WHAT would clinch your decision to move into a new home? Maybe there’s one remarkable room that blows you away? Or some old pals recommending location, location? You’re definitely going to be spending a lot of time in the kitchen, so guaranteed state of the art is a must. Welcome to Manchester, then, Tom Kerridge.
The telly celebrity, holder of three Michelin stars across two pubs in deepest Bucks, is opening a restaurant (yet to be named) in the city’s new Stock Exchange Hotel, set to launch on November 15.
Capturing Kerridge is quite a coup for Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, co-founders of GG Hospitality. Even before opening, this boutique hotel project has been granted Relais & Chateaux status, yet its position, tucked away off Market Street, is a far cry from the chef’s Marlow base, where the red kites wheel over the Thames meadows.
Taste of Manchester is taking its birding binoculars next time it ventures down that neck of the river and we’ll definitely be revisiting Kerridge’s flagship, The Hand & Flowers, first ever pub to win two stars. A remarkably fine lunch set us up for a meeting with the man himself – and we weren’t there to discuss his latest diet book.
So Tom, what swung your decision to add Manchester to your portfolio? It can’t just be the fact that you’re a United season ticket holder?
“We weren’t looking at opening in Manchester at all. But after dining at our London restaurant, Kerridge’s, Gary approached us and said will you come and have a little look at our space? We always say yes to every conversation because you never know what will happen. We walked into the Stock Exchange building and you just cannot help but fall in love with the space. We came away going: 'We have to do this.' It’s just such an amazing, beautiful space (the restaurant will be under the domed ceiling of the former trading floor).
“We fell in love with the space, the hotel, the building, everything about it. Everything that we’ve done has to have a reason and a foundation, there always has to be history and heritage – pubs, people, suppliers, producers - and then you walk into that building and it’s exactly the same. This amazing nostalgia washes over you, how wonderfully warm and incredible this site is.”
And friends in the industry up here convinced you it was the right move? The likes of Kala owner Gary Usher, fellow telly star Simon Rimmer and Hawksmoor co-founder Will Beckett.
“Yes, they told me: ‘Come on up , it’s amazing, the food scene is brilliant, let’s make it a big party.’ We've already got lots of friends up there, so it just feels such a natural space to be moving into because it has the same reasoning as when we opened The Hand and Flowers in the first place. I’m not looking at a restaurant empire. In fact, Manchester is the last place we’ll be opening, that’s it.”
Tom already runs four venues. The first place of his own was The Hand and Flowers, which he opened with his sculptor wife Beth 14 years ago, winning its first Michelin star within a year and a second six years later. In 2014 came his second Marlow food pub, The Coach, which earned its own Michelin star last year with a more casual, small plate menu. The set is completed by The Butcher’s Tap, a unique pub/butcher’s shop combo just along from The Coach, and Kerridge’s Bar & Grill in Westminster’s Corinthia Hotel – a space more akin the The Stock Exchange..
Dare we mention the potential for Michelin stars, Tom?
“The Manchester food scene is probably one of the most talked-about in the UK right now, It’s also lost that Michelin star thing. I think nobody’s really bothered any more. It’s more about actually are there lovely places to eat, are people having a nice time, is it growing, is there a lovely bubble that’s going on in Manchester? Yes.
But you wouldn’t say no to one at The Stock Exchange if the Michelin inspectors rate it?
"If they come, they come, if they don't, we're not worried. What we're worried about is reflecting that room in its best possible way, the staff doing well and the guests having a fantastic time.”
What about prices? On The Hand menu starters hover under the £20 mark and most mains are over £39, while the small plates at The Coach range from £4.50 to £17.50. Might you lower prices for Manchester?
"We're not going to be putting lobsters on the menu and fillet steak and caviar because no one wants to spend that on a Tuesday evening unless it's a super special occasion. That's not going to work. You can come in and have a burger and chips but you can also come in and have three courses and spend a bit more if you want. We're not aiming at being Manchester's most expensive restaurant, but also not the cheapest. It's got to be the right price that sits within that beautiful space and that hotel.”
So The Stock Exchange is not going to replicate The Hand And Flowers offering?
“In terms of menu, it will have the Hand and Flowers DNA. There will be recipes that have been developed there over the years. However, The Hand and Flowers is pretty unique. That’s not what we’re looking for here. What we’re looking for is something that’s a lot more comfortable and accessible, lunch time, dinner time, breakfast, so it will be probably closer to a morph between Kerridge’s and The Coach.
“There will be that feeling of people being made to feel welcome and food that’s solid, comfortable, understandable and flavoursome.”
Three artful dishes we’d love to see make the journey up with Tom are the Pork and Pickle Demi Pie with “pied de cochon en gelée” plus spiced date purée, and Lamb Toast with haggis, minted peas, lamb ham and Chartreuse cheese (both from The Hand) and The Coach's Cornish Pollock Scotch Egg in a shellfish bisque.
And the look of the place? We love the stools at the bar in The Coach
“The room is probably most similar to Kerridge’s - it’s smaller but possesses the same sort of grandeur. The success we have with Kerridge’s is you’re not overawed by the room. You’re impressed by it, but it’s made to feel comfortable, and the dining room in Manchester will be exactly the same. This approach will apply to to the private dining kitchen and events spaces created out of the Exchange’s old vaults. And at the restaurant bar there will be similar comfortable stools and the small tellies showing sport.
All this sounds amazing, but it can only work with the right staff… and how often are you going to be up?
“Many of our staff have stayed with us for many years, growing with the business. We will send a strong team up, including a head chef from the brigade. Some of the younger ones are looking forward to the excitement of living in a big city. A couple are Mancs looking forward to going home. The Stock Exchange front of house manager Petra spent two and a half years at The Coach before leaving to work for Sat Bains. Now she’s back. I’ll be here with my head chefs from Marlow to launch it and do as much as it takes to make it work. After which, as with London, I’ll be up in Manchester once a week.”
Your restaurants have great produce. Will you be sourcing in the North?
As much as we can we’ll use raw materials from Manchester and the surrounding area. There'll be game dishes in season and we’re definitely going to have a rotating array of Manchester beers alongside Marlow’s finest, Rebellion Brewery. We like to stay loyal.
So Manchester Stock Exchange is the final new restaurant Tom, now 46, will be opening (there are further books and TV series in the pipeline, though). From a humble start aged 18 pot washing in his native West Country he has worked as a chef with some of the greats – Richard Corrigan, Gary Rhodes, Philip Britten.
Asked which chef has been the greatest influence on his career Tom unhesitatingly nominated Marco Pierre White, whose book ‘White Heat’ inspired a whole kitchen generation with its ‘food is the new rock and roll’ mantra.
Since relinquishing his Michelin mantle Marco has often given his name to enterprises he only occasionally visits. Other star chef brands have fleetingly arrived in the city.
This one is quite different. You sense that Tom Kerridge and his dedicated team will be paying a lot of attention to the product. Their Manchester Stock can only rise.