Review: The Exchange Bar & Kitchen, Stoke-on-Trent

Looking for a quick bite to eat before heading over to the theatre one evening? The Exchange on Hanley’s Trinity Street is just the job 

The Exchange in Hanley is a great place to enjoy pre-theatre drinks and nibbles

Nestled at the foot of Hanley’s Cultural Quarter is The Exchange – a bar by night and a lively lunch spot by day. But it’s proximity to the theatres and museums of Hanley make it a quieter and affordable option for pre-show drinks and nibbles.

The building itself has quite a story as it used to be the former telephone exchange building and it does have that historic look still adding to its appeal. Sitting statuesque on the corner of the street with steps leading up to a grand entrance and foyer, still bearing the words ‘Telephone Exchange’ above the door.

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You might remember it as ‘Fat Cats’ but it has been the Exchange for some years now. In fact, its latest reinvention was the product of local businessmen who had all been employed by Fat Cat at some point. The decor is different to styles of the past, and while there are still some original features from The Exchange evident, there are predominantly rustic furnishings mixed with dim lighting to give it a more contemporary but unusual feel. It’s actually an ideal place to bring a date.

Having recently launched its new spring/summer menu, there is a distinctly American theme to the dishes – loaded fries and a huge selection of burgers and sliders being some of the more obvious – but there are also European and classic British influences too – like the Steak frites, Moroccon spiced lamb and salt and vinegar cod goujons, as well as small tapas-style plates. You could say there is a little bit for everyone but the emphasis is firmly on comfort food and being a little bit naughty!

The Exchange on Trinity Street in Hanley

The food was hearty and tasty – we sampled a few small plates as a starter and the halloumi fries and Cajun prawns were especially delicious. Next for a main, we went for a trio of signature sliders and the steak frites – a mass of french fries, which we indulgently upgraded to ‘Piggy Fries with bacon bits and baconnaise, melt-in-the-mouth steak and peppercorn sauce. Definitely the highlight of the food!

While we didn’t sample the main burgers, we did spot a fair few coming out of the kitchen and judging by the looks of delight from happy diners, these are worth a try, You can choose from classic and crafted favourites – in fact, I may be tempted to order ‘The Graceland’ next time I go; a beef burger stacked with bacon, peanut butter and cheese has got to be worth a try!

Yummy small plates

Epic Steak Frites

There are two floors; the main bar and restaurant on the entry floor and then a nightclub on the basement floor. The atmosphere is fun but calm, the music is uptempo but not overbearing. If you’re heading there for more of a night out then you have to sample the cocktails – the bar staff are expertly trained with plenty of flair and pizzazz thrown in, and the menu has more than enough martinis to keep you going!

This a place that’s a little off-the-beaten track but it has loads going for it. Don’t be put off by the idea of it being a nightclub – the main bar area is sophisticated and cool and it’s worth making the ‘trek’ down to Trinity Street to see what you think yourselves!

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Visit The Exchange on Trinity Street on a Saturday and you can enjoy its ‘Eat the Disco’ brunch – a bottomless brunch and cocktail menu with guest DJ’s. Call 01782 206032 to book. And the last weekend of every month will see a pop-up market taking place showcasing independent retailers, artists and more.

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