CHR Equipment Ltd delivering profitable solutions to the UK Food Service Industry

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According to Living Ventures: “The concept behind Manchester House is quite simply about creating a restaurant capable of bringing a Michelin star to Manchester which hasn’t had one since The French restaurant at The Midland Hotel won one over 40 years ago. For a city of Manchester’s size and importance we felt this needed to be rectified.”

When it came to specifying the kitchen and designing the interior, key elements that needed be taken into account were that materials and labour should be sourced locally and that the kitchen should not only be sustainable but also energy efficient. Byrne explains why it was so important to stay local. “Tower 12 was formerly known as Manchester House and we carried the name over to the restaurant to cement the Manchester connection. It’s a fine dining restaurant for the city and it was important people bought into the concept so using local labour and materials was important.” And from the get-go there was never any thought of cutting costs on the installation itself.

Byrne explains: “Because we are here for the long haul, we spent over £ 250’000.00 just on the heavy stuff in the kitchen. For a normal kitchen fit out I would have expected to pay around £100,000 and have kit that would last 10-15 years but I am confident this kitchen will last 20 years – or more. The fact is, if we want to get that Michelin star, it’s all about consistency of product and you need totally reliable kit with inbuilt longevity that isn’t going to break down on you to achieve that.”

Following consultation with Paul Neville of Preston-based CHR Foodservice Equipment, the plans began to take shape. “CHR presented Aiden and the design team with a project called ‘sustainability in operation’. The scheme, which incorporated a totally bespoke solution would be delivered ensuring that a large percentage of the spend (it turned out to be around 80%) would be made locally. Our proven energy efficiency strategies would be a standard feature and Eco-Chef, with its own inbuilt energy monitoring system, would be the chosen cooking equipment to ‘showcase’ the new venture,” says Neville.

Four locally built Eco-Chef units were installed to service the 70-cover fine dining restaurant on Level 2 of the Tower while the fifth unit is to be sited in the 10-seat development kitchen which also doubles as a private dining area planned in phase two. Manchester House also houses an 80-seat private members club and reception bar on Level 12 with panoramic views over Manchester that is open 24/7 to serve champagne and canapés.

The main central Eco-Chef suite is just 1 metre wide and 5 metres long, comprising – four multipoint induction zones, a two zone plancha, a multifunctional vessel and a full 180° rotating combination oven that allows it to be used throughout the production process. It is also Aiden’s main oven overlooking the Chef’s Table. The outer and front Eco-Chefs have been built to double up as the Chef’s Table and two individual pass sections, which also incorporate refrigeration and multipoint induction. In total there are around 40 metres of Eco-Chef cooking blocks.

Other service areas on Level 2 include a feature pastry section, which according to Neville, “makes the customer feel like they are walking right through the kitchen itself”, while the meat and fish sections are also in full view of the public. A back kitchen, comprising of cold room and prep area with a smaller batch cooking and chiller area and a separate glass and dishwasher area with crockery store, completes Level 2. CHR was also asked to retro fit a lot of additional steel works to bespoke furniture at the end of the contract to match up with all the work in the kitchen.

The interior design for Manchester House was achieved by working with interior design team Keane Design. “CHR worked closely with Keene Design who took our brief on the interior decoration and created a truly marvellous space that dovetails kitchen and restaurant into one seamless design: it screams ‘serious restaurant’ yet does it in a non-pretentious manner that can be enjoyed by all,” commented Living Ventures. The whole back wall which hides the back kitchen is concrete with openings to inset ovens, grills and Green Egg BBQ’s to complete the cooking area front of house. “The concept of walking through a kitchen to get to the restaurant is unusual to say the least but the customers have embraced it in the way it was intended. We have nothing to hide and want the experience and process of delivery to be shared by all.”

Byrne remarks: “Fuel bills have been a pleasant surprise with Eco-Chef: as it is a new start-up we cannot compare with anything that has gone before, but compared with other restaurants on the site our bills are minuscule in our new all-electric kitchen. Keeping consumption as low as possible was a major driver and we are definitely seeing that happen.”

As for reaction to the kitchen, he says the staff love working in it. “With the old style gas solid tops they would be pumping out heat 24/7 with extractors noisily working overtime. Now we have less extraction, which has helped keep running cost down, and thanks to the new induction tops the kitchen temperature is much lower and the kitchen is virtually silent.”

Byrne’s previous experience of CHR came when he met Paul Neville when he was thinking about opening another restaurant a few years ago. “That project didn’t go through but I was so impressed with Paul’s professionalism and knowledge of chefs’ needs. From the start I wanted Paul and CHR to be involved but with Living Ventures having so many different sites and loyalty to previous suppliers, they needed to be persuaded, and now I am so happy they were. We are so pleased with the result: staff love it, everybody who comes here loves it. The most common expression you hear as customers walk through the kitchen to get to the restaurant is ‘Wow!’.”

Living Ventures concur, saying: “Aiden recommended CHR and we are sure we will be collaborating again at some time in the future. Paul and his team were very easy to work with and have given us one of the best kitchens in the country. I did tender the job for reference points as it is important to get an understanding of process and expectation. Paul and his team were professional and thorough throughout, very easy to work with and did what they said they would do, we have nothing but praise for them.”

Summing up, Neville says: “The vision, to embody everything that is urban Manchester while delivering a world class fine dining experience was probably as technically difficult to fulfil as any project we have ever encountered in our history. We won the tender on a design basis, not cost, because of our approach to sustainable issues, ability to understand the brief and operational know-how.”

“I have to say that this was one of the most complex jobs we have worked on, but Aiden has fully supported our thoughts and ideas and it’s been a real pleasure to work for him. He’s very direct and a true gent even when the going gets tough and on projects like this it gets tough.”