Claire Woodier talks to some of the people behind the burgeoning businesses
What has Denton ever done for us? We went over to meet some of the independent business owners in the Tameside town, just five miles east of Manchester city centre, to find out.
"People have confidence in Denton," says Chris Renfrew, owner of Renfrew’s chippy, hidden away on Belgrave Street. It's a surprising statement, but then Chris himself was more than surprised when informed by the local press that his family-run chip shop had been voted as the best in the country by Premier Inns. He puts it down to buying quality produce, taking pride in their dishes (peas are soaked overnight for proper mushy peas) and responding when their customers ask for new things like gluten free options.
He’s not the only one. Jack and Amy Howard (they’re together, but their matching surnames are coincidental) opened Howard’s Neighbourhood Bar on Manchester Road in December. Denton is quickly becoming a destination for socialising, they say.
Their slick, elegant bar wouldn’t look out of place amidst the Northern Quarter or edgy Ancoats. They were driven by their own experiences of Denton - some really nice places to eat, but no modern bar to drink in either before or after. Their concept is for whoever comes in; whether it be a couple, a group or even the lone bar-proper-upper, there’s something for everyone. They’re led by what their customers want.
“People think we’re a gin bar or a wine bar or a cocktail bar, but we’re just a bar,” says mum Amy, who works full time as well as working on the business with Jack. They stock no brands, it’s more important to them to selected pours ‘with a story.’ This will soon include their own brand of smooth sipping Neighbourhood Gin, tested on their friends and local businesses.
It isn’t just customers that are leading their bar towards success, they’re also working with local businesses in a real co-operative manner. They’ll be stocking Dan Nemeth’s award winning bread when they start offering meze plates in February.
Dan was taught to bake by his grandmother and, along with his siblings, entered and won competitions at agricultural shows. Fast-forward and he opened Season’s Bakery on Stockport Road last December, which is expanding after Dan’s incredible year for awards in 2019. His beetroot multi-seeded sourdough won the Baking Industry Awards ‘Speciality Bread Product of the Year 2019’ as well as collecting bronze and silver awards in the World Bread Awards. Seasons also won the Green Apple award for environmental best practices in the food and drink industry. (They’ll refill any reusable water bottles in their shops.)
It's not just their breads that are turning heads, their pies are incredibly popular and customers are making the pilgrimage into Denton (and to their primary location in Ingleton) to get them. “Every pie is hand crimped and finished,” says Dan proudly. Their Yorkshire beef pies are especially in demand and his customers are ‘coming a long way to get them.’
Laura Defreitas, second generation chef and owner of Orange Tree Tapas across the road from Jack and Amy’s tells us about the collaboration she has going with the Howards. She sends waiting customers over there for a drink and calls the Howards when it’s ready. “It’s actually working really well,” she says. Laura and her staff held their Christmas do over in Jack and Amy’s.
Laura serves Portuguese tapas, using her grandmother’s recipes (including an incredible sounding lamb stew), which makes her menu that little bit different from other standard Spanish tapas. Her customers say it's like walking into a taverna on the Algarve. Laura’s is a family restaurant, just like the Neighbourhood bar; one of those places that once discovered is adopted by regulars, as opposed to city centre places that can become one-visit wonders. They serve traditional sangria and Spanish wines. “If they want a cocktail, they can go to Jack and Amy’s,” says Laura, who has been known to send passing customers over to Sapori d’Italia.
This Italian restaurant was born of a love of Italian food by husband and wife team Ady and Ann Marku. Ady is chef and front of house and Ann works in the kitchen as well as other administrative jobs, alongside a full time role for Manchester CIty Council. “We are small and we want to stay small,” she says (they have 30 covers), “we like that interaction with our customers.” Sapori sponsor the Tameside Girls football club, which marks their place within the community.
They proudly make their own sauces, selecting the produce themselves from Smithfield Market. “We’re in Denton, you can’t do Cordon Bleu,” says Ann. They run a special offer of three courses for £12 from Tuesday to Friday. Like Laura, they want families to be able to afford to keep coming back, which must be a no-brainer when you can get freshly made family recipes hailing from Bergamo, Italy. Ady’s special ribs, boiled for four hours and finished in the oven with his own recipe barbecue sauce, have become their signature dish.
So has Denton really become a destination? Well, consider the great local independent restaurants, somewhere great to chill out and have a gin, Crown Point for shopping, plus a new wellness centre opening. It’s not just about people moving to Denton, it’s about encouraging people to visit, because it’s well worth it.