There’s no shortage of places to eat out in Manchester and no shortage of independent retailers. But when it comes to food shopping we’re not exactly blessed with independent retailers – which is why The Butcher’s Quarter, which opened on Tib Street in March this year, is one of the most welcome newcomers to the Northern Quarter. Eager to find out a bit about them, Laura Fell popped in for some chicken breasts, a pound of sausages, and a chinwag with owner Steve Pilkington.
Where did the inspiration to open a butcher’s shop in Manchester City Centre come from?
“Me and my partner Michelle have been living in Manchester for a number of years and we’ve always been surprised that there isn’t a proper artisan butchers in the city centre where all the meat is butchered on site. With my day job I spend quite a lot of time in London and I had noticed that there have been a lot of new butchers and delicatessens opening up over the past few years, and it’s not something that we have really seen here yet.
“our shop on
Tib Street used
to be a butcher’s
shop 50 years
“My grandparents and great grandparents had butchers shops in East Lancashire before they retired. We’re actually quite a foodie family. My brother is head chef at Nutters Restaurant in Norden.
“The Manchester food and drink scene is in an incredibly exciting place right now. We have all these fantastic new restaurants opening up and with more and more people living in the city centre why can’t people enjoy great quality meats all sourced locally when they are at home as well? We want to bring the farm right into the city centre and give people choice. We think it’s nice to be able to say how thick you want your steak to be rather than being forced to pick something up off a supermarket shelf.
“The meat scandal has also made people think differently about where they get their meat from. Transparency and honesty is key.”
What obstacles have you faced setting up an independent butchers in the heart of the Northern Quarter?
“Our two main challenges were finding suitable premises and finding the perfect butchers who fit with our vision of the shop and who could see the potential.
“With property, I always wanted to locate the business in the NQ as I felt that the diversity of the NQ and independence factor would be a great fit for what we wanted to achieve. However, we found that there were many landlords who didn’t want to have a butchers as they had visions of hanging pheasants and carcasses from the shop window. No matter how many times we tried to explain that is not the look that we were going for, it fell on deaf ears.
“As it turns out, our shop on Tib Street used to be a butcher’s shop 50 years ago. We have actually had one of the old butchers come in to say hello. It’s really nice to see it go full circle and we have an old photo in the shop to remember its history.
“Secondly, we spent a lot of time searching for the right butchers. We didn’t just want butchers who knew how to cut meat. We wanted people who were passionate about their food and who shared our vision of quality, provenance and transparency. We couldn’t be happier with Mike and Rowan. Although we’ve only been open a short period of time, there is a really good dynamic within the team and we have quickly been able to identify and play to our strengths. As they say, good things come to those who wait.”
What makes you different to other high street butchers?
“We want our customers to help play a part in the direction of the business. One of the really exciting things for us is the different customers that we get in the shop – from Doris the 80 year old lady who has missed having a traditional butcher’s in town to Matt the 19 year old who has never been to a butchers before! We can’t forget our canine following either. We are getting quite a reputation amongst our four legged friends. Our customer spectrum is much broader than either Michelle or I had expected, which is fantastic.
“When people buy from our shop, they are not just supporting us. They are supporting a broad spectrum of businesses. We have some of the very best suppliers in the North West with a lot of our meat being transported down south to some of London’s best restaurants. It seems madness that we don’t support our local producers more.”
What does the future hold for The Butchers Quarter?
“We’ve now got a repeat customer base on which to build. We are supplying a number of new and well established restaurants in the city centre and we hope to build on this in time. We want to expand on our product selection in the New Year.
“We have already been nominated for a number of awards including the Most Innovative Butcher Award in 2015. The awards ceremony is in November, so fingers crossed for that!
“This is obviously our first Christmas and we’re very excited about that. We’ve got some great plans to decorate the shop and really make it a festive experience when people come in. I’m not sure Rowan and Mike are looking forward to their outfits though! There may even be a glass of mulled wine and some Christmas tunes for people to enjoy whilst they deliberate over their Christmas dinners!”
Leaving the shop with as much meat as I could carry, I would say this. Locally sourced meats of an exceptional standard are the only things that make it to the counter – premium quality beef from the Peak District, pork from Rossendale and lamb from a small family business in Helmshore.
So whether you’re a native of the Northern Quarter, a city centre commuter or just willing to go that extra mile for the best cuts of meat from a fourth generation butcher, if it’s meat you’re looking for, The Butcher’s Quarter should be top of your shopping list.
Find The Butcher’s Quarter at 66 Tib Street, Manchester M4 1LG