Hold on to your helmets: HandleBar is open. Remember the disused and grimy establishment The Bar you used to pass everyday? It’s now the home of possibly the most independent coffee shop/bar this side of the Curry Mile. It’s also pink, yellow, red, blue, and orange, so there’s no missing it.
When you enter, you’ll be dazzled by the sheer space and modern vibe – it’s a far cry from the stretch of New Zealand Wines and takeaways outside. There are cosy sofas to curl up on at the front, and plenty of space to work at the back. You’re greeted by a long pink tapestry which says: “Live, laugh, lube,”… cycling lube, of course!
If you want to know what HandleBar is like, you need to meet Steve. The visionary behind the whole operation, he clearly lives and breathes this place. We chat for a good 45 mins, and I’m not sure we’ve covered everything going on. Coffee, pints, cakes, cocktails, art, bikes, events, music – the list goes on!
While I’m there, the playlist drifts from The Beatles to The Clash, all clearly curated to maximise chill and cool. I drink an exquisitely smooth iced latte. All the ceramics are custom-made by Partington’s Pots, a ‘Master potter’ (Steve’s words) who also hosts events in the upstairs area. Don’t miss the chance to make your own clay pumpkin for Halloween – message @handlebar_mcr to bag a spot!
For a café/bar, getting the simple things right is essential. At HandleBar, even the basics aren’t, well, basic. The coffee is sourced from Salford producers Swan Song Coffeeand you can taste it. There are coffee offers for £2.50 available in October, so it’s worth cycling over as soon as you can! Go in on a Wednesday or a Saturday, and you can enjoy a cake (GF & vegan available) fresh from the women-run bakery Long Boi’s Bakehouse in Levenshulme.
Steve’s respect for Manchester, and the creative community here, is at the heart of what makes HandleBar so distinctive. He tells me they’re even planning to introduce a Brunch menu in the next few months, which is already outlined and ready to go. Perfect for students who can make it out of bed, but maybe not all the way into town for a Weekend treat.
As a late-night venue, it’s clearly already found its feet, filling up in the evening, and no wonder. There’s a great range of beer and Sea Change wine, an environmentally friendly label that has ocean conservation at the core of its ethos. Oktoberfest fans will enjoy the £8 tankards of beer (they’re seriously massive) whilst Steve recommends the Espresso Martini for cocktail drinkers.
If you’re ordering house beer, you’ll want to go for the BDE, which I’ll leave you to decode yourself. There’s a plethora of free late-night events, including a TimeWarp night and Drink and Doodle, so there really is something for everyone.
Let’s not forget the bikes. Clues in the name, HandleBar doubles as a drop-in bike shop, so you can bring your bike in to be repaired whilst enjoying a coffee or beer – as two customers did whilst I was there. Steve’s a man of detail, and tells me that the colours of the bar relate to different European cycling tours: the yellow symbolises the Tour de France, the pink the Giro d’Italia, and so on. There are discrete nods to cycling everywhere, such as the mock Joy Division poster at the back that actually depicts previous Tour de France routes.
It’s the little touches – the spilt paint on the floor that’s been turned into a wobbly fried egg, the Dave Draws mural at the back that’s been preserved in this renovation – that make HandleBar a standout on the streets of Fallow. With such an obvious zest for life at its core, it’s really one to watch. Once again, it’s also pink, yellow, red, blue, and orange – how could you not?
HandleBar is open Monday – Sunday and the Bike Workshop is open Wednesday – Friday.