Steve Rice, co-owner of The Workshop, launches his third venture in L22
Managing one hospitality business can be tricky enough, but you’ve got to have a very specific skill set to juggle three bars and restaurants. Cool, calm and collected is a phrase that springs to mind when we meet Steve Rice, co-owner of The Workshop.
Crosby, Waterloo, and some parts of Litherland, are being very creative.
Steve has 25 years of experience in the business having started out as a bartender and worked his way up to the top. It’s an impressive CV that includes a big stint at 60 Hope Street, general manager at The Tea Factory Bar & Kitchen in Ropewalks, The Gallery Restaurant and Bar in Formby, and the Living Ventures brand.
Since Steve first launched The Workshop in 2015, the venue on Crosby Road North in Waterloo has become an evolving project. Four years after launch, he took on a business partner, Neil Fairbrother, who Steve says has been instrumental behind the scenes.
Neil also has an impressive career under his belt, with a vast range of experiences to draw on and drive the business forward; from a police officer, to working in fraud, and then social housing. Having retired in his 50s, Neil’s role at The Workshop covers compliance, finance, HR and legal aspects of the business.
Like many in the hospitality industry, The Workshop was left treading water for a while in lockdown, but the pair used the time to rethink where the restaurant was going.
Steve says, “During lockdown we hit a reset button on the business. We took it back to where it should have been; the terrace on the roof, the deli bar downstairs.
“With the name, The Workshop, it was always supposed to be an evolving entity. And it has done. We’ve done the downstairs, the restaurant, the roof terrace, the outside seating. Over seven years it’s all strongly developed.”
The Workshop is now one of the most popular restaurants and bars in the area, combining a seasonal small plates menu with a strong backbone in wine. The global wine list takes you on a journey from readily available grapes to the more unusual, like Brazilian sparkling wine.
There’s a lot of British produce on the menu, mixed up with a global feel. Boquerones with pickled chilli; grilled octopus with chorizo and capers; chicken liver parfait with pancetta and radish; Scottish oysters with tomato salsa and sobrasada; and Steve’s favourite dish - whole slow-cooked ox cheek with provencal vegetables, garlic and oregano.
He says the majority of the fish on the menu is caught off the coast of Southport and they use locally sourced and allotment grown food where possible. Music is central to The Workshop atmosphere with live music every Friday night. Sunday is all about the roast, when small plates move over as starters, soundtracked by chilled vibes from resident DJs.
Crosby born and bred - although he has also lived in Manchester, London and Spain - Steve is very passionate about everything that this part of Liverpool has to offer.
“Crosby, Waterloo, and some parts of Litherland, are being very creative,” he says.
“Like South Liverpool with its independents, we are starting to really evolve. You’ve got Crosby village, Coronation Road, St Johns. Not forgetting South Road, which has been going for years. There are some really nice places there now.
“St John’s Road is full of independents; Hamper’s, El Capitanos, Caz’s Kitchen, Williamson’s butchers, a bevy of barbers, a great travel agent, coffee shops galore. It’s great.”
Following on from the success of The Workshop, Steve and Neil opened a new bar next door last December. Ophelia’s is the latest addition to the buzzing food and drink scene on this strip and will soon be joined by another new restaurant in the portfolio - Duke & Duke.
Steve says, “When we first started The Workshop there wasn’t really much around here so we were kind of a stop off before you went into town.
“Now we’re creating a hub here. People go to Ophelia’s first for cocktails and then they come into The Workshop for food. When Duke & Duke opens, that will all just go hand in hand. You have a lot more choice now.”
Boyd Dalton Kenny, executive head chef of The Workshop, will also head up the kitchen at Duke & Duke. The 80-cover restaurant will specialise in prime cuts of British meat, aged steaks, seafood and local produce, with the focal point being a Mibrasa barbecue oven.
Steve says, “The Duke & Duke name came from mine and Neil’s favourite movie, which is Trading Places. Duke & Duke were the bad guys, Ophelia was Jamie Lee Curtis’ character.
“I always wanted to do a grill restaurant. Boyd is going to be heading up the two sites food wise and he’ll be flipping between them like myself. It just makes perfect sense to have them all literally next door to each other.”
Get the latest news to your inbox
Get the latest food & drink news and exclusive offers by email by signing up to our mailing list. This is one of the ways that Confidentials remains free to our readers and by signing up you help support our high quality, impartial and knowledgable writers. Thank you!