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!)

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/

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