It’s a rare day I pick up when my phone rings. It’s a hell freezes over day I call someone else.
I’m not a monster, a social pariah, arrogance personified. I guess you could call me the ultimate screener. But it’s not through a sense of selecting who I want to talk to. It’s more blanket than that – I don’t want to talk to anyone. On the telephone that is.
What is this sorcery? You can hear them, you can speak to them, but you can’t see their facial expressions.
I’m a face reader, ready to add all sorts of dramatic interpretation to your expression in response to my ‘hello, it’s (insert real name here)’. How can I apply a wild assumption without a face to go on?
The telephone ☎️📞. Not my best friend.
But why the random, slightly odd confession? Why it’s my not totally tenuous link to the location of my latest Manchester dining experience: eXchange Food and Drink Lounge. Built on the location of what was a telephone exchange back in the 1890s, I love a nod to the past and eXchange Food and Drink Lounge on Portland Street does this well – not only in its name but in its interior decor.
Whilst I may have a deep neurotic suspicion of the telephone, I do enjoy a tasteful telephone aesthetic.
And so, with no danger of having to use any of pictured receivers, it was a relaxed honorary manc who settled down for an early Friday evening dinner.
There were lots of different groups in – families, couples, friends, dads and their lads (my Manchester United supporting plus 1 (other good clubs available) using his powers of deduction to dramatically declare…
United are at home tomorrow).
And at a glance, the menu caters for all and is what you might categorise as ‘good grub’, offering staple sections of salads, burgers, pizzas and mains including dishes such as rib eye steak, Pieminister pie, mash and gravy, and sweet potato and spinach curry.
And whilst there is absolutely nothing wrong with good honest grub, as it were, I actually think to call it only this would be doing eXchange a disservice because our experience there was that it was much more.
The thing that caught my eye immediately on the starters menu was ‘croquette of the week’.
The ‘of the week’ concept rarely stretching beyond sausages and pies, (and the croquette being a rare sight on any menu), it was a no brainer. I was having croquette of the week, no matter what filled its breadcrumby exterior (mixed seafood).
It was everything I hoped for and more. Or, to be more accurate, they were. Three (count them) beautifully golden crunchy croquettes filled with a fluffy, warm potato seafood mix, accompanied by a lovely tartare sauce dip.
Comfort on a plate.
My ‘actual manc plus 1’ diner dived into the fish tacos and declared them delicious.
I ‘dove’ in too and concurred.
Again this isn’t something you’d often see on a menu and, as with all dishes at eXchange, whilst at first sight they are the staples you’d expect, there’s originality and a level of freshness injected to some of its offerings, whilst keeping it simple enough to cater to a wide dining demographic.
Without particular intention (although I did declare I’d start the year vegetarian until I ate a sausage roll by mistake), I kept to a meat-free theme and chose the haddock and chips for my main.
You (I) want to see golden batter, soft white flaky fish and big, bold, ‘crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside’ chips, when I order such a dish. I got it.
The batter was light and the flavours ran through to the chips underneath. A self-declare connoisseur, I really need to write a Top 10 Manchester chips blog at some point, if only to give myself an excuse to indulge. Anyway, I’d put these thick cut chips in that list.
‘Actual manc plus 1’ chose the ‘Good Vibes’ burger and good vibes indeed were experienced from the cajun chicken breast with slaw, jerk mayo and mango salsa.
He also had the good fortune to choose the thick cut chips which also worked for me, as I didn’t have to share a single one of mine.
Before our puddings, our lovely server, recommended a delicious drink. In fact I’m going to halt here just to say what great service we had from our server from start to finish and whose name I wish I’d asked (not in a creepy way) – he was friendly, lovely, polite, infectiously smiley and his recommendations were spot on – thank you.
Anyway, speaking of which we both enjoyed (we being my fellow diner and I, not our server although I would have happily bought him a drink had he not been working – again not in a creepy way) a beautifully presented Original Manchester Gin with elderflower tonic, which was like summer (remember that?) in a glass.
You might be bold enough to question the timing of my gin, given that I had wine with my starter and main. Well, to quote Tony Wilson,
This is Manchester. We do things differently.
And so it was into pudding and what a treat. Admittedly there was something of a wait between these two courses but I didn’t mind this – time to enjoy your drinks, you don’t feel rushed and some waiting time removes the danger of feeling too full and unable to enjoy your next course. Which we absolutely did.
We chose the trio of creme brulee, the trio being chocolate, coffee and vanilla…
and ‘Chef Chris’s’ chocolate brownie, served with chocolate sauce and amazing salted caramel ice cream – Chef Chris? Our compliments…
Throwing myself head first back into the telephone analogy (and putting aside my own personal aversion to telephone calls – it’s important we ignore that for a moment), allow me to liken our experience to such –
eXchange Food and Drink Lounge, we’ve added you to our friends and family.
Sorry that was terrible, wasn’t it?
Let’s keep it simple,
eXchange Food and Drink Lounge, if you called, we’d always pick up.
Not much better.
Just basically go and try their great food in relaxed surroundings – you won’t be disappointed.
All the deets