When looking for somewhere to grab a bite to eat, Portland Street would not be top of my list. With hotels, a smattering of restaurants and quite a walk from the train station, I really am a creature of comfort and tend to stick to the areas of Manchester that I know and love. When eXchange Lounge invited me to review their menu, I have to admit, I had never heard of them! So a jaunt to the other side of town was in order to see if it is somewhere that I should frequent more often.
eXchange Lounge is the restaurant for the Novotel Hotel, which would explain why I hadn’t noticed it before. It is easy to spot though with prominent signage and the interior is super cosy with a lounge style area, as well as a well stocked bar and more formal tables to sit and enjoy a meal. It is the perfect addition to a hotel, it isn’t too formal and it has lots of areas that are great if you are away alone on business or want somewhere a bit more social to watch the football.
The drinks menu features local beers, a small selection of cocktails and a good wine list. I was swayed by the specials and this Clover Club was delicious. Interestingly, the cocktails on the menu aren’t really classics and I take my hat off to them for trying something a bit different. Our drinks were served a little bucket of chorizo – a lovely touch that knocks socks off the regular drab peanut.
The food menu is a real mixed bag and there is no theme with burgers and pies, pizza and a sharing board. We didn’t really choose food that traditionally goes together but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I chose the Croquettes and my friend went for the Nachos. The Croquettes change and the croquettes of the day were classic cheese. The centre was soft and cheesy without being overly gooey, the exterior crunchy. They were HUGE and we totally could have shared these as a starter. The Nachos were nothing special really, good, but nothing out of the ordinary with the toppings in little pots to add as much or as little as you want. I like this as I am not a fan of a soggy nacho and, like the croquettes, the portion size was more than adequate.
For mains I went for a Pizza and my fussy friend chose the ‘Good Vibes’ Burger but without any of the added bits that makes it ‘Vibes’. We had a fairly long wait between starters and mains, around 30 minutes if I remember correctly. My pizza was the ‘Pizza My Heart’ which was unfortunately cold and fairly underdone. I sent it back and a piping hot replacement turned up shortly after. Call my a traditionalist but, for me, pizza should have a base sauce and I always expect a tomato base unless otherwise stated. This didn’t have that nor did it have a topping of cheese other than chunks of ricotta cheese dotted around the other toppings. I would have described it as a naked pizza so I was a little disappointed, however, the flavours work and the salty parma ham smooth ricotta cheese. The second pizza also had a lovely thin yet crispy base, just the way a good pizza should be.
My friend’s burger was well spiced and I reckon it would have been so tasty with the mango salsa and slaw. Unfortunately he can’t eat the ingredients so had to go with a plain burger with jerk mayonnaise. The mayonnaise wasn’t as spicy as I expected and I think a different bun would have worked better. This was a little too sweet for the other flavours.
We were pretty full but felt we needed to test the whole menu, naturally, so my friend chose Chef Chris’s Chocolate Brownie and I went with a recommendation, Bread and Butter Pudding. The brownie was rich, dense and chocolatey although did contain walnuts which weren’t stated on the menu. The menu also said the brownie is served with a salted caramel ice cream but it arrived with vanilla. This wouldn’t have been a problem but it had ice crystals throughout, and there was no chocolate sauce either. I had high hopes for the bread and butter pudding that had been recommended and the flavours were good. It was creamy with a light smattering of sultanas, but it was a bit sloppy and almost fluffy, like a cake. I like my bread and butter pudding with a slightly charred top, at least a bit of crust from being baked in the oven. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case which gave me the feeling that it had been heated in the microwave after baking.
Some highs and lows from our trip to eXchange Lounge but I think it is a lovely addition to Portland Street and I know other people who have been with no issues, which tells me they were potentially having an off day. We will definitely visit again if in this area of the City and I am craving a bowl of Tom Yum Soup, something that is on their menu and promises to be hot, hot, hot!
Check out some of the other reviews that I loved from eXchange Lounge –
I was invited to dine as a guest of eXchange Lounge and was not asked to pay.