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News: Croma to treat Manchester to 2000 prices to celebrate 20th year in the city

Gourmet pizza restaurant Croma and I have two things in common.

The first is that pizza is an incredibly important part of our lives.

The second is that this year marks our 20th year living in Manchester!

To celebrate, I’ll be justifying ever single trip out and drink drunk with ‘it’s my 20th anniversary’.

For Croma, with November seeing 20 years since it moved into their central Manchester location on Clarence Street, the restaurant kick-starts celebrations this month by turning back time and releasing a menu with our favourite dishes sold at prices like it’s 2000.

‘The Croma Chonicle’ will take us lucky diners through the history of the restaurant with a generous serving of nostalgia in the shape of some tasty retro prices.

The restaurant was founded by Andrew Bullock, Kirsty Marshall and Bob Dunn and has since opened further restaurants in Didsbury (check), Chorlton (on to do list) and Prestwich (ditto).

Andrew Bullock said,

20 years has flown by, we feel lucky and proud to have been in at the beginning of the flowering of our city’s restaurant and bar culture…

(Me too, Andrew, me too…)

…and we can’t wait to see what the next 20 years bring to ourselves and our extraordinary birthplace.

Back to the menu, I’ve flirted and developed a deep passion for the Garstang Blue and Goats Cheese pizza in recent times, but my first love from 2000 onwards will always be the Inglese which is basically a full English breakfast pizza and as brilliant as it sounds. £5 flipping 80 pence for that little delight under this offer.

With pasta dishes from £5.45 and garlic balls at £1.45 (you literally can’t buy anything from £1.45 anymore. Well not literally but almost), an excuse was never needed to dine at Croma. But if one was needed, this is it.

Head to cromapizza.co.uk and marvel.

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Food and Drink Manchester preview Preview/review Restaurants

The Fisherman’s Table – pull up a seat as Marple favourite introduces sister restaurant to Poulton-le-Fylde

It probably won’t have escaped your notice that I wasn’t born and bred in Manchester (and surrounding areas).

I mean, the clue’s in the name.

Growing up on the Fylde Coast until moving to Manchester in 2000, I was excited to find my two worlds colliding in the form of a fabulous fish restaurant.

Marple has hosted The Fisherman’s Table since late last year and the restaurant, offering all locally sourced produce, has enjoyed high praise in the short time it’s been open.

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And so, like little old me (because this and everything else is about me), the restaurant is straddling the two counties and has opened its second in Lancashire’s Poulton-le-Fylde. Like my good self once upon a time (all about me), owner and fishmonger, Jamie Barrett, lives in the area and couldn’t wait to bring his fine fare back home.

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Throwing its doors open proper tonight, Saturday 7 September, I attended last night’s launch to test out the fixtures, fittings, fizz and, most importantly, the fish.

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The stylish space is classically furnished in dark wood, with open brick walls adorned with photography, paintings and sculptures depicting the restaurant’s raison d’etre; the sea and all who stem from it.

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The assembled Fylde Coastians , a title I’m still entitled to, were treated to (and it was a treat) a selection of teaser canapés and starters from the menu to salivate over. I was going to say ‘and salivate we did’, but this is starting to conjure up a bizarre and frankly unpalatable image.

They were delicious, is what I’m clumsily saying.

We first tried the smoked haddock croquettes with tartare sauce…

Deliciously seasoned, these almost little fishcakes were crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside and with a smoky heat beautifully offset by the fresh, light tartare sauce. I could have popped them all night.

Also on offer was the crispy chilli calamari with harissa aoili. With a light batter, the chilli didn’t overpower and provided a tang to the melt in the mouth squid rings.

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A new canape on me was the crispy haddock skin with oyster mayonnaise. At the risk of doing it a disservice, it was like a lovely fishy crisp (and I love crisps, to the point of disgrace), with a delicate dip to boot and touches like this are a strong indicator of a kitchen and restaurant which is keen to mix the traditional with the innovative whilst staying faithful to everything that is wonderful about fish and seafood.

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Oysters and fizz are one of those classic combinations like cod and lemon, cockles and mussels erm…Vic and Bob. Whilst in the early 19th century, oysters were actually cheap and seen as one of the almost staple foods of the working classes, they are now a sign of decadence and never more so when taken with a glass of sparkling wine. The selection of Pacific Rock Oysters on offer last night typified the establishment’s approach to dining – classic, stylish but, most of all, delicious.

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A launch is intended to provide a taster, a suggestion, a spoiler, even, of what’s to come from something new be it a restaurant, bar, festival or hotel. And from my couple of hours spent at The Fisherman’s Table, they have me hooked.

Pun, fully intended but heartfelt.

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The menu proper is select but a perfectly balanced deep dive into all the glories to be found in our seas. Importantly, step forward one Irish Sea, from which local Fleetwood fish is rightly represented in dishes such as Fleetwood Smoked Haddock and Clam Chowder on the starters and Seared Fleetwood  Skate Wing with Clams, Samphire and Capers on the mains.

The menu also draws on neighbour Morecambe, as the Bay’s famous Brown Shrimps make an appearance in the selection of sides.

I look forward to drawing up a seat at The Fisherman’s Table proper and for those in Greater Manchester, hotfoot it into Marple quick smart.

For those on the Fylde Coast and surrounding areas, head over to the gastronomic stretch that is Breck Road, to this fantastic addition to the area’s dining scene.

For me? I like to think of myself as having dual citizenship to the two counties, something I now have in common with The Fisherman’s Table. Whilst I would never dare suggest I’m an asset to either, I would venture that to Greater Manchester and Lancashire, The Fisherman’s Table is a great catch.

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To be one of the first to book in at The Fisherman’s Table in Poulton and to see full details of the menu, head to https://www.thefishermanstable.co.uk/poulton/.

You can also book at the inaugural Marple restaurant here, and see why in 10 short months, the Fisherman’s Table has been nominated for two awards at the http://foodanddrinkfestival.com/awards/

 

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Food and Drink Manchester preview Preview/review Restaurants

Restaurant Review: Sapporo Teppanyaki

It is here where I would love to show off about my travels around Japan, the food I’ve eaten, the sights I’ve seen, the cherry blossom I’ve been beguiled by…

But I have not been.

But I have this, and it’s mine…

My late father was a musician and musical director. Amongst those he musically directed were The Nolans.

I’m getting to my tenuous link.

As a youth I used to weep in butchers’ shops  dwell in West Yorkshire. And so we get to it. I was 3 the day that I went with my mum to little Batley train station to wave off my father.

where’s Daddy going?

asked that little girl, on that lowly platform, in that small, Yorkshire town…

Daddy is going to Japan

And so he was. To musically direct the Nolans in a music festival (of course). And this is all I have (I also have two child-size kimonos and a pair of wooden clogs).

So that’s Japan.

I was invited to Sapporo Teppanyaki which can be found on Liverpool Road, Manchester, and find it, I recommend.

The experience is akin to theatre, and fear not, the food does not rest on a gimmick. In fact I can wait no longer. The egg fried rice is the finest I’ve ever tasted.

Each communal table seated round two cooking stations, orders are taken and drinks delivered.

Small aside on the drinks menu – there is  champagne on there for £7 a glass – and it is a lovely champagne. Fellow fizz fanatics, take note.

The menu features sashimi, maki, omakase, soups and salads, yakisoba noodles, small plates and of course Teppanyaki. Whilst small plates emerge from a kitchen via a friendly server, the Teppanyaki is cooked right there in front of you.

And guess what? It’s not awkward!

Now it might just be me who loves/loathes a chef’s table. I love to watch the magic of cookery, but I’m beyond scared of whether I’m supposed to talk, not supposed to talk, is it rude to ask questions, is it rude to not ask questions? What do I do with my face? Do I make mmmm noises?

No, it was all fine. It’s a form of theatre to go to Sapporo Teppanyaki.

Now, I’m dying to get to the main event but I can’t overlook the starters enjoyed by myself and my plus 1.

I had the smoked chicken rolls – oak smoked chicken, beansprouts and mixed vegetables wrapped in a light pastry.

I do enjoy a vertical food. I can’t think of any other examples – oh does a hanging kebab count? But regardless of the attractive presentation, smoked chicken is a rare offered thing and it’s a shame. Because each roll was delicious.

My plus 1 chose the Black Pepper Akami – seared tuna loin served with a chilli sauce.

Another attractive dish, matched by the flavours. Now, I’m not a tuna fan. I pretty much abhor it. I tried this dish as I’m nothing if not dedicated to the cause of food-tasting in the name of Manchester and all those who sail in it. I liked it. This is high praise, given my tuna issues.My plus 1 loved it. The dish gave off heat but without masking the flavours.

Now, to the teppanyaki theatre.

When I describe this, know that I’m one of the most socially awkward beings on earth – I spent the entire evening at an event last year in Manchester ( Theatre Review – Now or Never by Circa Tsuica – aka what did I just see?) making myself as small as possible to avoid being picked to go up. The word ‘immersive’ sends chills to my very bones.

Now listen how I found myself trying to catch a sauteed potato in my mouth like an over-zealous seal, at one Sapporo Teppanyaki.

It’s that kind of place – happy diners laughing, eating, ‘ooohing’, ‘ahhing’ – and I don’t mean in a terrible way. As two chefs stood in front of us chopping, flipping, setting things on fire, it was truly an enjoyable experience to watch them work.

I chose the lamb rump teppanyaki, my plus 1 choosing the beef fillet. Each comes with stir fry vegetables, egg fried rice, sauteed potato, a sauce of choice and a ring-side seat at their realisation. Yes, realisation.

The chef will take the time to talk to you about how you would like your meat cooked so fear not, it’s not one for all and all for one. Your dish is still being prepared for you, to your specifications.

That’s all very well, but what does it taste like?

Well, imaginary voice/reader/subscriber, truly delicious. Remember the egg fried rice? Well everything was cooked to perfection. My lamb succulent and plentiful, the beef fillet pink where it should be (as requested), seared, seasoned and cooked with fresh garlic and chilli.

I have a thing for my food being piping hot (my drinks, erm, piping cold?). Served straight to your plate in front of you, I was in temperature obsession heaven.

It’s basically a really happy place. Everyone seated round the grills in a kind of horse shoe (but one with sharp edges – I literally can’t think how to describe the shape), you’re akin to each other’s evenings but without ever feeling like your evening is compromised by a lack of privacy. If someone’s having a birthday, you’ll, again, have a ring side seat without having to strain your neck (I do this), but it’s ok. I promise.

And so I will be going once more to Sapporo Teppanyaki. And whilst sadly I won’t be hopping on a train to Japan as quickly as I’d like (I should point out an airport did get involved further down the line), this will do me for now.

www.sapporo.co.uk

 

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Bars Events Food and Drink Manchester preview Preview/review Restaurants

School for Scandal hits First Street

It was back to school for me this week.

I wish I was young enough for that to be true in the traditional sense but for every realisation that you’re not getting any younger, there is a silver lining.

To be over the age of 18 is to have your name on a more important register – that which granted me access to new bar and bistro, School for Scandal on First Street.

Whilst resisting the urge to lean on the obvious links to education and squeeze everything out of this analogy, I’ll introduce a direct link – that of it sharing its name with the Richard Brinsley Sheridan play, first performed in 1777. The play ‘satirised the behaviour and customs of the upper classes through witty dialogue and an intricate plot, with comic situations that expose characters’ shortcomings’.

And just like the play, this dining spot satirises the behaviour and customs of the…

Just kidding.

To the crux of matters.

I attended the launch of this bar last night and was educated (soz) in fine cocktails, sharp edgy décor and fine samples of its gastronomic fare.

Previews of their food included the tasty pulled pork tacos, the frankly fantastic margherita pizza (I always say there’s nowhere to hide with this classic and this went straight to the top of the class), tempura prawns and mini burgers in brioche.

To achieve the full experience, I shall return, but for now, my assignment is to share the news that this latest addition to First Street, and indeed Manchester, is smart and sassy, and I predict that the future is bright…

Click here for more details and to enrol…

School for Scandal, 13 Jack Rosenthal Street, First St, M15 4FN

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Food and Drink Hotels Manchester preview Preview/review Restaurants

New menu, same high quality from Malmaison – gastro gallery

To get an invitation to try the new menu at Malmaison Manchester is to be filled with trepidation and anticipation.

Trepidation because how could it match up to previous experiences:

Fall fork first into autumn at Malmaison

Malmaison brings the Millennial touch to Afternoon Tea 

It did and it was fabulous.

Tried and tested for organic mancs, honorary mancs, visitors to manc, new additions to this summer menu at Malmaison include the rather wonderful…

Pan fried sea scallops, red pepper puree, tapenade, samphire and sauce vierge…

Seared soy glazed salmon, crunchy hot and sour salad, toasted cashew nuts, red chilli, pousse and crisp gem lettuce (shhh my favourite and I’m not even a big salmon eater)…

Summer stew of grilled Merguez sausages, cannellini beans tomatoes, parsley, garlic and grilled Altamura bread (those sausages pack a punch – spicy, hot but nothing heavy about that dish)…

Burgers on offer are –

  • Ayrshire bacon and gruyere cheese
  • Chez Mal breaded buttermilk chicken, tangy tomato chutney, melted Reblochon cheese and pomme frites
  • Mushroom chestnut and field mushroom, grilled Romano pepper, pommes frites and mushroom jalapeno marmalade.
  • Selection, slider-style below:
  • Steaks from the josper grill:

    Chez Mal’s exclusive UK 28 day aged beef, all served with whole baked vine tomato, onion rings and green salad:

    450g T bone

    450g Bone in sirloin

    450g prime rib (tried, tested and pictured below)…

    Chez Mal still brings afternoon tea to the table, the sweet side bringing seasonal cheesecake, salted caramel chocolate brownie, Bakewell tart, double chocolate cupcake & seasonal fruit shake, along with fruit or plain scones, clotted cream & strawberry jam

    For all details including menus and reservations, please visit the Malmaison Manchester website.

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    Bars Culture Events Food and Drink Manchester Photography Preview/review Restaurants

    Restaurant Review – Ibérica’s new seasonal menu

    Whenever I go for tapas I’m reminded of a probably not that amusing exchange I overheard about 12 years ago in the Living Room, Deansgate.

    Two, I’m sure lovely, gentlemen were discussing life and loves (although talking about one lady they met on holiday the word ‘love’ may or may not have been used:

    Salt of the earth she is, she’ll ‘love’ anything

    Anyway, talk turned from this down to earth lady to where they were going to go for dinner .

    Clearly inspired by the talk of all things Spanish, one gentlemen declared

    I’ve got the perfect place. I know this lovely little Spanish place…

    Us earwiggers were filled with visions of a lovely hidden gem, Spanish eatery, known by only the in the know Mancunians, kept secret by loyal diners who wanted to preserve their discovery at risk of it being too popular. We strained our ears further, ready to commit to memory this wonderful little gastronomic tip-off.

    Turns out he was talking about La Tasca next door.

    Now no offence to La Tasca, but it was pretty much the only ‘little Spanish place’ anyone knew in Manchester in the 2000s (save El Rincon).

    We are now spoilt for choice. Spoilt being the word and very much so when describing a recent evening at Iberica, Spinningfields.

    Invited to an evening to launch their new Spring Menu, I wondered if the aforementioned gentleman had been. Perhaps he was quietly introducing those in his trusted inner circle to a lovely little trattoria he found, Bella Italia.

    I digress (and wish to add my digressive digs are not at the chains I’ve mentioned – there is a place for all).

    Now back to the lovely place that is Iberica. A grand venue, the decor and interior was light and spacious which perhaps isn’t what the usual Spanish restaurant aesthetic is but made for an immediately different feel to the tapas experience.

    A true celebration of Spanish cuisine, we were introduced to the upcoming evening’s fayre by Nacho Manzano, the Executive Chef for Iberica Restaurants.

    And our menu for the evening was thus

    Reading like a who’s who (and who we didn’t know was who, but definitely left knowing who they were) of Spanish delicacies, what was to follow didn’t disappoint.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, I invite you to immerse yourself in this gallery of Iberican delights…

    Jamon Iberico Juan Pedro Domecq

    Contemporary Spanish Tapas

    Beef tomato and salmorejo

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    Pear and spinach salad

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    Cod brandada

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    Cantabric tuna salad

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    Poached hake

    Much Loved Classics

    Patatas Bravas

    Chorizo

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    Albondigas

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    An Iberica Icon

    Pluma

    Desserts

    Torrija

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    Carmelised Spanish rice pudding

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    Dish after dish, the combination of the beautifully thought out details and aesthetics were a treat for the senses.

    To pick a favourite would be like picking my favourite child. If my child were a Spanish dish, that I’d set upon with just enough dignity to avoid a patatas bravas disaster down the front of my white top.

    A weird analogy all round.

    But highlights for me from the Contemporary section were the Pear and Spinach salad:

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    and the Cod brandada:

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    From the Classics, the Chorizo:

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    The aptly named Iberica Icon, Pluma – here I must add that I’ve never eaten pork like it. In a good way, of course:

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    …and last but not least, from the Desserts, the Torrija:

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    In summary, I urge all to head to Iberica this summer and try for yourself their astounding line-up of dishes, both classic and contemporary alike.

    Just keep it down when discussing it in The Living Room – we don’t want everyone finding out…

    http://www.ibericarestaurants.com/restaurants/iberica-spinningfields-manchester/

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    Bars Food and Drink Hotels Manchester Photography preview Preview/review Restaurants

    eXchange Food and Drink Lounge – call me ☎️

    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.

    Telephones etc.

    All the deets