Ru­pert takes Ri­vals back to the fu­ture

Manchester Evening News - - NEWS - By DIANNE BOURNE

FOR­MER Coro­na­tion Street star Ru­pert Hill is pre­par­ing to breathe new life into The Royal Ex­change’s restau­rant space – by tak­ing it back in time with a her­itage look.

The Ri­vals restau­rant opens to the pub­lic to­day, and has been given an ex­tra­or­di­nary makeover to look like a her­itage pub, com­plete with old props from Ex­change Theatre shows over the years.

Ru­pert and busi­ness part­ner Goska Lan­gr­ish have also used an im­pres­sive 65 re­claimed doors to cre­ate a new wood pan­elling ef­fect, while an eclec­tic ar­ray of old fur­ni­ture and chan­de­liers from the theatre’s props depart­ment com­plete the clas­sic ef­fect.

The restau­rant is named af­ter clas­sic Sheri­dan play The Ri­vals, which was the first show put on when the Royal Ex­change Theatre opened in 1976 in­side the his­toric old tex­tile trad­ing hall on St Ann’s Square.

And Ru­pert hopes that the restau­rant will be­come a new des­ti­na­tion for not only the theatre crowd, but all of those fans of his team’s other suc­cesses, in­clud­ing The Cas­tle and Gul­liv­ers in the North­ern Quar­ter and the Bak­ers Vault in Stock­port.

He said: “We wanted to cre­ate a much more the­atri­cal din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, like the King’s Head in Is­ling­ton.

“We ripped ev­ery­thing out from the old restau­rant here to cre­ate a more rustic and in­ti­mate set­ting.

“It’s what we’ve tried to do with all of our other busi­nesses, that’s what we are most proud of – that we’ve taken sites that were a bit ne­glected and breathed new life into them. But we make them look older to make them look newer.”

There is also The Ri­vals beer gar­den at the theatre, that spills out onto the theatre foyer space for more ca­sual drinks and food.

How­ever, the restau­rant it­self will now be open for lunch and din­ner from noon to mid­night, Mon­day to Satur­day.

And Ru­pert is keen to stress that it re­mains open for busi­ness, even when theatre shows are on. He said: “The restau­rant is com­pletely sound-proof but it’s go­ing to take a bit of time for peo­ple to re­alise they can still come in no mat­ter what is on at the theatre.”

Food at the restau­rant is the clas­sic English that Ru­pert’s Chorl­ton ven­ture The Par­lour be­came well known for. Main cour­ses in­clude braised feath­erblade Ru­pert Hill of beef with potato dauphi­noise (£18.50) and The Ri­vals fish and chips (£17) and desserts in­clud­ing co­conut rice pud­ding with caramelised ap­ples (£6).

Ru­pert says: “We try to be as un­pre­ten­tious as pos­si­ble, I think a lot of mod­ern bars try too hard, when you see things like chicken wings served in con­verse train­ers... we’re not about that!”

Ru­pert played Jamie Bald­win on Cor­rie be­tween 2004-2008, and met his now-wife on the show, ac­tress Jenny Platt, and the cou­ple are par­ents to two chil­dren aged seven and two. And in a rather unique sit­u­a­tion, Ru­pert opens his busi­ness just around the cor­ner from his for­mer Cor­rie co-star Jen­nie McAlpine who runs her Annie’s Restau­rant on Old Bank Street.

But there’s no ques­tion of the two be­com­ing, ahem, ri­vals – as they are good friends.

Ru­pert said: “As soon as it looked likely we were do­ing this I went and saw Jen­nie and Chris, it’s the first thing I did.

“We’ve been friends a long time and our chil­dren play to­gether so there’s no case of we are try­ing to tread on their toes.

“In fact, be­tween the two of us we want to make this part of Manch­ester a des­ti­na­tion again.”

Ru­pert Hill

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