Leading North West chef and restaurateur Aiden Byrne is hoping to open Manchester House, his fine dining restaurant with Michelin-star ambitions, in June next year and revealed 'culinary theatre' would be at the heart of the concept.
The Spinningfields venue is a partnership between Liverpool-born Byrne, who at 22 became the youngest ever chef to win a Michelin star, and Tim Bacon's Living Ventures firm.
"It is a massive project, we are starting from the ground up," Byrne said, speaking exclusively to BigHospitality. The chef revealed the team were now on site at Tower 12, working on the construction of the lounge and restaurant which will see guests walking through the kitchen itself to enter the dining area.
Byrne meanwhile has made a specially-designed development kitchen his home for the past two months as he hones elements of the menu which he said would match the theatricality of the restaurant's entrance.
"It is the kind of food that I have wanted to cook for a very long time," he said.
"I will be developing new ideas and learning new ways of cooking till we open, which is easier said than done. We want to keep it pretty theatrical – if you put a plate of food in front of diners now it is almost not enough."
While keeping specific dish details close to his chest, Byrne revealed he was hoping to create a '360° dining experience' in a similar vein to Heston Blumenthal's work at The Fat Duck.
"From making your reservation right through to getting home – it is the whole package. I want people to remember it and talk about it," he said.
Manchester House marks the long-awaited return of the chef to his fine dining roots since he repositioned his Church Green restaurant in Cheshire as a grill. Bacon, Byrne's partner in the project, has been vocal about his aim for the restaurant to win the city's first Michelin star since The French at The Midland hotel in 1974.
Byrne, however, is less focused on that as a priority although he said he did want to deliver Michelin-star quality cooking to the restaurant.
"I believe there is room for it now in Manchester. That is a clear ambition but it is certainly not the be-all and end-all. That is the level we want to be cooking and serving at which is why we use that barometer – the Michelin star."
"2012 has probably been one of the best years we have had," Byrne said, as the chef reflected on the decision to reposition Church Green. A decision he admitted he had been reluctant to make but one, looking back with hindsight, he wished he had made sooner.
"We were awarded AA Restaurant of the Year for England 2012-13 which was a fantastic achievement. I believe the reason we got that award was the fact we had made some changes to suit our clients and the economic climate.
"We made the brave decision to make the changes in a time when we could have just stuck with what we were doing and weathered the financial storm. We made the changes and in hindsight it was a fantastic decision to make."
Byrne credits the introduction of an Inka grill to the kitchen with helping to turn the fortunes of the business around.
"It is going from strength to strength – our regular diners use us a lot more frequently because they see it as a lot more accessible. If I knew then what I know now, I would probably have done it right from the beginning.
"I am glad that we got on board when we did – customers are looking for natural fuels," he added.
Great British Menu
While his hands are full with Church Green and preparation for next year's launch, Byrne said he would also be filming in December for the next series of Great British Menu which, like Manchester House, would also have a theatrical theme.
“I have always felt pretty confident about Great British Menu; it is just the people I always go up against! They always go on to get through to the banquet! I have had my fair share of bad luck but fingers crossed it is my year," he concluded.