When I used to work at The Trafford Centre I'd ride my bike from Fallowfield around 3 times a week and I'd go past Stretford Mall.
Usually I'd whizz past, not thinking anything of it, seeing a blur of old ladies coming out of Iceland with frozen sausages and the occasional scallie just loitering around with a can of Stella around their chops.
This was around 11 years ago mind, and the Stretford Mall is a much-changed place - and that's certainly for the better. You'll now find that new owners Bruntwood and Trafford Council have started in earnest a vigorous renovation project - hoping to inject a good deal of interest and 'coolness' back into the once-forgotten shopping centre.
In just the last couple of years the Mall has seen the arrival of some truly excellent bars, including Head, the Longford Tap and the swanky Stretford Food Hall which features not just a fully-stocked bar but also a shop and space for Street Food vendors to show off their skills and sell some grub.
The most recent addition to this list is 'The Hive' a brand-spanking new bar and restaurant which experienced one of the shortest openings of all time back in March, when lockdown forced them to close their doors only a few days after they'd opened them.
Now that lockdown is over though, they're back and they're open and The Hive is certainly an impressive addition to the Mall. The neighbourhood restaurant and bar has been a long time coming for business partners and entrepreneurs Chris Herbert and Jamie Hoare, who've teamed up with Andy Seale from the nearby Gorse Hill Pub to make The Hive a reality.
The venue offers up "an all-day food and drink experience serving up breakfast, lunch and dinner complemented by a solid selection of beers, wines and cocktails." And the man behind the menu is Sid Talha, a Parisian chef with over 25 years’ experience under his belt, and nine of those working under Michelin maestro Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir in Oxford and Le Petit Blanc in Manchester.
The menu itself features a wide range of traditional pub classics, alongside more unique creations and even a new selection of small plates. There's Breakfasts, Gourmet Sandwiches and Burgers, as well as Mains which include large sharing platters, Fish & Chips, Steak Frites and a VERY impressive Chicken Kiev.
Once relegated to the meals you "used to eat as a kid but can't find anywhere nowadays" - the humble Chicken Kiev is an absolute winner and once you've got a craving for one - it's hard to ignore. Unfortunately it's extremely impossible to find them nowadays, but the one at The Hive - was absolutely fantastic - and that's not just nostalgia speaking.
Alongside the main menu is a brand-new selection of Small Plates including Cornflake Bury Black Pudding with a Guinness hollandaise and wild flower honey, Haddock Goujons with curried mayo and charred lettuce, Fried Pickles with a mustard mayo and a Chicken Leg Press with Parma ham and parsley.
To keep you hydrated while eating, The Hive also boasts an impressive cocktail menu, as well as a large selection of craft beers and wines.
There's also a great mezzanine private hire space in the venue, which is perfect for birthdays and events - when the government gives the green light for these to start happening again.
You'll also be pleased to know that The Hive will be taking part in the government's Eat Out to Help Out scheme, so on Wednesdays (they're closed Monday & Tuesday) you can take advantage of 50% OFF food and soft drinks (up to £10 per person).
So The Hive is a welcome addition to the Mall, and a good sign of things to come for the often-dismissed Stretford institution. The coming years should hopefully see more and more independents moving into the Mall and The Hive is in the perfect position to ride the popularity.