When Sir Rocco Forte launched his five-star Lowry Hotel on the Salford bank of the River Irwell in 2001 it naturally looked over the Calatrava Bridge towards booming Manchester for the bulk of its business.
As Sir Rocco himself said at the time: “There’s nothing on this side except my tax office!”
Fast forward almost two decades and everything is changing – and fast.
By the end of this year almost 1,000 desirable new apartments will have sprung up between The Lowry and Chapel Street as the heart of Salford is reborn.
And, says The Lowry’s long-service general manager Adian Ellis, the hotel is set to respond in kind to the dramatic transformation of its surroundings with new investment of up to £5 million over the next few months.
Mr Ellis revealed plans to remodel the hotel’s lobby area, its spa facilities and, later in the year, completely transform The River Restaurant and Bar, which holds two AA Rosettes for culinary excellence.
Planning permission has also been granted for the development of several duplex apartments on the hotel’s waterfront ground floor.
The latest changes at the hotel, bought by Singapore-based CDL Hospitality Trust for £52.5 million in May 2017, were previewed a recent lunch staged to showcase new executive chef Dave Ashton’s menu plans for The River Restaurant.
Mr Ellis said: “We will have 1,000 new apartments on our doorstep. These are our new neighbours and hopefully people will use our restaurant, bar and spa.
“We have been looking at a lot of dining concepts but the classic approach always works here because a lot of people come here to celebrate and we are working towards making these occasions even more memorable.”
Chef Ashton’s classic approach highlights the best of ingredients, many of them sourced locally, in-vogue flavours and innovative modern techniques.
Sample starters from the new menu included Cornish white crab and Scottish smoked salmon with lime, avocado and chilled horseradish sorbet; pan-fried pigeon breast with a clever take on Waldorf salad comprising Garstang blue cheese mousse and pickled celery with smoked and caramelised walnuts; and beetroot-cured Scottish salmon with pickled beetroot, razor clam and fennel.
His mains featured richly flavoursome 24-hour braised ox cheek, clotted cream mash, “hotpot” carrot, bone marrow sauce and wholegrain mustard butter; Cornish lemon sole with scallop and ginger mousse, cucumber and dashi; and ballontine of Frank Bird’s Cumbrian chicken with king oyster mushroom, leeks and extravagant black truffle.
Desserts included apple tarte tatin with amaretti ice cream; dark chocolate ganache, peanut butter mousse and peanut ice cream; and vanilla poached Williams pear, pear sorbet, almond crumble with pear and honey puree.
Diners can get 25% off The River Restaurant’s a la carte menu, Sunday – Thursday, until the end of February.