The brand slated for Spinningfields is rumoured to be making way for a Greek restaurant

Octopus rather than sushi might be on the menu at Caprice Holdings’ new Manchester restaurant if whispers on the local hospitality grapevine are correct.

We’ve mixed metaphors a little bit there but we hope you got the hint that the swanky restaurant group are thinking of trying out a high-end Greek concept for the former Emporio Armani site in Spinningfields, instead of the outrageously glam Sexy Fish brand.

The word caprice does mean a joke or a whim, changing one's mind quickly.

Last summer Manchester’s media (including Confidentials) was abuzz with the news that Sexy Fish – with its ultra-opulent interiors, including artworks from Damien Hirst and Frank Gehry – was coming to the instantly recognisable cantilevered building on Deansgate.

Love or loathe its lavish styling, the no-expense-spared brand was a vote of confidence in Manchester’s hospitality scene after a tough 18 months. But so far, progress has been slow at the site, despite the restaurant being heralded as one of the coolest new openings for 2022 by several commentators.

Gordo And Friends Taking In A Meal At Sexy Fishs Mayfair Restaurant
A lesser spotted Gordo caught in the net at Sexy Fish's Mayfair flagship restaurant Image: Confidentials

The Mayfair restaurant was already a big hit with celebrities and diners who came to see and be seen. Meanwhile, despite the Manchester version being touted as Sexy Fish's second offering, Sexy Fish Miami is officially open, and has already invited select guests to a launch event which included a performance from Mary J Blige.

Accounts filed with Companies House show how the impact lockdowns had on Caprice Holdings and Troia UK restaurants (which controls The Ivy Collection).

Caprice Holdings, which is back by Richard Caring, saw turnover drop to £28.4 million from £64.8 million. Meanwhile Troia UK stated turnover was £125.8 million, down from £198.7 million.

Richard Caring also owns a 30% share of Soho House, which is planning a 2022 opening for Manchester. Other brands in the Caprice Holdings portfolio include Annabel's, J. Sheekey and Scotts as well as Sexy Fish.

Damian Hirst Sculpture Of A Mermaid At Sexy Fish In Mayfair
Damien Hirst sculpture Mayfair's Sexy Fish Image: Caprice Holdings

Get us to the Greek

So it might be easy to draw the conclusion that, for Manchester clientele, Caprice Holdings have now decided to play it safe and go for bankable Greek cuisine over conspicuous excess.

However, if rumours of a rethink are true, then the levels of luxury will not be dialled down. Earlier this year Caprice Holdings opened Nōema, a restaurant and bar on the gorgeous and luxurious Greek island of Mykonos. It is this new launch which is said to be the inspiration behind the potential change of direction for the Spinningfields site.

Courtyard At Noema Mykonos Greek Restaurant Credit Caprice Holdings
The courtyard at Nōema in Mykonos Image: Caprice Holdings

Instead of lashings of marble and gold, the look at Nōema is all about raw, natural materials and a laidback, sun-drenched atmosphere. The website describes the restaurant as “an ode to the abundance of the Aegean islands, the poetry of place is reflected on every plate."

It continues: "In the Cyclades, locals traditionally make do with whatever the wine-dark sea and sun-baked earth provide. Every season has ingredients to be celebrated: dandelion, slipper lobster, samphire, sea urchin. Raw, flame-grilled, or slow roast over an open fire, the quality of the produce demands minimal intervention."

A Vibrant Dish Of Fish At Sexy Fish In Mayfair London
More glam dishes from Gordo's trip to the OG Sexy Fish Image: Confidentials

Richard Caring tapped chef Athinagoras Kostakos as culinary director of Nōema. Kostakos was previously head chef at the award-winning Bill and Coo in Mykonos, as well as winning the Greek version of the reality show Top Chef.

The predominantly pescatarian and vegetarian menu ranges from raw meze to feasting platters. Signature dishes include crispy octopus with oxymel (a fancy name for honey and vinegar) and wild oregano, sun-dried mackerel in lemon verbena sauce, charred beets with hazelnut pesto and double-strained yoghurt, and slow-roast pork chops with a cinnamon-anise crust.

Work In Progress At Spinningfields Sexy Fish Caprice Holdings
The site at No 2 Spinningfields is currently quiet Image: Confidentials

So has a Sexy Fish been replaced by Greek calamari?

While we enjoy a good rumour as much as anyone, a sliver of support can be seen in the fact that back in October the premises application was not lodged under the name Sexy Fish.

The notice of application reads: "Notice is hereby given that Caprice Holdings Limited has applied to Manchester City Council for the grant of a Premises Licence in respect of Premises to be known as Caprice."

"Caprice" could just be a place-holder relating back to the name of the parent company, as Caprice is the moniker given to the entire restaurant portfolio (excluding The Ivy Collection). However, the company would have to apply to change the name in due course if it is intending to go ahead with the Sexy Fish brand, so this indicates that the final decision may not yet have been made.

Then again, the word "caprice" does mean a joke or a whim, changing one's mind quickly. So watch this space.

Read now: The most talked about new Manchester restaurants and bars of 2021

Read again: Greek restaurant The Real Greek is coming to Manchester

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