Confessions Of A Restaurateur
The growth of Manchester’s vibrant and increasingly diverse array of restaurants over the past two years has inevitably accrued some casualties along the way. And while many of us are busy celebrating the city’s booming dining scene, others are lamenting the loss of some old friends. One of those casualties has been The Market Restaurant on High Street in the Northern Quarter. Once famed for its cosy, cottagey style and award-winning Modern British food it has closed its doors after 34 years in business.
Owner Gary Newborough shares his thoughts and reflects upon the changing tides that have shaped and continue to influence how and where we choose to eat out in Manchester:
A friend of mine once said, “If you love food, wine and dining out never buy a restaurant”. The restaurant business is notoriously high risk and in central Manchester it seems that there is little room any more for the small independent operator. Despite all of that it can be great fun. Every night you get to participate in a small way in someone's great occasion.
Recently looking through a favourite book of mine “Adventures in Dining” containing menus from local restaurants of the 1980s, now mostly gone, I was surprised just how many of these restaurants, great for a time, were now just distant memories and of course we tend to look back fondly on the happy times of our youth. I wonder how many remember Coco, Cocotoo, Luso, Le Bouchon, Aumbry, Blinkers French, Blinkers Bijou, Isola Bella, New Albion, Pizzeria Italia, San Rocco, Heathcotes, Don Luigis, Gaylord, Casa Espana, Beaujolais, Mario and Francos?
The Market Restaurant would have celebrated its thirty fifth birthday at the end of next month. For almost 35 years our cooking remained very simple. We were never motivated by change for change's sake, technical wizardry or experimentation at the guests' expense. Our philosophy was always that food is here to give pleasure and our menus were driven by the seasons, using fresh and locally sourced ingredients, wherever possible, prepared on the premises and our regular guests faithfully responded.
However, times do change and staying relevant in the somewhat fickle Manchester eating scene is close to impossible. New concepts and pop ups now appear almost daily and attract audiences who need to be stimulated by the “next new thing”. Fast food, an obsession with burgers and eat as much as you like for a fiver makes it almost impossible to run a business profitably providing locally sourced, organic ingredients cooked in traditional ways for customers who want to linger all night.
The shifting demographic in the Northern Quarter and increasing running costs mean that food has to be taken on a new more progressive journey to attract the interest of a new generation of diners. From a business perspective, nostalgia and locking on to the past for too long is a dangerous pursuit. Reinvention is the key to business success and so it's time for a different approach, a different menu, a different style. It's time to step aside and make way for a new chapter in the life of 104 High Street!
A restaurant has to love its guests as much as they love it and without the shadow of a doubt the owners and staff here at the Market Restaurant have loved the generations of guests we have served over the last 35 years. Thank you all so much for being a part of our story and goodbye.