Rupert takes Rivals back to the future
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.”