The Hive Stretford, Unit 124, 125 Chester Rd, Stretford Mall, Stretford, M32 9BH – Visit Now
The Hive in Stretford wouldn’t look out of place anywhere in Manchester. The neon graffiti interior has something of an Ancoats or Northern Quarter feel to it, with its casually youthful vibe, though the place itself runs like a well-oiled machine. If you’re worried about stepping out into a COVID-landscape, don’t be. The Hive has numerous techniques put in place to make people feel safe and at ease, starting with a temperature check as you enter, a one-way system to navigate the venue and socially-distanced tables and seating.
The neon graffiti interior has something of an Ancoats or Northern Quarter feel
Once this is out of the way, it feels like any other smart bar-slash-restaurant, with friendly staff, keen to extol the virtues of the menu, the venue, the location and all things Stretford. As a town, Stretford has been on the up for years now, much like Levenshulme, but never seemed to break into the must-visit ranks of the likes of Chorlton, when it comes to food at least. The Hive is all set to change that.
It’s easy to reach, a mere ten-minute tram journey from town, then a couple of minutes walk to the very much up-and-coming Stretford Mall. It’s practically next door to the equally excellent HEAD bar, which is worth a visit in its own right. The Hive had a rocky start, opening mere hours before lockdown ruined everyone’s fun, but they’ve spent the time away wisely, building up a superb menu, and finetuning everything to make it into a superb destination venue.
We begin with a selection from the small plates menu, and the quality is, well, staggering. The best is the Bury black pudding, which arrives sporting a dollop of Guinness hollandaise and splashes of wildflower honey. The secret ingredient? Crunched up cornflakes. Might not sound like much but try it out – this is a contender for my favourite post-lockdown dish, I kid you not.
And the other options aren’t slackers in the taste stakes either. The frickles, or fried pickles to the likes of me and you, with a dopamine-thwacking mustard mayo dip, are a must-try. And so are the haddock goujons, two big slabs of delicate white fish, coated in an equally light and delicate batter, with a superb curried mayonnaise. The paté is a winner too, as is the chargrilled tenderstem broccoli, but the pea fritter, made with mint pesto and served with a wafer-thin shard of crisped parmesan is a sheer delight.
You owe it to your tastebuds to eat the rosemary and garlic baked brie at least once
A good amount of the above dishes are battered, so you wouldn’t necessarily try them all at once, rather we recommend making a few return visits to try them as an add-on to a larger plate, such as the burgers or sandwiches. Or indeed, the charcuterie sharing plate – this is a thing of beauty. An array of meats including salami, parma ham and peppered pastrami, plus bread, capers and gherkins, but the piéce de resistance is an enormous rosemary and garlic baked brie with a hearty wodge of toasted ciabatta. You owe it to your tastebuds to eat this at least once. (No photos because my guest and I simply couldn’t contain ourselves and we scoffed the lot within minutes, apologies.)
The drinks are up there with the best you’ll find at any North-West cocktail bar. Sealed With A Kiss is geared towards those with a sweet tooth, a dramatic red glass of strawberry and lime flavours, set off with a herbal hint of ginger basil, but our best advice to try one of each, work your way through the entire menu until you’re seeing double, then start afresh.
The Hive is something very special, and if this is a sign of Stretford’s future then we’re all for it.