But when one door closes, another one usually opens…
It's been another a busy 12 months for Manchester’s hospitality industry. Quite a few restaurants closed this year, some moved premises, others changed their name and, of course, lots of new venues have opened.
We look back at some of the changes that have happened in Manchester’s restaurant scene in 2019.
One of the first casualties of 2019 was modern British fine-dining restaurant and bar Grafene in January. The 190-cover restaurant opened in July 2016, after a £1m transformation of the tricky site on the thoroughfare between King Street and Chapel Walks - formerly Brasserie Blanc. Owners Paul and Kathryn Roden went back to looking after their award-winning Peak District hotel and restaurant Losehill House.
They remained as passive investors when it underwent a huge refurbishment and re-opened as craft beer, live music and sausage venue Mash Tun. The team behind the new venue includes Adam Regan (ex-Head Chef of The Ivy Dublin with numerous senior roles in the Gordon Ramsay empire) who also brings his experience of delivering NQ live music venues Port Street bar and Stage & Radio. Co-owner Scott Martin is a brewer whose building trade expertise helped convert the restaurant into a casual venue.
At the end of the same month, healthy fast food brand Kettlebell Kitchen closed its branches in Salford and First Street. The company says it 'deeply regrets' the affect the closures will have on staff and creditors. The original Ancoats restaurant remains open but has rebranded to KBK.
Back in February, School For Scandal on First Street closed less than six months after opening. The short-lived cocktail bar and restaurant took over the former site of The Laundrette; filling the double-height space with dark green tiles, greenery, and an open kitchen with a clay pizza oven. Vita Student, which owns the building blamed 'difficult trading conditions' for the closure of the restaurant, which it said was not commercially sustainable.
In March, former Manchester United stars Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs closed Cafe Football in the National Football Museum a week after they closed the Westfield Stratford branch in East London. However, in November, their hospitality company GG Hospitality re-opened the transformed former Stock Exchange building as a 40 room boutique hotel with a food and beverage operation, including The Bull & Bear restaurant, overseen by chef Tom Kerridge.
In April, Spinningfields bar, restaurant and celebrity hangout Neighbourhood was forced to close for a second time following gang violence. A licensing review on Thursday 11th April resulted in the committee revoking Neighbourhood's licence.
This follows a similar incident at Neighbourhood in 2018 when a doorman hit a customer, armed with a knife, in the face with a glass bottle.
The site has now been taken over by the owners of Manchester nightclubs including Factory and Impossible who revamped and reopened the venue as BLVD in November.
April was also the month that Fika, 1847 and Roc & Rye all pulled down the shutters for good. Scandinavian-inspired Fika only remained open for seven months after taking over the spot formerly occupied by Bakerie on Lever Street.
Vegetarian and vegan restaurant 1847 closed its doors on Chapel Walks - just over 18 months after relocating from its original Mosley Street site. Having originally opened as a cafe in 2010, Bistro 1847 was one of the first of its kind in Manchester. They were trailblazers, offering an entirely vegetarian menu that was fancy enough for a special occasion and challenging preconceptions about meat-free dining.
Manchester's 'sassiest cocktail bar' Roc & Rye opened on the ground floor of 60 Spring Gardens, at the top end of King Street, in July 2017. Launched by couple Matt Bonner and Maritza Haydon, it featured plush turquoise leather upholstery, spherical golden chandeliers and a gilded bar. On the 29th March the bar posted on Facebook: 'so close to just fucking everything off and going on a three day bender.'
April was also the killer month for the NQ’s all-vegan bar Folk & Soul which closed its doors less than a year after opening. Co-owners Matt Nickson and Annabel Holland issued a statement on Instagram saying:
“Hi everyone. As of now this version of Folk & Soul is closed. We've had an amazing time and met the most wonderful people you could ever imagine. We will be back and expect to find us in the most unexpected places.”
The former Odd Bar premises on Thomas Street reopened in August this year as Wilderness Bar and Kitchen, (although it subsequently changed its name to Wolf at the Door in October). The current owners include Dan Morris (ex Cottonopolis and Trof Group), Mat Lake and Bart Murphy (both of Junkyard Golf Club and Bunny Jacksons) and Lyndon Higginson (Liars Group, Junkyard & Bunny Jacksons).
In May, chef Jamie Oliver's Manchester restaurant closed following the collapse of his restaurant chain. Jamie’s Italian on King Street - located in the iconic Midland Bank Building - ceased trading as Oliver's restaurant group (including 23 Jamie's Italian restaurants, plus Fifteen and Barbecoa) fell into administration.
Up to 1,300 jobs were reportedly at risk across the UK - around 80 in Manchester - as administrators KPMG moved in to manage the insolvency process. Online retail company The Hut took over the 12,000sq ft ground floor and basement space
In June, we said farewell to Beastro, one of Spinningfields' favourite independent restaurants, which suddenly closed due to 'an incredibly difficult trading period’ after celebrating its second anniversary. The restaurant opened in March 2017, taking over three of the units previously used for The Kitchens, Allied London's street food project.
“We began Beastro with an ambition to grow and a passion for hospitality, a dedication to incredible ingredients and a love for honest cooking,” owners Richard Brown and James and Heather Taylor said in a statement. “We are hugely disappointed to be leaving in this way.”
However, fans of Beastro have since travelled to The Bulls Head in Heyside - the pub the trio opened soon after.
Also in June, Manchester’s Bosu Body Bar, the healthy fast food to-go and meal prep delivery service, closed its Cross Street store after almost two years. Founder and creative director Oli Drummond announced it will be focusing entirely on its nationwide chilled delivery service and expanding its online meal prep offering via their website.
Bosu opened their Cross Street store in early September 2017 and their protein packed meal boxes attracted a loyal fanbase that included Manchester United stars Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Marouane Fellaini as well as members of Team GB and Strictly Come Dancing’s Gorka Marquez and Diane Buswell.
June was also the month that popular burger restaurant Solita suddenly closed its Prestwich venue. The Bury New Road restaurant, which opened in 2015, posted a message on it's Twitter account which read:
"Solita Prestwich will close today and re-launch in the next 2 months with a fantastic new concept. We'd like to thank all our loyal customers that have dined with us over the last 4 years and look forward to seeing them at our two other sites and when Prestwich re-opens soon."
The huge corner plot has now been taken over by the team behind West Didsbury’s Folk and Wine & Wallop who have turned it into an all day café bar.
Purveyors of the strangest novelty hot dogs and pizzas in the land for six years, Dogs 'n Dough, temporarily closed in June before flinging open their doors again in September with a new hat on. A stetson. Now called Saloonville, they lugged a load of retro arcade machines down into the basement to transform into a game bar where punters can give their thumbs a break from Candy Crush and wrap their hands around a real-life joystick instead.
In July, Tinto in Didsbury suddenly packed up all the tables, chairs, and Spanish-inspired decorations. Bottles behind the bar seemingly disappeared overnight. There was no official word from husband and wife team Nacho Perez and Natalia Esquerdo about the restaurant being officially closed; perhaps they simply went on holiday… taking all their furniture with them.
City centre Spanish restaurant El Rincón, has notched up 26 years and still going strong. However, its foray into the suburbs, Rafa’s Didsbury proved to be comparatively short lived, shutting up shop in September after only ten months.
In a notice stuck inside the window, Rafa said: “…it is with a heavy heart that we will be closing Rafa’s Didsbury with immediate effect. It’s something I have thought long and hard about but came to the decision that I need to put El Rincon, my family and my health first.”
In October, bagel and pastrami masters Eat New York announced the closure of their Oldham Street site. But there was no need to go crying into your cream cheese, because they immediately provided an alternative to the mass produced sausages over at Manchester Christmas Markets.
They have promised that they’ll be reopening on Oldham St in 2020 with a brand new look and feel. We heard from someone that heard from someone else, that they have gone into partnership with none other than Lyndon Higginson and the team behind the likes of Liars Club, Bunny Jacksons, Cain & Grain, Crazy Pedros, Junkyard Golf etc. The plan is to reopen as an American diner on one floor, with a cinema upstairs showing alternative films.
In the same month, highly acclaimed Japanese restaurant Umezushi issued a statement announcing it was to close its doors. The tiny, 18-seat sushi cave, situated beneath the railway arches on Mirabel Street, had gathered a huge number of awards and accolades since opening in 2012.
In November, we sat down with Umezushi’s owner Terry Huang who had been busy managing the transition of his business from acclaimed sushi palace to a chippy called Chish & Fips, specialising in market fresh fish and tempura batter.
Sweet brunch spot Home Sweet Home in the Great Northern Warehouse announced earlier this month that it is to close on New Year’s Eve with 50% off food throughout December. HSH is situated in part of the building which is due to be redeveloped into the entrance to a new apartment block. The original Northern Quarter branch will remain open.
"It’s been 4 super-sweet-pancake-waffle-fried-chicken-cake-shake filled years, here for all of your breakfast, lunch and dinner dreams; we’ve loved every last minute.” The owners said in a recent statement, adding "Don’t worry Home Sweet NQ will continue doing its cutesy lil thing and be there for all your pancake and cake shakin’ needs."
One of the first casualties of 2020 will be NQ Mexican restaurant El Taquero which has announced it will close its doors from January 12th. The restaurant specialised in authentic freshly-made tacos and quesadillas, with a lengthy list of mezcal, tequila and Mexican beers.
El Taquero tweeted: It is with great sadness we announce that we will be closing our doors forever after the 12th of Jan. We would like to take this opportunity to thank our customers who have supported our vision of bringing real Mexican food to Manchester. Muchas Gracias.”
The restaurant's owners, also behind neighbouring burger joint Solita, have blamed increasing financial pressures and nearby building works around Back Turner Street for the closure. It opened in 2017.