Manchester’s most down-to-earth superstar, Ryan Giggs, has opened a restaurant in Worsley with two old schoolmates and I got the chance to have a chat with them.
This was a very special day for me, being a local lad. I’m still shaking after sitting across the table from Giggsy and his mates from back in the day, Kelvin and Bernie – chin wagging, sharing Moorside High School stories (which we all attended) and reminiscing about PE teacher Mr. Mason (who apparently still teaches there to some capacity.)
“…named after the Victorian architect Sir George Gilbert Scott, who was commissioned to design and build St Mark’s Church…”
Kelvin was head boy. “He’s always keen to tell everybody,” laughs Giggsy. I shared with them a story from my Uncle Rob, who was in the same school year as Ryan. Uncle Rob and his mates would put their jumpers down for goal posts at lunchtime in the yard and kick a small air-flow ball about (school rules) until Ryan Giggs (or Ryan Wilson as he was then called) came out to play. Game over. They wouldn’t even get a sniff of the ball. They’d scratch their heads, pick up their jumpers and walk away, leaving Ryan in his own world.
I promised I wouldn’t mention football at all but I failed. I told Giggsy I played for Deans FC because he played there, too.
The Worsley area has a certain nostalgic value for the three down-to-earth chaps. It’s where they kicked a ball around together on the ‘orange water canal’ side followed by a short pub crawl of the Barton Arms, Bridgewater and John Gilbert, just as I did.
We sat in the corner of their new restaurant venture George’s Dining Room & Bar in Worsley which has taken over from their previous venture, ‘Milan’. It’s changed from an Italian restaurant into a modern British offering.
“We want to be all things to all people. We want families to come in and be comfortable…”
And no, the venue is not named after United legend George Best. It’s named after the Victorian architect Sir George Gilbert Scott, who was commissioned to design and build St Mark’s Church in the village.
Sir George is a bit of a hero for Kelvin who insisted they have a portrait made and hung over the bar.
Kelvin said: “We’re a restaurant first and foremost, chef driven, but we want the concept to be a bar as well as a restaurant. The theatre kitchen was important to me. We want to be all things to all people. We want families to come in and be comfortable with the design and menu and at the weekend we want the young and sophisticated to come in and enjoy a nice glass of wine or cocktail (or both) at the bar.”
“We had a hard think about the drinks menu. We brought in an experienced cocktail maker, there isn’t a drink he can’t make and we also explored experienced wine merchants.”
Don’t let any of my personal interest suggest a biased approach to the venue. A restaurant is only as good as its chef, they say, and this no exception even for the most decorated football player of all time. That’s why Andrew Parker from Stanley House in Blackburn was more than happy to join the team. Born just outside Rochdale, Andrew was mentored by two Michelin Star chef Michael Wignall for seven years at The Latymer restaurant in Surrey.
Kelvin, Bernie and Ryan wanted the whole George’s Restaurant concept to be chef driven. They secured Andrew’s services even before they began the refurbishment. They went to Stanley House together for a meal and pulled Andrew to one side to offer him this fantastic opportunity. Andrew not only designed the kitchen but had major input into the front of house as well.
The menu is modern British cuisine which is what Andrew has always delivered. It’s not fine dining and it’s not typical pub food; they’ve struck a balance between the two. Because of the size of the restaurant and the number of covers, you can’t really produce that level of fine dining food. The team have had to assess the area and what sort of clientele the restaurant will attract. So they’ve produced something that’s ‘people friendly’ but they’re going to change the menu seasonally so they can be sure they know what their customer wants.
Ryan loves Worsley: “I’m proud of the village. I think people coming off the motorway will always be shocked at how picturesque it is. With the black & white houses and the canal, it’s always been beautiful. People can sit outside and have a coffee if they want, keep is casual. I’m a fan of the afternoon tea.” He said as he flicked through his iPhone to find a picture of it.”
Our initial reaction to the menu was very varied with northern classics such as meat, fish, sushi, brunch, Sunday roasts, not forgetting afternoon tea. There’s a sharing lunch and plenty options for kids, making this is a very family friendly establishment. Perfect for a conveniently accessible village, just off the motorway roundabout. People go to Hale, Didsbury or Knutsford but Worsley is a mini version of them with a wonderful heritage. Bernie in particular has been a restaurateur for the last twenty years in the area. He owns the tapas bar round the corner and was part-owner of Milan. He has a lot of regular customers whom they hope will return.
Andrew is very accommodating, personable and flexible with what he can produce in the kitchen, especially with regards to allergies. He’ll make sure a dish is ‘doctored’ to his customers’ requirements. He doesn’t have a signature dish but he has some favourites from locally sourced ingredients (as well as Paris); smoked salmon which is fresh and cured by himself, ham hock has had some great feedback, and for dessert chocolate fondant – everyone loves chocolate (the proof of the pudding will be in the eating). It’s a menu they’re being judged on already during their ‘soft opening’ but they’re open minded about changing things depending on the feedback they get.
The decor reflects the menu – modern-British. Louise James, their interior designer, has done a great job blending the outside-in theme with fresh, neutral colours.
Louise said: “It’s a challenging building with lots of restrictions and we had to work hard to open up the kitchen to the restaurant. This completely changes the dynamics of the space and creates a connection to the theatre of the chefs at work. We wanted to create a warm, tactile and simple space that would stand the test of time and allow Andrew’s wonderful food to do the talking.”
Giggsy’s Mum, Lynn is providing the plants and flowers.
Is the price right? I’m not sure. They’re not entirely sure. Pitching a menu when the food is slightly higher luxury than casual is difficult. It’s just about less than ‘town prices’. All we can say is they will re-assess the menu in three months time. After all, you get what you pay for.
The owners have planned an invite-only launch party this week (Thursday) to celebrate the opening. There will be plenty of chef Andrew’s canapés to sample as well as a fresh oyster bar on the night.
Giggsy has cannily picked a date that nestles nicely between United’s upcoming fixtures, should any of his team-mates be attending.
The 40-year-old living legend is getting quite a taste for the hospitality business. He launched Cafe Football in London with former team-mate Gary Neville last year, while plotting the opening of the Hotel Football next to Old Trafford later this year.
I nearly forgot to mention there’s a beautiful private dining room upstairs which seats eight people comfortably. Maybe Ryan, Gary, Phil, Paul, Nicky and David will sit in there and privately discuss a ‘Class of 92’ encore.
Pictured above from left to right: Bernie, Kelvin, the living legend and Ryan Giggs.
17-21 Barton Road, Worsley, Salford M28 2PD
0161 794 5444