We blow the dust off that year’s Good Food Guide to see which ones are still around
Back in 2004, the Internet was still in its infancy. It was the year Facebook began so it was still confined to the dorms of Harvard. Twitter didn’t even start until 2006. We had to rely on Friends Reunited to spy on old school friends and exes. Back then people were only just discovering the joy of how text messages meant you could still communicate without actually having to talk to anyone.
Greater Manchester only had 14 restaurants listed that year compared to 38 entries in the latest 2020 guide
It was also the year Mark ‘Gordo’ Garner began publishing The Confidentials. The original idea was for him to try out this newfangled software for publishing online magazines, populating it with food and drink stories from around Manchester - a subject close to his heart. “There were only a handful of decent places to eat in Manchester back then, compared to now,” he says, “I’m not sure what we even bloody wrote about.”
There weren’t as many awards and food guides around in 2004, but those were where most food lovers looked for restaurant recommendations. The guide Gordo looked up to back then (and still does) is The Good Food Guide (GFG). He knew the editor at the time, Drew Smith, who many considered was the one who shone a light on culinary luminaries such as Marco Pierre White and Nico Ladenis. Occasionally he’d even ask Drew for advice on restaurant reviewing.
With it being restaurant awards season, we thought it might be a good idea to dust off Gordo’s Good Food Guide 2004 to see how the land lay 15 years ago.
Greater Manchester only had 14 restaurants listed that year compared to 38 entries in the latest 2020 guide. It makes interesting reading. But which ones have gone, and are there any still in business today?
The French Restaurant at the Midland Hotel
In 2004, the chefs listed were Simon Holling and Andre Matter. The menu was bilingual, the food mostly modern French and the wine list mostly old French. The dining room had ‘Regency style décor’ and the bread was wheeled over on a trolley. It was listed in the GFG with a score of 4/10.
In 2016 The French was given a much-needed makeover when it was taken over by Simon Rogan. Hopes were that he would sprinkle some Michelin magic from his Cartmel restaurant L’Enclume and help The French regain the star it was awarded in 1974 (for one year only). It didn’t work out that way. Rogan left to concentrate on other areas of his business and the restaurant was taken over by Rogan’s protégée Adam Reid in January 2018. The French is listed in the most recent Good Food Guide 2020 with a score of 8/10 – the highest score awarded to any Greater Manchester restaurant in this year’s edition.
Greens, West Didsbury
This suburban vegetarian restaurant from (meat eaters) Simon Rimmer and Simon Connolly was ahead of its time. Back then vegetarianism was seen as something only hippies got involved with and recipes rarely went beyond lentil curry. Veggies mostly had to stick to side dishes when eating out. Although Greens made it into the 2004 GFG, it only got a cooking score of 1/10. Dishes mentioned ranged from Italian bean casserole to Thai veg curry and Malaysian laksa. The restaurant has slipped out of the Guide in recent years, but it remains popular with local meat eaters and vegetarians alike (we re-reviewed it recently). What has gone stratospheric in the last 15 years is Rimmer’s television career, which includes regular appearances on Sunday morning telly and even a stint on Strictly Come Dancing.
Koreana, King Street West
It’s hard to believe now, but this family-run King Street stalwart (which opened in 1985) was the only Korean in the village. It was the first UK Korean restaurant outside London at the time. Nowadays there are quite a few in Manchester including AnnYeong, Ban di Bul and Seoul Kimchi. In 2004, inspectors praised Koreana for its ‘natural charm’ and ‘kim-chee pickle’, giving it a score of 1/10. The restaurant itself remains, manned by the third generation of the Kim family and visited by both old customers and new, but is no longer included in The Good Food Guide.
Lime Tree, West Didsbury
Back in 2004, The Lime Tree was praised by the GFG for having clocked up almost twenty years in business already. Although inspectors commented that the wine list was traditional (starting from £2.75 per glass), they commended the ‘speedy team of youngsters’, lead by head chefs Jason Dickenson and Jason Parker, for exciting flavour combinations and awarded it 2/10.
Along with The French, The Lime Tree is one of only two Greater Manchester restaurants listed in current The Good Food Guide 2020 and it goes one further by maintaining the same head chef – Jason Parker – who even managed to increase the cooking score to 3 this year. Interestingly, the most recent guide points out that The Lime Tree gets many ingredients (including rare breed pork and lamb) from their own 20-acre smallholding.
This modern British restaurant caused a real stir amongst local diners when it opened. It was stylish with white linen tablecloths and natural light streaming in through the floor to ceiling windows overlooking the (then) newly renovated square linking Deansgate to Albert Square. Inspectors awarded it 1/10 back in 2004 for its ‘internationally inspired cooking’ – which covered everything from Moroccan spices to tempura and linguini, rounded off with dessert classics such as jam roly-poly.
2004/2005 was the year Lincoln closed, to be replaced by Wing’s Chinese restaurant (reviewed here), which is still there today, lined with celebrity photographs and autographed plates. It is often included in various restaurant guides but did not make it into The Good Food Guide 2020.
Le Mont, Urbis
The restaurant on the fifth and sixth floors of the Urbis Centre (now the National Football Museum) has had a chequered history, with multiple operators trying and failing during its lifetime. The windows are obscured by heavily striped etched glass so visitors can’t fully take advantage of its elevated position in viewing the panoramic cityscape.
‘Opened just as the last edition of the Guide went to press’, it was awarded a score of 5/10 in 2004 and highlighted with a ‘Greater Manchester recommended’ stamp. Chef at the time was Robert Kisby who previously headed the Charles Hallé restaurant at Bridgewater Hall (where he mentored Adam Reid – see above). Kisby ended up successfully suing the operators of Le Mont, Hallogen in 2007 for unfair and unlawful dismissal, blaming the unbearable pressure of working an 80-hour week, which lead to him suffering two breakdowns.
Since then, there have been a number of short lived restaurants up there including The Modern, Kaleidoscope and in 2016, new operators GG Hospitality (owned by Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs) drafted in Michelin-starred chef Michael O'Hare to open The Rabbit in the Moon, an "eccentric space-age Asian" restaurant which stuttered out at the end of 2018. The space is currently empty.
Moss Nook, Ringway Road
This stalwart restaurant, only a mile away from Manchester Airport, scored an impressive 5/10 in 2004. Its style of cooking was classic, with luxurious ingredients such as lobster and veal served under silver cloches. Either due to their reluctance to modernise or the ageing of their core of loyal customers, owners Derek and Pauline Harrison closed the restaurant in May 2011. "Pauline and I have been in business at these premises for 50 years, 38 of those years as the Moss Nook Restaurant, which opened its doors in 1973” a statement on their website said at the time. “It is therefore with great sadness and difficulty that we announce to all of our clientele that we will be closing the restaurant." They blamed economic conditions for the closure, and admitted that the business had been running at a substantial loss for the previous three years. During its lifespan, Moss Nook had been listed in The Good Food Guide for a whopping 29 years.
Restaurant Bar and Grill, John Dalton Street
‘This is the sort of place I’d eat in all the time given the chance’, enthused one Good Food Guide reporter in 2004, who was quite taken with this trendy minimalist bar/restaurant at the time – despite it achieving a score of 2/10. Head chef was Alan Earle, who had previously worked with Gordon Ramsay, who created an eclectic bistro-style menu of chilli squid, Caesar salad and pasta and gnocchi dishes alongside Thai green curry and raspberry crème brûlée. Owners, the Individual Restaurant Group, which also own Piccolino and Gino D’Acampo restaurants, went on to open Restaurant Bar and Grills across the UK. In 2012, they invested a further £1M into expanding the John Dalton Street site to add a new 80-seat first-floor terrace with retractable roof. The restaurant is not mentioned in the latest guide.
Simply Heathcotes, Jackson’s Row
After spending two years under the guidance of Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons, Paul Heathcote’s career has spanned stints in Switzerland, Sharrow Bay Hotel, Ullswater and The Connaught in Mayfair. He opened his eponymous restaurant in Longridge, Preston at the age of 29. Within two years it had been awarded Michelin and Egon Ronay stars along with The Good Food Guide’s ‘Restaurant of the Year’. The 1994 Egon Ronay Guide awarded Paul ‘Chef of the Year’ and Michelin gave him a second star. He was awarded an MBE In 2009 for his contribution to the Hospitality Industry.
Simply Heathcotes was designed more as a brasserie offshoot with branches in Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Preston. The Manchester outpost, which opened in 1996, was awarded a 2/10 for cooking in 2004 under the guidance of chef Andy McGuinness. Heathcote was known for dishes with a Northern bias using ingredients such as rhubarb and black pudding. No restaurant means no entry in the latest 2020 guide, but Heathcote has just put his name to a brand new restaurant, The Northern, in Bolton, which he says "will celebrate wonderful food from all over the north of England from poor man’s crumpets with potted salmon to pudding in’t rag, Eccles cakes with ice cream, and of course Heathcote's renowned bread and butter pudding." So watch for a possible Heathcote GFG re-entry in 2021.
Watersreach at the Golden Tulip, Trafford Park
This restaurant, next to Manchester United’s ground was listed as a new entry in 2004, with a cooking score of 4. It took over from celebrity chef Gary Rhodes’ former Rhodes & Co restaurant and chef Ian Morgan (who had a reputation for throwing pans at the heads of young chefs) remained at the helm. As seemed to be the fashion at the time, dishes on the menu ranged from pressed ham terrine to Thai pork hotpot, fish & chips and sumac spiced lamb. Morgan went on to launch the short-lived Establishment restaurant in Spring Gardens (at the site now occupied by Rosso), which had a webcam in the kitchen for live streaming the cooking and might have been slightly ahead of its time.
Finally in 2004, there were four Chinese restaurants included in the Manchester section of The Good Food Guide including New Emperor on George Street with a score of 1/10 and Pacific (also on George St); a half Chinese, half Thai restaurant with a score of 2. Ocean Treasure, a pagoda-fronted traditional dining hall near Middleton offering Chinese banquets, live entertainment (and discos on Fridays), also scored 2/10. It was co-owned by Stewart Yip, President of the Federation of Chinese Associations of Manchester, who founded the Chi Yip Group of cash and carry supermarkets in 1980 and went on to open the Red Chilli chain of four restaurants in Manchester, Leeds and York, pan-Asian fine dining restaurant Sakana on Peter Street and K2 Karaoke in Chinatown. Mr Yip died in 2016, aged 60, after a short battle with cancer.
Leading the way with a cooking score of 5/10 was the huge two-floor Yang Sing restaurant on Princess Street, presided over by chef owner Harry Yeung. Inspectors got all excited about the massive dim sum menu, fresh seafood and accommodating service. Yang Sing is still there today, and so is Harry – although he does a lot less hands on cooking and leaves much of the business organisation to his highly capable daughter Bonnie.
No Chinese restaurants in Greater Manchester have been listed in The Good Food Guide 2020. The only restaurant based in Chinatown included in the latest guide is Yuzu, the Japanese restaurant on Faulkner Street, which was awarded a cooking score of 2/10.