Food fanatic and Cheshire Life Deputy Editor, Emma, met Tom Kerridge to discuss dining decadence in Manchester
‘YOU WALK INTO A SPACE LIKE THIS AND THERE ISN’T ANY ANSWER BUT YES,’
beams Tom Kerridge, the all round super chef behind the two Michelin star Hand and Flowers in Marlow and Kerridge’s Bar and Grill at London’s Corinthia Hotel amongst others. ‘I knew instantly I wanted to come here. I’ve been doing this for 28 years but this place really stood out, it is very special.’
It was two years ago Tom first spoke with Gary about plans for Stock whilst the latter was staying at the Corinthia, the London hotel where Tom’s Kerridge’s restaurant is located. Gary asked if Tom would take a look at the site with him.
‘You can’t help but fall in love with the drama of this place. But it’s also about Gary too,’ says Tom.
‘The brilliant and beautiful thing about him is how he goes about his business. He’s a part of this city; he’s constantly giving back and constantly trying to drive things forward to make Manchester better in so many different ways. He’s given so much love to it.
‘Gary wants for this place to be a legacy, for it to still be going when he’s long gone and I absolutely know he can do that. The great thing about him is he’s doing this hotel and thinking how brilliant it is. He knows when the product is right but he also doesn’t pretend he knows everything. Gary is an achiever and I have so much respect for him.’
The Bull & Bear will open its doors in a few weeks with a menu that smacks of Tom’s signature style – those refined British classics. His first and, he affirms, his only Manchester outpost, the restaurant will be in the spectacular domed room, previously the trading floor of the city’s former Stock Exchange.
Tom and his team will also be overseeing The Bank, offering private dining experiences and The Vault, catering for private events. Tom and his Executive Chef Dan Scott have created a menu that is influenced by The Coach, Tom’s second pub in Marlow.
‘The Bull & Bear will be a bit of Marlow up north which we can’t wait to share with Manchester,’ he said.
‘Our goal is to be somewhere that people feel welcome and looked after while enjoying some delicious food – we’ll have wonderful tomato relish from the fantastic Hawkshead Relish based in the Lake District. But if people really want that well known brand of red sauce then they can have it. It’s about making everyone welcome.’
There is an understandable anticipation for The Bull & Bear’s launch. Tom’s recent pop-up restaurant at Manchester Food and Drink Festival – giving guests a taste of what to expect from November 15th – was a hit. Social media was flooded with ‘Tom and me’ selfies followed by an avalanche of “he was so nice” comments.
But Tom is one of those universally adored people. Loved by chefs, foodies and anyone you might care to meet on the street – even the builders at Stock ask him for tips on cutting out carbs and making tasty food. But it did mean that his visits to Manchester sometimes required stealth.
‘I’d be walking in the building and people would shout “are you opening here, Tom?”. It did make it tricky in terms of trying to keep things secret until we were ready to announce.’
Tom’s popularity is probably, in no small amount, due to the huge investment he puts in people.
It’s an ethos that has made Marlow’s Hand and Flowers, The Coach, Kerridge’s and his several other businesses including the Pub in the Park such a success. And it’s a formula he’ll be adopting in Manchester – not only employing local staff, alongside his skilled Marlow team, but also the suppliers they work with.
‘It’s always about the characters, the people, the stories behind everything,’ says Tom. ‘And we have some great ones here including Private White who are making us the most beautiful aprons made here in Manchester. There are the Manchester breweries we’ll be working with like Seven Brothers. It’s important to tell their story as well as ours. I want to use products from the area, emboldening the community, the people, the space.
‘These are the places with a history, a heritage and those stories that we can share. It’s that kind of caring business we love, they are really important to us. To just employ people isn’t enough either. We want to look after them and make them a part of our story.’
Tom is also keen to become a part of the city’s flourishing dining scene, working alongside other successful restaurateurs.
‘The Manchester food scene is incredible – and it keeps growing,’ says Tom. ‘It’s probably one of the most talked-about in the UK right now, the vibrancy of it, the warmth that it has; it’s this bubbly, buzzy food scene.
‘I spoke to a few chefs like Gary Usher when I was thinking of coming here and they were so welcoming. No hint of competition, just genuinely friendly. There is room for everyone. I love Gary and what he’s doing with his neighbourhood restaurants, he’s an exciting chef and I have so much respect for him.
‘There’s a wonderful feeling about Manchester, I have a great affection for the city. I find the people are always really warm. I don’t come from Manchester but I have been so welcomed and I’m looking forward to becoming a part of it.’
The Bull & Bear will have a menu that showcases Tom’s signature style