second birthday merchandise. 
  5. ‘We are all at home’- Musicians Against Homelessness
    Musicians Against Homelessness is a nationwide campaign aiming to raise money for the national homelessness charity, Crisis. The ‘We are all at home’ gig was hosted at Pilgrim’s Pit in Stoke town and featured a variety of local artists as along with a Bottlecraft-run bar. What a fantastic way to both encourage local musicians and build support for such a worthwhile cause, and there are still a couple more gigs coming up in Stoke-on-Trent!

For more information:

POTTERS SOUP: https://www.facebook.com/potterssoup/ 

APPETITE STOKE: http://www.appetitestoke.co.uk/ 

DELIVEROO HANLEY: https://deliveroo.co.uk/

ENTREPRENEURS & UPSTAIRS GALLERY:  https://ntrprnrs.com/

MUSICIANS AGAINST HOMELESSNESS STOKE: http://rebel-culture.co.uk/national/2016/8/31/musicians-against-homelessness

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/

REVIEW: Klay Pizzeria & Bar

Every time I come home from university for the holidays, I try to take my sister out for food somewhere- it’s become a sort of (slightly expensive) tradition- and so when I discovered there was a new kid on Stoke’s independent food scene, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to give it a try.

Klay Pizzeria & Bar offers wood-fired pizza (in their own wood-fired oven!) to eat in or take away “by the slice or circle” and you can find them in a prime location opposite the Regent Theatre on Piccadilly. The decor is refreshing with lots of white tiles, exposed ceilings and wooden stools giving it an industrial look. If you choose your seat carefully, you can watch your pizza being handmade before your very eyes in their open kitchen. Alternatively, you can grab a window seat and watch the world go by on Piccadilly (which I must say is looking quite quirky and cosmopolitan as of late!)

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The interior

So edgy are ‘Klay’ that they’ve even managed to make the food ordering process more interesting. When deciding what to go for, you’re encouraged to customise your menu as much as possible so that your order is exactly what you want; pencils are provided allowing you to scribble, tick and cross out to your heart’s content. Which brings us to the main event…

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The quirky menus…

The pizza. Klay offer a variety of pizzas on their set menu as well as a number of specials. These include old favourites like the ‘Straight up Marg’ (Margherita) and ‘The Pepperlonely’ (Pepperoni) as well as what can only be described as pizza brilliance in the form of ‘The MAC Daddy’ (Macaroni Cheese! On a pizza!) and ‘The Benedicto’ (Eggs Benedict.) Rach and I couldn’t resist giving the Mac Daddy a try and we also opted for ‘The Stavros’: a greek style mix of avocado, feta, olives and balsamic vinegar.

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The Mac Daddy & The Stavros

Unsurprisingly so, they were both heavenly. Some may argue that a mac ‘n’ cheese pizza is an unnecessary step towards complete carbocide [definition: death by carbohydrates] but I would respectfully disagree. The combination of a crispy base, al dente macaroni and a creamy cheese sauce made for a real taste sensation. Similarly, the Stavros was cooked to perfection and with all those greens on top, it could nearly be considered healthy! Prices for 11″ pizzas ranged from £8-£12, which I think is excellent value considering your average pizzas from Pizza Hut/Pizza Express can be even more costly and certainly not as delicious.

In addition to the pizza menu, Klay also offer a range of sides. Pizza cones and Flatbread are definitely on my list to come back and try, as well as the mozzarella sticks and nachos. In all the excitement, I somewhat overlooked the drinks menu but I am a big fan of any establishment that sells soft drinks for just £1. Other reviews have sang praises about their range of beers and wines too- including Brooklyn Beer which my friend Soph raves about- for very reasonable prices and so ‘Bar’ really does deserve to be in their title.

Overall, Klay Pizzeria & Bar makes a tasty addition to the already-amazing Piccadilly strip (thank you (tsp.) and Entrepreneurs et al). They’ve created a flexible space that could cater for all kinds of eating-out, whether it’s a slice and a beer for a quick lunch; a first date or a celebratory meal out and the quality of the pizza must make it one of, if not THE best pizza establishment in Stoke-on-Trent. Oh, and in case you missed it, it also comes highly recommended from Jason Manford & Phil Jupitus, not that you needed another reason to pay them a visit…

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Klay Pizzeria & Bar


 

Find Klay Pizzeria & Bar on Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/Klay-Pizzeria-Bar-961721717231373/  and on Twitter: @klaypizzeria

The Sentinel check out Klay Pizzeria: http://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/pictures/Klay-Pizzeria-Bar-Hanley/pictures-28949519-detail/pictures.html