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The Hillary Step reviewed

Dave Bishop is charmed by a minimalist bar filled with lots of the good stuff....and cheese

Published on May 18th 2009.


The Hillary Step reviewed

What’s in a name? A hell of a lot, obviously.

I’ve got a cousin who christened his son Xerxes, after the Persian ruler famous for slaughtering thousands if not millions, and also for having an evil starring role as the tall geezer in the film 300. Quite what that says about my cousin, or how his son will grow up, is anyone’s guess.

Meanwhile in the flattest part of the flat southern end of Manchester nestles the Hillary Step. This pub-cum-bar on the Whalley Range/ Old Trafford border is named after Sir Edmund Hillary, or rather part of Mount Everest which is named after him.

The good thing – in some ways – about this name is it gives no hint about what the bar might be like, or who it might appeal to. It conjures up neither images of being a roughhouse nor of a poncey café bar.

Which is just as well because unless you’re partial to cheap Stella and music turned up so loud you can’t hear yourself think then this place should appeal to all shapes and sizes.

From the straightforward facade you enter an impressive space which does more to uphold the great traditions of the old fashioned pub or classic bar than most of its more established, orthodox-looking competitors. The decor borders on the minimalist with one red carpet dominating one wall while a glossy magenta surface lords it over another,

Basically, the Hillary Step does great beer, good whisky and a few quality snacks and nibbles including a cheeseboard.

The beer is made up of real ale on hand pumps, along with great continental varieties as well.

But be warned – you could end up drinking Bazens’ Pacific, for which the phrase acquired taste could almost have been invented, as it’s like a cross between smoked sausage and lapsang souchong tea with a few charred twigs thrown in.

It’s the Polish hops, apparently. Crazy, but it became alarmingly decent after several slurps, and it’s courtesy of a Salford microbrewery, so you’re virtually obliged to buy it and enjoy it.

For people with a more conventional palate, I’d recommend the Top Hop from the Hornbeam brewery, although as the Hillary Step rotates beer on a regular basis, it may not be on when you turn up.

Whatever is on, though, you can virtually guarantee it’ll be good. On our visit the choice also included British offerings Lancaster Bomber, St George’s Flag, Moravka and Kinstone Press Cider, while Johnny Foreigner provided King Ludwig Weissbier, King Ludwig Dunkel, Warsteiner, Fruli, Kaltenburg Hell and Pilsner Urquell. Guinness provided stout support. As this is within Guardian-throwing distance of Chorlton, there’s the requisite wine list, which starts at £11.25 for a bottle of Diamond Bay Chenin Chardonnay.

The cheeseboard for £5.35 is a winner – you can pick any three cheese from about eight - which comfortably went around three of us. We chose some brie, cantal and Tomme de Montagne, which came with exotic crackers and chutney.

Connie, our daughter, topped up with a bowl of green olives stuffed with feta, although she could have chosen from a lengthy menu of fancy nibbles.

So you could say it’s trendy without being up its own chi-chi cobbled front terrace (yes, it’s got one of those, together with a strangely deserted rear garden complete with bamboo screens – deserted because apparently the neighbours behind have complained about drinkers out there).

Clientele is Chorlton and Whalley Range cultural types and the music is so leftfield that I couldn’t identify a single track apart from a Jimi Hendrix number, but I count that as being educational and generally a Good Thing.

Overall, I reckon, if you’ve not been you should give it a go.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away

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

PhilMay 18th 2009.

Great beer/cheese/nuts/staff/quiz - my local and the best!

east lancsMay 18th 2009.

What Paul said; the lack of drinking venues in Whalley Range is bothersome. In the Wlbraham Road area, there's not even a corner shop to my knowledge!

east lancsMay 18th 2009.

Ah, I remember that myself now mate. Something to do with it being church land or something? Yep, I think you are right.

Nina76May 18th 2009.

I love this bar .... staff are really friendly and has such a great atmosphere!!!

JamesMay 18th 2009.

what's going on with palmiro. the food seems out of touch with what people want to eat on a day to dat basis. Do readers think a bar with a basic but decent food offering would do ok?

AnonymousMay 18th 2009.

IanI am the anon from earlier.Firstly I am a chorlton resident and I enjoy drinking in the hilary step.Secondly ( a bit of a confession here ) part of the reason for my post was to start a debate about how chorlton perceives itself and wants to be perceived in the local media.As a resident I am often embarrassed by articles regarding chorlton which cannot be concluded without a quote about the independent bars, bohemian lifestyle, most desirable part of manchester etc etc. see this weeks report on the metrolink extension including an interview with the iguana bar owner as one example. Another even clumsier example was in Ed Glinert's Manchester Compendium, in which he described Didsbury as an over developed slum and Whalley Range residents only living there for easy access to Chorltons health food shops, independent bars etc.Chorlton is obviously over represented in the local media who insist on exaggerating what a wonderful place it is. IMO its a safe, slightly scruffy decent area to live. My only real 'complaints' are thoseabove and that it is a bit dull.

Jammy DodgerMay 18th 2009.

Somewhere in the dregs of my memory I seem to think that there was a really old by-law for Whalley Range that there could be no pubs or bars in the area? Or have I made that up? Anyway, whatever area it's in, I really like Hillary Step...chilled atmosphere and friendly staff.

east lancsMay 18th 2009.

fairymuff... but Whalley Range could really do with somewhere to drink around the bottom end of Withington Road, and a shop too.

PaulMay 18th 2009.

great bar and ambience - as a Whalley Ranger it is great to have such a nice bar within 10 minutes walk

Mike from DidsburyMay 18th 2009.

Lovely place. We've had occasional gatherings of the Pacru (abstract board game) club here over several years on a Sunday afternoon and the music is interesting but not loud, a nice bunch of customers and the tables are a decent size, too.

Wiki WarriorMay 18th 2009.

A little bit of research reveals that it was actually Mr Brooks' (the guy who built the estate) edict that there be no trading in the area. Eventually the wealthy folk moved out, it became run-down (hence attracting no investment, and only crap little shops). So basically; as it becomes more re-gentrified, it'll get more stuff. I reckon a decent boozer would make a killing.

TAZMay 18th 2009.

Great bar - everything it does, it does well. Lovely staff too, with the exception of one chap with long hair who never smiles!!

Kenny LeedhamMay 18th 2009.

Best bar in the south of manch...hold on...In Manch!!

AnonymousMay 18th 2009.

not too bad. Will succeed when compared with its competition i.e. the tacky, didsbury wannabee bars in chorlton.

Jammy DodgerMay 18th 2009.

Ian, I agree. Chorlton has a laid-back feel that is totally its own ....I love all the independent bars and don't understand the 'Didsbury-wannabe' bit at all. Anon, care to elaborate?

AnonymousMay 18th 2009.

Deffo Whalley Range, grew up on that block. One side of Chorlton road OT the other Whalley Range. Estate agents may call it Chorlton but what do they know.

Stuie72May 18th 2009.

Great bar, great staff, great beer.

Chorlton friendMay 18th 2009.

East lancs - the Chorlton border sign sits at the Wild at Heart deli, just before you go over the old train line bridge. So it is defo Whalley Range. And Iguana is defo in Chorlton

revporlMay 18th 2009.

Yes, it's a nice bar. Excellent beers, customers not as poncey and obnoxious as in Chorlton, and generally a bit older.

IanMay 18th 2009.

Was it mormons or jesuits? dunno, doesn't matter really, great bar, great little strip of bars and shops, shame palmiros for sale, never understood the ridiculous & ugly extensions. As for chorlton bars being "didsbury wannabes" (anon) are you actually being serious? Have you been to any bars in either of these areas recently? More informed rants please, not generalised, unimaginative stereotyping. Thankyou

east lancsMay 18th 2009.

Hold on a minute... it's pushing it to claim this is Whalley Range. Old Trafford perhaps, Chorlton even. On this basis, Iguana is in Whalley Range, which it isn't.

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