Monday, 15 January 2018

Exchange Lounge, Manchester

Exchange Lounge, Manchester
Evening all. I've been gallivanting again. I found Exchange Lounge through Instagram last week, one minute I'm admiring their pies, then a few days later I was there! Funny one this. So it's part of the Novotel, and is accessible from their lobby, but if you access it through the Exchange front door, you may never even know it's part of a hotel.

I've stayed at some really swanky hotels where they haven't got this balance right. You know the type, bars that feel like an extension of reception, folk milling about with luggage and suit carriers, and fellas drinking a single malt on their own to numb the pain of another mundane night away with work. You can spot them a mile off.

Exchange is a bit different. Whilst it's still got the feel of a restaurant, there are also great people watching spots by the window on tall stools, a comfy zone to sit and chill with a drink, a well stocked bar with friendly staff, and large screens that show the news and sport.

We had a nice little mix of house cocktails and beers, with highlights being the spicy 'dark and stormy', and a rather unusual ABC breakfast stout, which had a little hit of coffee, without being treacle thick like a standard stout.

Croquette of the week - cheese and chorizo: When is deep fried cheese and chorizo ever bad? I'd advise letting them cool before shoving them in your mouth, but my own gluttony aside, these were really rather good. Quite a large portion for a starter, but you'll never hear me complain about too much food.

Fish Taco: Not what I expected, but a lovely spiced fish on a bed of fresh, crunchy salad.
'The Mill' burger - double patty with cheese, bacon and gherkins: I'm not keen on ordering burgers outside of 'proper burger joints' for fear of a soul-less, tasteless, overdone, dry patty served in a barm* (*bap/batch/roll/flour cake - delete as appropriate). Simplicity won the day here. No fuss, but the basics done well. Extra points for the big pickle.
10oz rib eye steak with skinny fries and garlic butter: The type that comes with little charred bits... I have to say, despite this being a sniff overcooked, this is one of the best steaks I've had in a pub style setting. The flavour on the outside from the grill was fantastic. Well worth £19.

Bread and butter putting with custard: I love a good pudding, especially with custard. Best bit about this dessert was the abundant demerara sugar baked onto the top of the pudding for a sweet crunch. It could have done with being a little warmer, but I was still a big fan of this.
Trio of crème brûlée - coffee, chocolate and vanilla with shortbread fingers: Although these little pots are only small, there's plenty of brûlée here. I struggle with this dessert as I find it a bit too smooth and samey, so three different flavours were a nice touch

As we sat and scoffed this lovely food, we chatted about when and why you might visit Exchange Lounge, as it's not immediately clear. It's near the end of Portland Street which is close to Oxford Road, so I'd say it's a good, slightly quieter venue for pre theatre/gig food and drinks. If you're not eating, that's fine as there's a comfortable bar area too. Similarly, it's a decent place to go and watch whatever sport is on too, owing to the large screens which had the cricket on whilst we're there, although this is not at an offensive volume.

I'm not sure what I was expecting of Exchange, I just know that the food was a pleasant surprise, the staff were friendly, they took time to talk to us despite clearly being rushed off their feet, and the atmosphere was nice and calm. Very enjoyable indeed!

Disclaimer: I was invited to the restaurant to complete an honest review. I was under no obligation to say nice things!

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