Can Maya be the next big-name restaurant for Manchester?

Can the same building host not one but two iconic restaurants years apart? 

The restaurant opening in the basement of the LEVEN hotel will be one of the most talked-about of the year - and it's the building's former incarnation that will be bringing some extra buzz.

For LEVEN occupies 40 Chorlton Street, a red brick converted mill on the edge of the Village that housed Mash & Air back in the 90s. 

In the meantime rumours are swirling as to who is involved in formulating the concept for the new space.

I spend quite a bit of time in Manchester, I often pass the site so it's always in my mind

One thing we do know for a fact is that the restaurant will be called Maya and it will be located in the basement area - a cavernous space with ample room for a 1,700sq ft cocktail bar and 4,000 square ft restaurant.

It's operated by Wellbrook Hospitality and plot twist - Oliver Peyton has joined the advisory board of the hotel consultancy firm.

Peyton is notorious in Manchester for giving the restaurant scene a huge shot in the arm (and then some) with Mash & Air, a design-led celeb haunt that changed the face of the city nightlife for good.

The Basement Of Leven Hotel In Manchester
The first basement level at LEVEN has previously been host to exhibitions Image: Confidentials
The Leven Hotel Basement In Manchester
Part of the basement split into two levels Image: Confidentials

What was Mash & Air?

Mash & Air was a stylish brasserie with an open kitchen that primarily focused on fusion cuisine a way that hadn't been seen before. A bastion of 90s design, in white, orange and lime, it attracted both home-grown and visiting celebs for wild parties and soon became one of Manchester's most talked-about restaurants.

The brasserie was split into two levels with a trendy brasserie (Mash) at the bottom and the high-end restaurant (Air) above. It was notable for a micro-brewery which connected the two floors and could be seen through a pillar in the middle of the building.

Converted mills, exposed brick and industrial brewing equipment as a design feature are de riguer these days but at the time it was revolutionary. The restaurant opened in 1996 and after four years dominating the scene, closed in 2000.

Oliver Peyton Of Mash And Air And Wellbrook With Andi Oliver Credit Great British Menu
Oliver Peyton of Mash & Air fame Image: Great British Menu / BBC

However, Manchester doesn't hold entirely happy memories for Peyton. He told Lynn Barber of The Guardian: "It went downhill very quickly. There were guns, drug barons, organised thuggery. And the Hacienda closed so all those drug dealers needed somewhere to sell their drugs and they descended on us.

"The very last straw was we had 25 grand nicked out of the till - it was obviously an inside job but the police said they couldn't find who did it. I think we got the short straw."

However, since that interview Peyton also told the MEN back in January: 

"I spend quite a bit of time in Manchester, I often pass the site so it's always in my mind.

"I would love to do something again in Manchester, I have lots of friends still there, it's a great city if anyone out there wants to come to me with a proposition!"

The Stairs In The Basement Under Leven Hotel In Manchester
A further floor down in the LEVEN basement, high ceilings and a reinforced wall next to the canal Image: Confidentials

What do we know about Maya so far?

LEVEN opened earlier this year under the aegis of two Sale-born brothers, Ben and Joshua Senior, in collaboration with Wellbrook Hospitality.

Timothy Griffin, PJ Kenny and Shanthan Balakrishnan established Wellbrook Hospitality in 2020, having cumulatively spent 20 years at Ennismore, owners of The Hoxton series of hotels (co-incidentally, or not, The Hoxton in Old Street is also home to restaurant called Maya).

LEVEN soon gained a rep as a relaxed but stylish place to stay and also featured on our list of great places to do a spot of work. But despite serving some cracking cocktails and snacks in the hotel bar, it was missing a real stand-out showboat restaurant that a crew of this calibre must have been itching to deliver.

Peyton, who had recently stepped down as a judge on the Great British Menu, joined the advisory board of Wellbrook Hospitality in April 2022 and the plot has been thickening like a roux-based sauce ever since.

The Basement Space In Leven Hotel Close To The Village In Manchester
So much room for activities Image: Confidentials

What will the food at Maya be like?

We have to admit - there is not much to go on as off yet. Air served later 90s classics such as goat's cheese with cherry and balsamic dressing or pan roast salmon with mango and tarragon mash. The lower level - Mash (or Mash Forno to give it its full name) was in the mid-market bracket, memorably claiming to have the first wood-fired pizza oven in Manchester. Decent beer and cocktails were served alongside wine - another new approach.

The head chef at the time was Jason Atherton, who  went on to work with Gordon Ramsay and then opened his own Michelin-starred Pollen Street Social.

Oliver Peyton's company Peyton & Byrne then concentrated on museum spaces such as the Imperial War Museum and the Wellcome Collection, and opened two London bakeries.

The name Maya could be referring to upmarket Mexican food, with Yucatan and Sonoran influences. If so, it will join a phalanx of South American-inpsired recent openings, from Brazilian-Japanese fusion Sakku Samba, Gary Neville's Chotto Matte, Madre and more.

Probably the safest bet is that fresh produce from the countryside surrounding Manchester will feature heavily as the emphasis on local plant to plate eating has only grown in the years since Mash & Air first graced Chorlton Street.

Cwake Up Cocktail The  Leven Credit  Leven
Cocktail at the LEVEN Image: LEVEN

When will we know more?

The restaurant was originally slated to open in early 2022 but the basement is a trickier space than the main part of the hotel, with safety and access having to be very carefully considered. Having said that, the licence application is currently underway so we can expect to hear more from Maya soon.

While we wait with bated breath, there are still those cocktails to check out. Don't mind if we do.

LEVEN 40 Chorlton St, Manchester M1 3HW

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