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Bar Fringe

Dave Bishop discovers the meaning of life: ‘Beer – the reason I get up every morning’

Published on February 4th 2008.

Bar Fringe

Who would have thought you could learn anything from a Desperate Housewife, apart from how to help the bare-chested gardener with his bedding or make the ultimate soufflé whilst being the matriarch of a dysfunctional family that has been deprived of the dad due to…er… him being murdered? Very inconvenient.

Just don't think of it as a ‘bar’, though, as there’s not a whiff of pretentious new Manchester about this place. It’s run by a big-haired lady called Maggie who looks part Goth, part dominatrix but who has a heart as warm as mulled fruit beer.

But those ladies of Wisteria Drive, well the real-life actresses, do occasionally make one wonder about matters beyond the white picket fence of Middle Class America.

Eva Longoria, for instance, the Hispanic pocket Venus. She was on Jonathan Ross the other week looking like something from the Bakewell Sheep Dog Trials, her lovely wavy mop having been straightened and given a horrible fringe. Fellow guest and arch Actorrrr Jeff Goldblum, looking at Eva toying with her bizarre mane, commented that she couldn’t stop playing with her ‘bangs’.

Her what, I thought? Eva solved the mystery. “Bangs are called a fringe in liddleole England,” she said, or words to that effect. Obviously. How right and proper that the Yanks should mutate a cute and descriptive word like fringe into bangs.

And that got me to thinking. What if we adopted such nonsense? Instead of having the small but perfectly formed Bar Fringe in Ancoats, we could have Bar Bangs - and what sort of message would that be sending to the kids? You’d have ne’er-do-wells and cheap-thrill seekers coming from all over the place ruining one of the finest drinking institutions this side of Belgium. Belgium? Well, although in Ancoats, Bar Fringe, owes more to the funny little country across the North Sea than it does to Manchester.

Not that you’d think so by looking at the outside, which has an uninviting colour scheme of white and blue and looks more like a video store than a pub or a bar. Once inside, though, and it’s Belgique through and through with yellow ochre walls plastered with arty and funny posters and drinking memorabilia and more nooks and crannies, tapestry drapes and beer pumps and bottles than you could shake a Magritte paintbrush at. Out the back, when the weather is warmer, is a very odd but strangely appealing beer garden, set down an alley with cobbles and all.

Oh, and I almost forgot, there’s a vintage motorbike perched above your head on a balcony. Just don't think of it as a ‘bar’, though, as there’s not a whiff of pretentious new Manchester about this place. It’s a pub, a pub you hear, albeit one with a Flemish flourish. It’s run by a big-haired lady called Maggie who looks part Goth, part dominatrix but who has a heart as warm as mulled fruit beer.

And judging by the jukebox, she’s very fond of those Led Zeppelin chappies. We listened to Rock And Roll, Dazed and Confused (or was it Communication Breakdown? Hey, I was tiddly by that point) and many more classics, with the occasional Clash and the like spliced in. Class. Yep, with the music, the beer, the ambience and the clientele, me and the missus were climbing our own personal stairway to heaven.

I supped two very wonderful but two very different pints of real English bitter – Snow Monkey and Marble Ale from just down the road (yes, it’s a real ale pub, too. Hurrah) – while she had St Louis Kriek fruit beer. But from the vast array of draught on tap we could also have had, wait for it, Leffe, Peche, Krombacher, Potion bitter, Little Red Rooster, Forest King, Ginger Beer, Brugse Straffe Hendrik, Fruli, Thatcher’s Cheddar Valley cider, Staropramen, Hoegaarden, Strongbow, Guinness, Becks and, sadly, Stella.

Go beyond the bar and there are scores of other beers and ciders in bottles, mostly from Belgium, but also from other countries. Unless you’ve actually been, it’s a place you’ve only ever dreamt about.

Then there’s the food. I can’t vouch for the entire menu, because I’ve never got further than the ‘sharing platter’, which is described as being perfect for a lazy nibble. Perfect for a frantic nosh, I’d say, it’s so good and reasonable. Full of lots of lovely things such as tempura mixed vegetables, hot mozzarella melts, jacket wedges, sweet chilli sauce, sour cream and garlic mayo, it comes in at just £3.95 and is more than enough for two.

Sorry, but where else in Manchester can you get that sort of value? But it’s the beer that is still the main draw, and it almost makes you believe the slogan on one of Bar Fringe’s posters. “Beer – the reason I get up every morning”.

I’ll drink to that. And I make no apologies for making it an almost perfect 19 out of 20.

Rating: 19/20
Breakdown: 4/5 Food
5/5 Drink
5/5 Decor
5/5 Ambience
Address: Bar Fringe
8 Swan Street
Manchester (near the old Express building)
M4 5JN
0161 835 3815
Food served noon-8pm

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12 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

SpawnMeister666February 4th 2008.

Bar Fringe is a wonderful establishment, although I'm under the impression that Maggie has rescinded control back to Carmen, who can drink more vodka than the Russian Army put together, and is just returning from her maternity leave....A mini-Carmen....What a horrible thought!Spawny

Man ConFebruary 4th 2008.

Postcode added so you don't get too lost G...

robin skylarkFebruary 4th 2008.

I have been a fan of Bar Fringe for a few years now and have started many a good night of boozing there, often choosing it as a great place to start a 'showing off' manchester tour for my out of town friends. However...Recently the staff were extremely rude to a mate of mine and its really put me off... I'm just waiting for the dust to settle on my annoyance so I can return. It went like this...Upon asking whether the bar staff knew of anywhere else in the area which was open, the staff (one moody girl in particular) treated us to a 'F*** Off' attitude and snide remarks. It's more the attitude than anything else, the eltist, cliquey horrid snide little po-faced bugger. Other than that, great pub.

GFebruary 4th 2008.

Thanks :)Let's see if it helps.....

Charlie BananaFebruary 4th 2008.

It's true Carmen is back at the Fringe after a 4 month leave of absence to give birth the happiest,smiliest little baby ever to grace the Fringe. She (Amelie) you will all be pleased to know does NOT take after her mother. I know this as I am her mother! Thank you for all your nice comments,good to know we're appreciated. The Fringe is having a beer festival,the last weekend of March,where I'll be finding even more interesting and unusual beers. I might even get one brewed specially for you Spawnmeister! Hope to see you all soon.

smartiemcrFebruary 4th 2008.

I always think this place will make a great night out, it's just that I can never seem to get a seat in it! It seems perpetually crowded! They must be doing something right.

GFebruary 4th 2008.

sounds great! could you possibly add a postcode though - or a map link - so that those of us who don't know ancoats can venture up that way without getting too lost...?

JohnthebriefFebruary 4th 2008.

Well the truth was bound to get out sometime, but Bar Fringe has been one of Manchester's hidden gems for years. I just hope the luvvie crowd reading this don't descend en masse and spoil the place

Mike18187March 1st 2010.

I was cursing GMPTE for messing up the bus stops on Oldham Street because I have to walk to the bus stop at the bottom of Oldham Road to the stop where I can catch any bus home.
When I got to the said bus stop I spied Bar fringe out of the corner of my eye and went in and all I can say is "Thanks GMPTE for messing the stops up as I would never have found this little corner of Shangrila!"
It's a suped pub. Great ale, great staff and the landlord John came over to greet me and shake my hand as I walked in. i felt very much welcome and at home.
I can't wait to take my friend from North Carolina USA in, I have already told him about this gem of a place

JulianMay 19th 2010.

I visited Bar Fringe tonight,having spent many a pleasant afternoon and evening in there a few years ago. Unfortunately, tonight was very much the opposite. My mistake was to sit on a table. I didn't tread on or damage the table but the woman behind the bar started to make a massive issue of this. At first she started to treat this as a joke but then became quite aggressive in her approach, refusing to allow me into the toilet on my own and haranguing my wife and friends. Even after profuse apologies, this landlady continued to behave in a threatening manner, loitering in a corner and gesturing at me and mentioning how her husband was upstairs. She then began to abuse my friend, accusing him of being 'a Southerner'. When he informed her that he was actually from Inverness, she said that he was gay and should get his hair cut! She then also informed us that the previoulsy stated closing time of 12:00am had now been changed to 11:00pm because she was 'bored'. Upon asking this woman to please leave us alone, she became quite intimidating so we retreated out the back door and sat in the beer garden. She then locked us out there! Some of us left but then she re-opened the door and presented two of my friends with a bottle of cheap rose wine by way of an apology!

Ironically, the pub itself seemed decent enough, although quite dirty. It reminded me of Subway, underneath Grand Central and would probably appeal to crusties and a certian type of student. However, the owner was downright rude and offensive, threatening, unpleasant, aggressive, bullying, homophobic and downright horrible; probably the worst pub owner that I have ever encountered. Beware!!

AnonymousMay 19th 2010.

Fringe bar always seems like a gay bar for people who haven't come out. All single blokes standing about as if they're waiting for something. It's like a pick up joint in my humble and perhaps incorrect opinion.

AnonymousMay 19th 2010.

In fact after a quick glance at the pics and application of a couple of stereotypes, I may be right.

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