Harley Young speaks to the praised protégé of Simon Rogan about his first restaurant, Skof, due to open Spring 2024

Tom Barnes has confirmed he will be opening his first restaurant in Manchester’s NOMA district in spring 2024. The restaurant, which will be named Skof, will have 36 covers and aims to bring an 'unpretentious yet ambitious dining experience' to Manchester city centre.

Considered as one of the most skilful young chefs in the country, Tom has been developing deceptively simple menus that are brimming with technique and flavour. After spending 12 years with Simon Rogan at L’Enclume and UMBEL Restaurants, the Cumbrian born chef will be moving away from The Lakes but will still remain closely linked to the group.

I love Manchester’s food scene… I can’t wait to be a part of that.

Skof will serve a maximum of 36 diners at a time, covering both lunch and dinner services. Dishes are yet to be confirmed, but there’ll be influences from all over the world.

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Tom Barnes in Manchester Image: Tom Barnes

“I think I’ll be working on perfecting the dishes until we open to make sure they’re right, but I have had a couple of pop-ups at friends’ restaurants where customers have told me what their highlights were so that’s all being noted and that might influence things,” said Tom, adding, “I lived in Copenhagen for a bit so there’s some Skandi influence and then some Japanese cuisine there. When I work with Simon, we make our own miso from scratch so there’ll be things like that.”

Speaking of his decision to choose Manchester’s NOMA area as the home of his first solo restaurant, Tom explained, “I love Manchester’s food scene. I’ve lived here for two years with my partner and I just love it. I can’t wait to be a part of that. There’s some great places to eat [in NOMA] like New Century just over the way.”

Skof will reside in the Hanover building - a grade II listed property that used to operate as headquarters for the Co-operative Wholesale Society back in 1906. The Edwardian Baroque architecture is characteristically bold. It’s certainly a statement building for a first-time restaurant owner to occupy, showing that Barnes truly means business with this new venture. 

“When I saw the building I just knew. The history behind it and it being a beautiful Edwardian building. That’s why we chose this spot. It’s really cool and I can’t wait to get started on it,” he said.

The restaurant will be an inviting space bathed in natural light, combining carefully restored original features with a refined, modern edge.

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The Hanover building, where Scof will reside Image: Confidentials

Tom’s cooking style is ‘deceptively simple’ - it’s not overly flowery like you’d probably expect from a chef of his calibre. He's worked in multi-Michelin starred kitchens for most of his career, won BBC2's Great British Menu, and been awarded the Roux Scholarship at the age of 25. Tom focuses on quality ingredients to create explosions of flavour and complex combinations that would be hard to replicate anywhere else.

“[Simon and I] have the same style when it comes to cooking. We like deceptively simple dishes, so when customers look at them they think ‘Oh, I could probably make that’, but when they take a bite and start tasting all those complex flavours they start to think 'Ok, maybe I couldn’t do this at home’,” explained Tom.

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Tom's excited to get stuck in at his new Manchester restaurant Image: Tom Barnes

Through Skof, Tom will continue to work closely with the team of growers at Our Farm - Simon Rogan's farm in the Cartmel Valley. Tom will receive regular deliveries from The Lakes, allowing him to utilise ingredients grown with minimal environmental impact.

“Having worked with Simon and used produce from the farm, I know where the ingredients come from and their quality. Often, they’re picked that morning and eaten that same day. The less food travels the better it will be, both in taste and quality. It's important we all do our own little bit and be sustainable where we can,” Tom explained.

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The Skof website, ready for action Image: skofmanchester.co.uk

Speaking about his time with Simon Rogan, Tom said “I’ve enjoyed every second. Looking back, from an apprentice in 2011 to now, there are some things I would’ve never believed would happen. 

“I’m so grateful for Simon’s support, and I plan on utilising all the skills that he has taught me over many years we have worked together. I’m so happy with what we have achieved and look forward to this new chapter.”

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Tom and Simon hard at work Image: www.simonrogan.co.uk

Simon Rogan, chef/owner of UMBEL Restaurants, commented: “It’s moments like these that make me so happy, and it’s so special to be able to help a chef who has worked with me for so long go on to realise his dreams. I’m so proud of Tom and everything he has accomplished. We’ve been working towards this moment for a while now, and I can’t wait for him to be able to show the world what he can do. He is a seriously talented chef, so I know Skof is going to be amazing.”

Stay up to date with the latest developments of Skof here.

Follow Harley Young on X @Harley__Young

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