May 6th, 2016

Aiden Byrne On Manchester's Food Scene, 'Restaurant Wars' And A New Liverpool Venture

By HardensBytes,

Aiden Byrne On Manchester's Food Scene, 'Restaurant Wars' And A New Liverpool Venture

Manchester continues to vie for the position of the UK's second city when it comes to dining out - and at the rate it is going, the birthplace of the industrial revolution may edge out Birmingham and Edinburgh to take that title. In the last year the Northern capital has seen the launch of the first Hawksmoor outside of London, swiftly joined by Spanish tapas group Ibérica, while Wahaca, Pho and Vapiano all snapped up venues in Manchester's new restaurant hub, The Corn Exchange.

This phenomenal level of growth shows no signs of slowing with Soho House setting its sights on Manchester, Dishoom eyes expansion with a site in the city, Soho's Randall & Aubin unveiling plans for a second seafood bar and restaurant in Bridge Street (opening later this year), and king of the crowd-funding campaign, Gary Usher (Sticky Walnut, Burnt Truffle), has raised the cash for his third venture - Hispi Bistro - slated to arrive in the city's outskirts in Chorlton.

It is not just diners who are welcoming this injection of vibrancy to the city's dining scene. Harden's sat down with Aiden Byrne, chef/patron of Manchester House, to talk about this new level of competition, his portrayal in the rather sexed-up Beeb documentary Restaurant Wars: The Battle for Manchester, and the chef's plans for a new venture in his native Liverpool.

Aiden Byrne On Manchester's Food Scene, 'Restaurant Wars' And A New Liverpool Venture

"It's a really exciting time for the city," he says. "Personally I welcome the competition. It will make us all up our game, and it will benefit the people who live here, not to mention tourism. Historically, Manchester isn't really a tourist destination. The visitors we get are often on business trips, but that's changing as the city has more to offer - especially in terms of dining out.

"Sure, there was nervousness about the Hawksmoor opening last year, but Manchester House was still very young then. Now we've found our feet and are a bit more established I can say that there's no reason why lots of high level restaurants cannot exist alongside each other. We'll feed off each other, raise each other's games."

Aiden launched Manchester House in October 2013 - around the same time that Simon Rogan was opening his Manchester base, The French at the Midland hotel. The launch of two high profile, upmarket restaurants in Manchester (a great moment for the city) became the subject of a rather melodramatic BBC documentary, Restaurant Wars.

Aiden, who comes across as an extremely affable chap, is quick to point out that even the name of the documentary was designed to create a sense of rivalry that just didn't exist. "There was no ‘war' between Simon (Rogan) and myself. These documentaries try to create drama where there isn't any - but I suppose it's all about attracting viewer ratings at the end of the day," he concedes. "I just want people to know that my portrayal is not really who I am as a chef. I'm not Michelin Star hungry. It's not the be all and end all for me. I'd rather provide great hospitality for my guests and give them an unforgettable dining experience than chase accolades."

Aiden Byrne On Manchester's Food Scene, 'Restaurant Wars' And A New Liverpool Venture

But Aiden isn't bitter about his taste of TV fame, in fact it has helped him reimagine the Manchester House menu so that he is now cooking the dishes he wants, rather than what he thinks diners might expect from a fine dining restaurant. He says: "I think that initially I was concentrating too much on producing food I thought should be on Manchester's fine dining scene, rather than what I was truly passionate about. So I went back to the development kitchen and started again. Now I'm serving heartfelt food that's personal to me and my restaurant."

His statement is upheld by many of our Harden's reporters who had heard Manchester House's food had a "gimmicky reputation" in the past. However last year's survey feedback was glowing, with comments like - "very professional", "very classy", and Aiden Byrnes's "ornate" cuisine is seriously "accomplished".

So readers will be pleased to hear that Aiden has plans for expansion with a new venture in his native Liverpool. The venue will incorporate not just a restaurant but a chef's school as well. He is currently in talks to acquire a site, so watch this space for more details. "I'd love to open a restaurant in my home town," he says. "And the plan is to have a chef's school there as well. I have my eye on the potential site - it's very exciting."



Tags: Manchester House
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