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Sarah Tierney thinks this bar-kitchen is worth the extra walk

Published on November 13th 2008.


I like the idea of relaxed dining; homely food in a bar that emulates a funkier version of your Gran's living room. Faded sofas, mismatched wallpaper, quirky ornaments, and an overcooked Sunday dinner served on chipped plates. There are several places that specialise in this kind of experience in Manchester; Odd, Odder, and Trof for example. But sometimes 'relaxed' can lean too far back on its chair and end up falling over. Haphazard service, thrown-together food. The food experience starts to reflect the décor; a little bit all over the place.

Fifty7 is one of the most recent bar-kitchens to open and the influence of establishments such as Odd is obvious with its Northern Quarter location, eclectic décor, and combination of cool bar and down-to-earth restaurant. Odd looks less 'odd' and more 'identical' every time a place like this opens.

We went on a rainy Sunday evening when this particular quarter of the Northern Quarter must be at its bleakest. Situated at the point where shoppers taking a short cut from the Arndale to Piccadilly Station suddenly find themselves alarmingly lost, Fifty7 is pushing it if it wants passing trade. The best way to pinpoint it is as 'just round the corner from Lamars'. If that means nothing to you, go to Stevenson Square (where Koffee Pot is) and keep walking. It's on a side street on your left, not far after the Crown and Anchor pub.

The plus side about being located off the beaten track is the 'thank God' reaction you get from wet, cold customers when they step inside your doors. Fifty7's cosiness partly stems from the contrast between its warm, candle-lit interior and the grimness of the streets outside. It's as if they knew they'd have to try extra hard to make this place lovely. There's a fireplace lit with a gathering of church candles. Fairy lights around the exposed brickwork. Big leather booths and chunky wooden tables. A DJ booth in the corner was staffed by a spooky-looking mannequin in a top hat (presumably a Halloween leftover). Other eccentricities included a chopper bike and a dressing screen.

We were seated in an eating area round the corner from the bar. It was quiet (the number of diners doubled when we arrived) but it's not a huge place anyway so that didn't feel strange. The fact that we were shown to a table puts Fifty7 in a slightly different category to 'sort yourself out' places like Trof. It felt more like a proper restaurant than a bar that does food. The menu built on this impression.

It's not an imaginative collection of dishes: the selection sticks to the crowd-pleasing favourites – steak and chips, fish and chips, madras curry, chicken caeser salad, and so on. However, as we discovered, it stands out in other ways.

I chose Thai fish cakes (£4.95) for my starter, and my friend went for moules mariniere (£5.95). The waiter looked a little surprised when we also ordered mains. When they arrived, we understood why. The portions are very generous here, so don't snack beforehand if you're going. The full-sized fish cakes were light and fluffy on the inside and nicely crisp on the outside. Delicate rather than flavoursome and accompanied by a lively salad and lemon mayonnaise, I'd have them again.

The mussels, in contrast, were full of flavour. Slightly spicy, sprinkled with parmesan in a bed of lettuce and cherry tomatoes. Not quite what we were expecting but very good. I asked my friend for a description and he said they 'tasted like the sea'. They looked like it too with the red lettuce lapping over the shells like seaweed.

For drinks, we went for the admittedly dull choices of a glass of house red (£2.75) and a coke (£1.10). Not much to say about these. They were as you'd expect.

Onto the mains. I had chicken and chorizo risotto (£9.95) and it was a case of hunt the rice rather than hunt the meat – which I appreciate in a dish like this. With little bits of red pepper, cherry tomato and rocket, and a pleasantly moist consistency, it avoided being dense and same-y. I only managed about a third before I was full though, and took the rest home for a tasty elevenses the next day.

My friend had the sirloin steak (£12.95) which was accompanied by home-made chips which he described as 'biblical'. Charlie Big Potatoes certainly had a hand in creating these plate-hogging monsters. Along with the salad, grilled onion, pepper, and mushroom, there wasn't a lot of room for the less sizeable, but expertly-cooked steak.

I felt cheeky asking for the dessert menu after failing to finish my main course. As it happened, we didn't get a pudding anyway because we'd arrived quite late and the kitchen was closed. We were more relieved than disappointed; if their starters and mains are anything to go by, their desserts would likely be massive as well.

All in all, I was impressed with Fifty7, and not just because I'm greedy when it comes to portion sizes. They made more effort than many bar-kitchens; there was more care in the preparation and presentation, the service was good, and although the menu appears predictable, there were some nice surprises when the food arrived.

This place hasn't yet got the reputation of a favourite drinking bar like some of its Northern Quarter contemporaries, and maybe that's a good thing. They can't rely on a steady stream of customers so they're not taking any chances; if they've managed to tempt you away from the main strip of Oldham Street, they want to make sure you'll come back.

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

Anthony McCaulNovember 13th 2008.

LOVE this place! THe decor is great, the atmosphere is chilled but cool and the staff and owners seem real nice too. A little gem at this end of the "whatever people want to call the area" quarter.

AnonymousNovember 13th 2008.

"we-are-upstairs" - can you not read? The discussion has been mainly about the northern quarter following on from upset!s comments .. your comments are agressive and unnecessary!! You must be a townie that doesn't like nice local places! Very silly!

Viva Chris RonaldNovember 13th 2008.

Great little place this and plenty of bargains to be had!

MNovember 13th 2008.

The bars in the location of BLUU are full of the Deansgate type townies now on a Friday and Saturday night .. not my cup of tea as a local .. Fifty7 is brilliant .. full of local residents and othersuch types there for a chilled out drink etc!(as the NQ was five years ago!!) .. Very pathetic comment Upset! .. I take it your worried that the comments suggest the Northern Quarter has now expanded and that this will effect your apartments value .. oh dear!! Piccadilly Basin/Ancoats/NQ .. does anyone really care!! as long as the place is good!! which it is!! :)

Ex Piccadilly ResidentNovember 13th 2008.

Thank god it's not in the northern quarter, as it would be full of tourists who think the norther quarter is... a good thing!

ktfairyNovember 13th 2008.

This is a nice little bar, it's not really in the Northern Quarter, but so what. Most of the bars in the NQ get on my nerves now anyway - well not the bars themselves, just the people who go in them. I remember back in t'day.....

57DJNovember 13th 2008.

57 is a great little bar, off the beaten track and is a perfect escape from the PrintQuarter (Cord, Common, Centro, Northern aside)Lammars is Lammars I can't see what the fuss is with the competition aspect. What that area needs is a couple more bars to make it a real alternative night out from the usual haunts.

longtallsallyNovember 13th 2008.

Not sure what all the negative comments are about, the boyfriend and myself spent a lovely night in fifty7 last night! Good music, lively people i'll definitely be heading back there! Guess some people like different things, all i'd say is make your own minds up we had a great night!

we-are-upstairsNovember 13th 2008.

What on earth is everyone talking about?? surely not the bar with miserable owners that are blatently rude to customers, always empty, no atmosphere and a poor attempt at being better than lammars.... i would rather drink in moon bar than this place and that really is saying something!...if you think these are genunine comments above then you have all been sadly tricked by the very transparent owners.

big bear daveNovember 13th 2008.

is fifty7 the name or maximum capacity??? 5.7 might be more apt..Great pre-bar for the gay sauna tho..the stench of chlorine really gets the bowels moving...almost as much as the food!!

SteveoNovember 13th 2008.

Its my local (can we settle on Piccadilly basin?) from work. The fishfinger sarnies are legendary. The boddies on tap is well kept, the DJ sounds over the weekend are aclectic and appropriate, the booths are cosy (the place sits over a sauna so its always warm).They even have 20% off promotion when you spend over £20!What more can you want. Leave Lamar's (it's sh1t, expensive and arrogant) - come here for some love instead.

AnonymousNovember 13th 2008.

Also Upset, the NQ is part of Ancoats... www.spinningtheweb.org.uk/m_display.php…

RebeccaWhoNovember 13th 2008.

I like this bar, the food is great and the staff are lovely. I think its much better than nearby, overrated Lamars (I would say this was the Northern Quarter, but I'm not sure it really matters!)

Bev JNovember 13th 2008.

We;ve eaten here twice recently and the staff were great, very friendly and helpful. The whole feel is very relaxed and the food was great, I had the special the first time we went and then the steak pie which was fantastic. Great plates for sharing aswell, the nachos are really good

cs25November 13th 2008.

How come no one's mentioned Stan, the loveable little dog who seems to live at Fifty7? He's great. Every bar needs a dog.And we-are-upstairs - try smiling, people will like you then.

we-are-upstairsNovember 13th 2008.

Apologies anonymous i thought for one minute this was a bar review not a forum on the location of the northern quarter, hence i was adding my opinion on the subject itself.... but then again you would change the subject as there really isnt anything positive worth adding about the place.... weather is nice today isnt it.

upset!November 13th 2008.

Can we please stop calling this area "The Northen Quarter. Its Not! Its Piccadilly, and Ancoates at a stretch. If I was asking for directions say at BLUU or even The Northern (which is the NQ) and If someone said "oh, it;s in the Northern Quarter, about 10 mins that a away"... So we can just say anything to make our place sound better than it is? If thats the case, when I sell my apartment, I'm going to say great ocean views..I mean I am less that 60 miles from the ocean...****s sake

residentNovember 13th 2008.

Oh my god upset! what constructive comments there, the review is about the bar itself and not it's exact location! I'm a local resident and think 57 is one of the best bars in Manchester, the staff are friendly, the food and beer is great. It's a relaxed atmosphere and a good place to meet friends after work for a quiet night or at the start of a big night out. Well recommended i love it.

JoNovember 13th 2008.

upset! GET A LIFE!

Well done Lammars!!November 13th 2008.

Well Done to the near by Lammars for winning Best Bar in Manchester 08-09 on manchesterbars.com!!!

Ex Piccadilly ResidentNovember 13th 2008.

p.s. It really is a great bar and food joint!

AnonymousNovember 13th 2008.

we-are-stairs, get a life, and while you're there stay up stairs as you are dull and need to get a life! Fifty 7 is a great bar and many agree, unlucky luv!

LammarsNovember 13th 2008.

Its good that there are more bars at our end of "the northern quarter" (at a push i suppose we are) the more bars creates more choice and more customers for all of us. Im sure 57 cant be that quiet, we have seen atleast a 25% increase overall in the last 6 months and im sure 57 are benefiting from that aswell.

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