Jonathan Schofield buzzes about while enjoying a platter at new place, The Hive

Kim by the Sea has permanently closed in Hulme. I used to visit a friend who lived nearby years ago and Kim by the Sea was always a cosy, quirky, comfortable place for a drink, a chat and some filling scran. It remained like that until the end, which came when lockdown loosened its grip around the throats of businesses and so many slumped lifeless to the floor.

A couple of days ago I was having a favourite lunch of bacon, spuds and spices at Hunan on George Street. It reopened on the 15th July and has had almost no custom so it is closing again on Saturday for a month. Hunan appeals to lots of Chinese students. “We hope they come back in September,” the waitress said. Indeed. 

You can spend a whole night out at Stretford Mall now. What a turn around

After those bits of news, the positivity around the re-opening of The Hive in Stretford was welcome. This is a spritely venue in the hulk of Stretford Mall. There are big colourful murals and for the record you dine on records, which provide the flooring. These include an album by James Last, the late purveyor of orchestral schmaltz. Sticking his LPs on the floor and dining on them is best for everyone.

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A record (or two) in flooring

When my kids were small we occasionally went to Stretford Arndale, as the Mall was then known, to pick up school uniforms. Crossing Chester Road under the subway felt like moving between West and East Berlin before the Wall came down. Everything suddenly went grey and miserable and smelled of stewed cabbage. The latter must be a memory I’ve made up yet I can’t shake it from my head.

There’s little to be done with the outside of the Mall on Chester Road but my how things have changed in terms of appeal. Now there’s the excellent Stretford Food Hall, an indie bar called Head, a beer bar called the Longford Tap and The Hive.

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Stretford Mall from the outside

The menu for The Hive is straightforward, never getting lost in the outré and the extravagant. The best part were the sharing platters, filled with fried morsels and generous on the dips. I loved the fried black pudding dipped in mustard while the pea and mint balls were just as good. In fact there weren’t any bum notes, with a turkey terrine excellent as well.

Of the mains the cauliflower steak on jasmine rice, sparkled up with coriander, was easily the best thing. A chicken kiev and a chicken burger were decent enough while the charcuterie sharing platter was suitably meaty and did the job. Expect to pay £11-£18 for mains. A full English breakfast will set you back £9.95. The standout drink was an Old Fashioned. 

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The excellent platters
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The Hive's bright interior

There will be live entertainment and music at The Hive when that is allowed. What is strange to me, given my previous experience of Stretford Mall, is how the mini-strip has livened things up. You can spend a whole night out at Stretford Mall now. What a turn around. The location between Chorlton and Urmston is very exploitable of course, lots of chimney pots and an urban, often urbane, population. Still encouraging these businesses to set up here was a clever move by property developer Bruntwood.

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The cauliflower steak

Back to black pudding. Chester Road in this location in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was famous for the slaughter of pigs. When Chorlton started to spread along Edge Lane with bigger houses, the residents complained about the disturbing squeals of the terrified beasts echoing across the fields. Stretford was nicknamed ‘Swineopolis’ or, even more deliciously, ‘Porkhampton.’

I recommend getting down to the Mall to do some pigging out in Porkhampton. 

The Hive, Unit 124, 125 Chester Rd, Stretford Mall, Stretford, Manchester, M32 9BH

Read more: Stretford Mall is getting another brand-new restaurant and bar

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