Aiden Byrne plans to re-invent The Black Friar pub on Trinity Way

Salford's food and drink scene is about to get a boost. The well-known chef Aiden Byrne of Restaurant MCR (previously Manchester House) and present owner of The Church Green, Lymn, is stepping up to ensure the survival of a classic Salford pub, the Black Friar, which lies just a few minutes walk from Deansgate. 

This is what we've been told: 'Developer Salboy has secured top chef Aiden Byrne to open a new restaurant at its Local Blackfriars development in Salford. The new venture will use all three floors of the restored Grade II listed Black Friar pub on the corner of Blackfriars Road and Trinity Way and also incorporate a new single level glazed building to the side.'

There'll be a traditional pub interior with wood panelling and open fires

A founder and director of Salboy, one of the region's busiest developers, is Simon Ismail. He says: “We always envisioned a new and exciting use for this historic pub and getting Aiden on board demonstrates our commitment to delivering the very best – whether its new homes or a new restaurant. This is an area packed with much loved venues like The Eagle Inn and Blueprint Studios and the reborn Black Friar will add to the mix for the growing number of people living here.”

He's right about that the area. This was marked recently by a refreshing of the characterful and character-filled Holt's pub, The Eagle, just round the corner.

The Black Friar project is all about looking back to go forward with a 'traditional pub interior with wood panelling and open fires in the original building with casual dining and an open kitchen in the linked modern building which faces onto the development’s courtyard gardens.' The first floor will contain a small, 20-25 cover, restaurant with a kitchen on the third floor and perhaps a chef's table too.

2019 05 08 Mfdf Aiden Byrne Headshot
Chef Aiden Bryne

Byrne is well-known for gaining a Michelin Star at Adlards in Norfolk when he was just 22. His brief stint at 20 Stories in 2019 might be seen by some as a career a low point, but The Black Friar seems of the right scale to bring out the best in him. 

“I am so excited by this. Simon and Lee (of Salboy) have been great to deal with," Bryne says. "I was introduced to them and was gobsmacked by the quality of work at Blackfriars and their passion for the area. It will bring a whole new experience to this part of the city with the ground floor providing the hustle and bustle of casual dining and the pub providing the ‘local’ for Blackfriars."

The reworking of the Black Friar is expected to cost £2m funded by Salboy and Domis, the partner construction company, with a significant personal investment from Byrne and his wife Sarah who will run the operation. Planning will be submitted next month with, if all goes well, an opening date of late summer.

The pub stands in jolly juxtaposition to the adjacent Local Blackfriars scheme, designed by Jon Matthews Architects (JMA), of 380 apartments and penthouses and a new street of town houses with resident amenities around a central landscaped courtyard. The detailing and finish are smart while the green tiles add exuberance to the development. 

2020 01 28 Aiden Bryne Black Friar Local Blackfriar
Local Blackfriars up close

The Black Friar pub story

The Black Friar pub has a good line carved high on its wall, a reverse of one of those signs you see which reads 'Last fuel before the motorway'.

It was built in 1886 by Boddington's Brewery as a fine and distinguished three-storey boozer, to impress the locals and delay the travellers. Thus, the architect William Ball placed the inscription: 'You might go further and fare worse' - in other words linger here and drink deep, don't risk the next boozer. Ball also slung in a relief of a Black Friar, just to underline the theme, together with a couple of drunken friars just to get people in the mood.

The architect was the brewer's man. Ball received nearly all his commissions directly from, or through the influence of, his patron Henry Boddington; the empire-building brewer and the second son of the founder. Ball often worked with Thomas Elce. He designed Boddington's house Pownall Hall, in Wilmslow, and through this beery connection completed his most charming work Mynshull House on Cateaton Street, again with Elce.

Ball's other Boddies pubs included one in Oldham, which may no longer be a pub but looks identical to the Black Friar, and triumphed in the fabulously dubious name the Smut Inn. The Red King in Whitefield, again no longer a pub, is another Black Friar look-alike. Happily now at least the Black Friar, the last of the three to be completed, is going to have a food and drink revival.

2020 01 28 Aiden Byrne Black Friar
'You might go further and fare worse' - so come in here and have a pint or two
2020 01 28 Aiden Bryne Black Friar Detail
Two people who didn't go further and look like they fared worse

This Black Friar seems to have been built as a replacement for a pub which had been pulled down round the corner on King Street called Old School Inn. This was when Blackfriars Street was being extended north west from Chapel Street. The name Old School Inn might have referred to the school of the Bible Christians on King Street.

If so, this is hugely ironic. The Vegetarian Society really began (forget that 1847 date) in 1809 when a preacher in the King Street chapel of the Bible Christian Church persuaded his congregation to give up meat and alcohol. His name was the Reverend William Cowherd, which is deliciously apt. He provided a library and a school. The school that the original pub referred to, maybe.

In the end it's all good. No doubt the new business will serve meat and alcohol, but also have vegetarian choices too. Something for everybody. What is clear is that Salboy, Domis, JMA and the Byrnes are re-inventing a lovely landmark pub that ties the modern cities (MCR and Salford) to their past and helps give context to the new developments all around.