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Power of Pi

Jonathan Schofield finds good beer and well-travelled pies in Chorlton

Written by . Published on April 24th 2007.


Power of Pi

Pi is part of a generation of mongrels mixing up the concepts of bars and pubs across south Manchester. This one sits opposite Chorlton Baths, up the road from the Marble Beerhouse and down the road from the Hillary Step. There are several others scattered around the Heatons, the Didsburys, and for that matter the Northern Quarter.

They are pubs more than bars because they appeal to a mixed age range, there’s no pressure to dress up, the music is usually background and they all serve real ale. Yet the more contemporary bar element hasn’t disappeared. For many women – and men - the inner-city pub still reeks too obviously of testosterone and the chanting mob around the satellite TV. Bars like Pi with limited but decent wines, good beers and the tiny but intimate dimensions of former shops appeal to the non-pub traditionalists.

Pi is probably the smallest of the lot and occupies the premises of the deceased Idaho restaurant. It’s a comfortable but unremarkable little space, with a good terrace: a neighbourhood bar not a destination.

Idaho specialised in world beers and so does Pi with around 50 varieties from all corners of the globe including seven on draught such as the Liefman’s Frambozen (£3.20 a glass), a raspberry beer from Belgium. Bottled beers include the lovely Kuppers Kolsh (£2.50 per half a litre) from Germany. There are also draught ales, the Bank Top micro-brewery ale from Bolton, Flat Cap, a lovely, richly flavoured brew. A second beer arrives soon the Live and Let Pie from The Rosebridge micro in Wigan. Along with all the genes being identified, a gay gene and so forth, it’s only a matter of time before someone identifies the gene in micro-brewery owners which drives them to attempt witty titles for their little pride and joys.

The name of the Wigan beer fits the name of the bar and also with its food range which constitutes pies and other pies. These cost £4 and can be adorned with gravy, mash or minty peas (£1 extra for each item). They’re lovely pies, but fancy-dan and very Chorlton: such as the chicken of Aragorn pie, a heavily textured chicken, smoky bacon, garlic and tarragon beast or the wild mushroom and asparagus pie for veggies. There’s a debate to be had whether veggie pies are strictly legal?

And this is the problem – admittedly a personal problem - the pies are very fine if a little dry pastry-wise, but they’re alien. They come from the Pieminister company in Bristol and frankly the traditionalist in me wants pies from up here – I feel the life of pie is a northern thing. I want a pork pie for example not one with tarragon. The fact that the posh pies had sold out on my second visit doesn’t change my mind at all. Give me a Hollands any day.

There was another puzzle. I asked the owner Mike Ingham and the lads behind the bar, Mike (on the right above) and Charlie, why they had spelt the name of the place Pi as in the maths. They said something about Pythagoras and pies and mathematics which left me utterly confused. Still by that time I didn’t really care as I’d got myself very comfortable and downed several Flat Caps. Instead I slipped into fantasy.

During the Manchester Food and Drink Festival, Chorlton celebrates a ‘Parsnip Day’. They really do. They should have an Ancient Greeks' day. We could have a guy dressed up as Pythagoras on the terrace at Pi and Plato working in the vegetarian grocery of Unicorn (Plato was a veggie). Down at the Lead Station there’d be Sappho - who else - and in the Royal Oak, Leonidas and his 300 heavily armed Spartans, all of whom would be needed by chucking out time.

Pi (99 Manchester Road, Chorlton. 0161 882 0000 www.pi-chorlton.co.uk)
Mon-Fri 5pm-11pm, Sat noon-11pm, Sun noon-10.30pm (a later licence has been applied for and the hours will extend backwards into the day during summer weekdays)
Manchester Confidential pays for its own reviews
Bar Rating: 14/20 (Atmosphere 4/5, Décor 3/5, Food 3/5, Drinks 4/5)

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

AnonymousApril 24th 2007.

Pi is a great relaxing bar that, thankfully, has attracted a good crowd whenever I have been in. I'm proud to say that it is my local bar, which I would never say about Iguana bar (on the same road).

Steve JohnsonApril 24th 2007.

Actually people in London just LOOK like they're chewing a wasp. Getting a real wasp pie is as hard as getting mushy peas. Bee pie though, now that's the big thing at the moment, everyone's buzzing about it.

lizApril 24th 2007.

bring back the idaho guys and girls - where have they gone!! pi might do if you're staggering past after a few at the Marble but i wasn't convinced on my first visit last week

ancoats girlApril 24th 2007.

I'm really sorry to hear Idaho is gone - I used to live around the corner and ate there all the time. Now that I'm in town, sans car and without much reason to head to that way... a shame. I like Pieminster pies (had 'em at the Big Chill) but for 4 quid you think they'd at least chuck in some gravy! I also hope the mash isn't like the tablespoonful you get at Cord.

MikeApril 24th 2007.

See http://www.myspace.com/chorltonspace for more information about Chorlton.

Mr XApril 24th 2007.

Pieminister? It's all a little twee, isn't it? But then again, it is Chorlton.

superdog500April 24th 2007.

Pieminister saved my life at Glastonbury two years ago after a weekend of not eating that much. All hail the pieminister! I think i'll go this evening in fact..

bobbyApril 24th 2007.

Have you not had a wasp pie before? All the rage in London..

Simple SimonApril 24th 2007.

I like pies.

POGGIEApril 24th 2007.

Anonymous (so good they named him / her twice) is dead right. The pies at the CRUSTY COB in Ancoats are awesome. There is even a song about the C.C. by Dominic Collins. Check it out on http://www.domcollins.co.uk

AnonymousApril 24th 2007.

What are you talkin about ?Pie minister pies rock! , Matador ,Chicken of Arragon ..what good pies do we have up here? Hollands? come on!..(Crusty Cob Ancoats meat n potato are the best up here i rekon..import them). When I went in on a monday theyd sold out of all pies ..so some one likes them.

JERRY THE CATApril 24th 2007.

Sorry to lower the tone but I once found half a wasp in a pie, I dont know if I ate the other half but it was enough to put me off for life.

BarryApril 24th 2007.

I think you'll find that Unicorn is vegan, not veggie.It does seem like an awful long way to bring pies!Idaho was nice for a beer but didn't it have the same menu for almost ten years?

AnonymousApril 24th 2007.

What are you talkin about ?Pie minister pies rock! , Matador ,Chicken of Arragon ..what good pies do we have up here? Hollands? come on!..(Crusty Cob Ancoats meat n potato are the best up here i rekon..import them). When I went in on a monday theyd sold out of all pies ..so some one likes them.

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