Popular tapas bar aims to open in Salford this summer
BEN and Joe Wright, the brothers behind Spanish tapas bar Porta, which has branches in Chester and Altrincham, have announced plans to open a new restaurant in Salford later this year.
Subject to planning and licensing approval, the pair plan to open in the former bank on Bexley Square, Chapel Street in the summer, adding to the growing number of independent food and drink venues in the area.
The brothers first opened Porta in Chester in 2012, next door to their original restaurant, Joseph Benjamin, which has held a prestigious Michelin Bib Gourmand for the past six years.
The brothers say Porta was born from wanting to create the type of place that they would love to hang out after work, and were inspired by the informality of Spanish tapas bars.
Following their success in Chester, they opened a second restaurant in Altrincham, opposite the bustling Market Hall, in 2016. Porta Salford will operate on the same basis as the others; an unpretentious Spanish-inspired hangout, serving good food and drink. It will be walk-in only and will not take bookings.
"The number of Spanish places that haver popped up over the last few years is a concern"
“The principle is keeping things simple and trying not to complicate things,” Ben Wright told us. “It’s easy to get dragged along by adding things to menus and getting carried away, so it’s really good to focus on simple, honest, good value, fun experience, which differentiates us from the other tapas bars around.
“You’ve got to be clear about your concept and getting the basics right. Someone got into us yesterday on Twitter, saying ‘oh, another place doing expensive main courses and calling it tapas. Do we really need another one?’ I didn’t respond, but it was nice that someone else did saying, ‘well obviously you haven’t been to either Porta.’”
Timing was key to the Porta's success, appearing just before the deluge of new Spanish and Catalan restaurants hit Manchester. We asked Ben if he was worried whether the bubble might burst.
“There’s a danger of that,” he said, “and it's nice that you noted we didn’t jump on the bandwagon. The number of Spanish places that haver popped up over the last few years is a concern, but I think if you just focus on what you do honestly you should survive.
"The no booking concept works for us. We manage people’s expectations. As much as the food is good, well sourced and seriously researched, we are not trying to create a fancy restaurant. We are still a tapas bar where people can have a few beers, some good wine and some great food.”
Speaking about the Salford site, Ben said: “The building is amazing. It feels slightly different to Altrincham and Chester. There’s a larger ground floor area, so we’re in the process of working out where to put the bar and kitchen to create the same feeling of bustle. We don’t want people to feel like they’re sat at one of three tables in an ex-bank vault.”
“There’s also a first floor which we’ve not finalised plans for yet. It may be a function room or a private dining space or an extra bar area for busier times.”
“There are no other investors, we’re growing organically"
The site is owned by Salford city council, which could have easily flogged it to a developer, but Ben commends their approach to developing a good food and drink offering. Does he worry Chapel Street is still too far for people coming from the city centre?
“There is always a risk in an up-and-coming area, even one that’s only five minutes walk from Spinningfields,” said Ben. “This feels like a long term commitment, which Altrincham did at first.”
Do they have future plans to open more Portas?
“Ask me in six months time and I’ll probably say never again,” laughs Ben, “but it does get to a stage when you suddenly find yourself doing another one.
“There are no other investors, we’re growing organically, expanding as and when we can. And it’s all about the team. Part of our journey is creating jobs for people so that they can grow with the business, we want to keep key members of staff motivated.”
Will they be able to continue dividing their time between Joseph Benjamin and the Portas in Chester and Altrincham?
“It’s part of the challenge,” says Ben, “you can’t be in all of the places all of the time, but you can still be there quite a lot. As I said, it’s all about the team. At the moment we’ve got a better team than we’ve ever had.”
So when will Porta Salford be open? “We’ve not got a huge budget,” admits Ben, “and we’re not planning on knocking the building around too much, so it shouldn’t take forever. We’re looking to open around June or July.”
Keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates.