Place Your Orders for Middlesbrough Restaurant Week

Fantastic food really is on offer at the first Middlesbrough Restaurant Week with lots of great discount deals too. It is a wonderful opportunity to bargain hunt around some of Middlesbrough’s premier eateries and perhaps try out something and somewhere new.

Personally I cannot wait to get exploring. Starting from next Monday and for one week there are tempting offers in the sixteen restaurants participating in the very first Middlesbrough Restaurant Week.

Below is the full list of all venues and exactly what they are offering at an extra special rate for the week.

  • Akbars – 2 course for £11 and 3 course for £14 set menu offer
  • Al Forno – Any pasta or pizza from the Happy hour menu for £4.50 and 3 courses for the price of 2 from the A La Carte menu
  • Bahia Bistro – 2 and 3 course lunch and dinner options starting from £7.95
  • Central Park – 2 course set menu for £12.95
  • Elianos Brasserie – 25% off food bill when ordering from the A La Carte menu
  • Hot Wok – 10% off main food menu (excluding banquets)
  • Kebabish Original – 20% off main food menu
  • Manjaros – 20% off main food menu
  • Meze Lounge – 10% off main food menu
  • Nando’s – 5 FREE tables, picked at random, per day throughout Restaurant Week
  • Oodles Noodles – Meal deal offer for £6.75 and 10% off take out option
  • Pixies Diner – 2 courses for £7.70
  • The Purple Pig – Burger dish and cocktail for £10
  • Taste of Arabia – Chicken combo or Veggie platter + Mint tea for £7.50
  • The Brasserie – 3 courses for the price of 2, Monday – Friday and complimentary glass of wine, Saturday – Sunday
  • Waterside Brasserie – 2 and 3 course lunch and dinner options from £6.50

Talking about the variety on offer Ruairidh Taylor manager of Waterside Brasserie said. “You have got all sorts, different styles of service and different types of food. It is fantastic that so many restaurants have come on board. It does give you that spectrum.”

Visit lovemiddlesbrough.com/restaurantweek for full offer details and terms and conditions.

Charlie Rooney, Middlesbrough Council’s Executive Member for Regeneration, said.

“There are 16 restaurants taking part and all offering something different – there is a real buzz in the town already.”

So, which restaurants do you fancy investigating? It could be somewhere you love already or how about trying a completely different style of food and type of service? You could throw yourself into the buzz and atmosphere along Linthorpe Road or step back a street to the relative sanctuaries of Eliano’s Brasserie or Al Forno.

Or why not strike out of town for a waterside location in Middlehaven at The Brasserie at Hudson’s Quay or Waterside Brasserie at Middlesbrough College.

Middlesbrough Restaurant Week, run by Middlesbrough Council, follows in the footsteps of similar events across the world, from Las Vegas to up the road in Newcastle.

When Newcastle held their Restaurant Week, venues enjoyed an average increase in sales of 43% during the promotion.

Restaurant Week is working in association with Growing Middlesbrough – an initiative led by One Planet Middlesbrough: Creating Sustainable Communities in partnership with the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens, which links local food retailers with local suppliers.

Through its own website, Growing Middlesbrough links food producers within 50 miles of the town with local retail outlets, helping them source sustainable ingredients and capture a growing market of customers keen to reduce the environmental impact of their food choices.

Using an online map, retailers can search for nearby local food producers using specific criteria and contact them directly, using contact details provided. For more information visit www.middlesbrough.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=11015

For more information on Middlesbrough Restaurant Week visit www.lovemiddlesbrough.com/restaurantweek, Twitter @lovembro and @mbrofoodies – use the hashtag #rw14 – and on Facebook /lovemiddlesbrough.

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Middesbrough Restaurant Week – Oodles

Right in the heart of town, Oodles has been serving noodles to the Middlesbrough public since the turn of the Millennium. For take away or eating in this long established Linthorpe Road eaterie is a favourite haunt of one of Boro’s most recognisable footballers and also a firm favourite with many younger customers.

Owner George Ooi chatted with me about his food, the town and how much he is looking forward to Middlesbrough Restaurant Week – coming soon – Monday September 29th to Sunday October 5th.

Q: How long has Oodles been open?

G: Oodles has been open for 14 years. We opened up in 2000. It is quite frightening that it has been 14 years. A lot of people do still not know, they walk past and say have you just recently opened. And I say, no, we have been open for 14 years. It comes as a shock to them. But it has been OK year on year and we have gone from strength to strength. Of course everybody has felt the austerity of the last 12 months but in the last 6-8 months things are starting to change.

Q: You have noticed this?

G: Definitely. In Middlesbrough particularly.

About 80% of my customers are regulars. So they would come 2 or 3 times a week. And the reason for that is we offer fairly good value for money meals. If you were to go to town and get a cup of tea and a sandwich you will probably pay the same price as you would to come here and get a take out. So it isn’t paying for a special treat and it is quick because at lunchtime people have got plenty of chores to do in town and they can’t afford to sit in a restaurant for an hour. We do have the option of sit in or take out as well.

Q: You are open until 8pm as well, so do people stop in and get their tea?

G: That is exactly why we open until 8 o’clock. After 9 o’clock there are other take aways that will cater for a different set of clients. In our case I want to ensure that the customers we have, have just finished work and are maybe going to the movies etc and wanting to have a change and would like a bite to eat before they go. If they don’t eat by 8 o’clock then they won’t eat again until after 11 o’clock.

Q: Over those 14 years Oodles would have been one of the only places open where people could be more flexible about when they eat. If someone wanted to stay out after work there would not have been many places open to have food.

G: That is correct. It is becoming more apparent now that restaurants are open throughout the day, traditionally most places open until 2 o’clock and then they opened again at 5 o’clock. I think when we first opened we were the first one to open during the day and I think since then a number of other places have followed on. It is very much a case when you go to bigger cities people are eating all day in restaurants. That is one of the things I wanted to introduce to Middlesbrough.

Q: What was the concept behind Oodles, food-wise?

G: The concept behind was a very much minimalist and simplistic approach but still healthy and value for money. That’s the whole idea. Because nowadays if you go out and have fast food, the first thing that you notice is that it is fast but nine times out of ten you don’t really know what you are eating.

This is one of the reasons that you will notice that the door to my kitchen is always open. You can see straight through it and see the kitchen and you can see that it is being cooked in there and therefore nothing has been brought in. If we run out of something, be it spring rolls etc (because it is sometimes very difficult to determine how many we need, but roughly we have a rule of thumb) as we did yesterday at 2pm, that is it, we won’t do any more. It is done fresh, I don’t go to the freezer and bring out some more and defrost them. And I think that has caught on with a lot of people, much more so with the young ones, because what we are trying to do now is working with the young ones, aged 6 – 14. They are telling their parents that they are coming here for something to eat, on a Saturday or whatever, rather than a big fast food outlet. The parents are very happy because as you and I know sometimes parents have little choice but to go to those places when their kids are younger but now they coming here to eat, so there is some improvement in diet.

Q: Where did you come from originally, George?

G: Originally from Malaysia but originally I was not in catering. I was head of marketing for Teesside Tertiary College for ten years. And then I was head of marketing and external relations for De Montford University. And then I just packed it all in.

So I know a lot of the people of Teesside very well.

Q: What food do you eat yourself?

G: I eat at home the kind of food I make here but I also have a traditional Sunday lunch for instance so I have the best of both worlds.

Q: Middlesbrough Restaurant Week will underline for people the variety of restaurants in the town won’t it?

G: Exactly. The variety is very wide. For a small town like this you have got quite an extensive range of choice.

The furthest customer comes from Blyth. On a Friday he will drive all the way, a long way to drive. His parents live in Sunderland so he comes all the way to Middlesbrough and he will ring us up at 9am with the order.

I say what time do you want to come and collect it and he says for 1 o’clock. I say why are you waiting that long and he says it takes me a long time to get down here. On his way back to Blyth he will drop of some of the takeaways from here to his family in Sunderland.

For a small town our customers are coming from Stockton, Hartlepool, Darlington. So we thought why don’t we open one in those boroughs? But the point is not opening a lot. The point is you establish yourself, it has to be consistent. If you go somewhere and mostly it is OK but one time it isn’t that good, the first thing you say is oh the chef must have gone, or the manager must have changed etc. You think do I really want to give it a second go. So, it is important that consistency is always there. So, sometimes when you say I am going to have three or four restaurants you don’t get that consistency. It has happened.

Q: If you get a bad experience in one branch then it reflects on them all?

G: Bad news spreads faster than good.

We don’t do any advertising, we used to. It is very expensive and secondly how do you gauge how much you spend to how much you eventually gain. There is no statistical correlation to that. Whereas word of mouth is you are either getting good or getting bad.

Q: What are you offering for Restaurant Week?

G: For Middlesbrough Restaurant Week we are offering a exceptionally good deal: spring roll, main meal and a drink £6.95 day or night. 10% if you want to take out. I think that is a very good price if you like the kind of food we prepare.

In the first four years when we opened many people thought noodles came in a pot. (laughs) And you then have meat on top of the noodles as well and vegetables. You don’t just have to have noodles on its own. But it is working.

Q: On Linthorpe Road you have supermarkets selling oriental food and food from across Europe,

G: Yes, now it is so cosmopolitan in Middlesbrough. All you have to do is go half a mile and you have Polish, Iranian, Indian and Italian. Middlesbrough Council is looking to make Linthorpe Road South a café environment and it is slowly becoming that. But we have to be careful to compliment as opposed to duplicate. There is no need for that.

Q: You have a very prominent position here at this busy cross roads, lots of people must go past your window.

G: Yes but it is a small business. It is a business where we are more or less like a family when we are working in here. And we know our customers very well. They become friends really, which is great. That is the bit that I enjoy the best. And they treat us the same, which is a little bit different from some places that you go to where all they want to do is serve you food, take your money and ask you to go.

Q: You wouldn’t get the same relationships opening late at night.

G: Definitely not. Not just Middlesbrough, every town is the same.

When I heard about Middlesbrough Restaurant Week I said yes immediately. Because, first you have the help from Middlesbrough Council to promote it which is crucially important, on social media etc. Second, it is instigated by MBC which is great; it shows that they are wanting to make Middlesbrough improve. Thirdly, I don’t understand why some restaurants are not participating.

About 60-70% of our target audience is aged 16-35 so social media is very important with them.

As an example we don’t do menus. There is not one restaurant that I know of that before they come to it people don’t know what they are buying. Nobody knows what we have cooked today. We will cook what we get in the morning that is fresh and that’s it.

The only way they will know is through our blog, facebook and over 150 corporate companies that register with us, they get an email sent every morning. So it changes every day.

Most people come in here and haven’t got a clue what food will be on the menu, however because we have been in existence for such a long time a lot of people know we do for example spicy stuff and will ask for whatever the spicy food is that day. They know the dishes are consistently good. So, I think that is a compliment to all of us.

We don’t offer 25 choices because I don’t believe by offering a lot of choice it means your food is going to be good. Offer a small range and make it good.

The Full list of participating restaurants and all the offers is below.

Monday 29th September – Sunday 5th October

Akbars 2 course for £11 and 3 course for £14 set menu offer

Al Forno – Any pasta or pizza from the Happy hour menu for £4.50 and 3 courses for the price of 2 from the A La Carte menu

Bahia Bistro – 2 and 3 course lunch and dinner options starting from £7.95

Central Park – 2 course set menu for £12.95

Elianos Brasserie – 25% off food bill when ordering from the A La Carte menu

Hot Wok – 10% off main food menu (excluding banquets)

Kebabish Original – 20% off main food menu

Manjaros – 20% off main food menu

Meze Lounge – 10% off main food menu

Nando’s – 5 FREE tables, picked at random, per day throughout Restaurant Week

Oodles Noodles – One spring roll + Main Meal + Soft Drink = £6.75 and 10% off ‘takeout’ option

Pixies Diner – 2 courses for £7.70

The Purple Pig – Burger dish and cocktail for £10

Taste of Arabia – Chicken combo or Veggie platter + Mint tea for £7.50

The Brasserie – 3 courses for the price of 2, Monday – Friday and complimentary glassof wine, Saturday – Sunday with selected menus.

Waterside Brasserie – 2 and 3 course lunch and dinner options from £6.50

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Steve Mac’s Cleveland Juniors Date With Destiny

Steve McClaren was back in town recently to officially open an impressive new clubhouse for one of the North-East’s leading junior football clubs.

McClaren, was back in Middlesbrough to officially unveil the £418,000 project at Cleveland Juniors.

The opening of the clubhouse continues an incredible gloom to boom story for the thriving football club whose latest project has been supported by football charity Lionsraw with major funding from the Football Foundation and Sport England, together with companies RWE Dea and px Group.

Their generous backing has seen the club’s facilities transformed, with a rusting storage container replaced by a clubhouse to be proud of.

The new facilities include changing rooms, showers, toilets and office facilities, while Lionsraw has also helped to secure the club’s long-term future with a 25-year asset transfer lease of the team’s Mill Hill pitches in Acklam from Middlesbrough Council.

Once further funds become available, future plans for a second phase to the building work feature kitchen facilities and a function area.

The scheme’s driving force has been Cleveland Juniors chairman Michelle Rush, who says seeing the clubhouse become reality represents a dream come true for her late father and founding club chairman Frank Rush.

An interview with a quite delighted Michelle Rush.

Q: This must be a very proud day for you?

MR: It is a very proud day. It is a very big day for the whole club. It just means that we can be altogether under one roof in an amazing building and we can serve the community better with the facilties we have.

Q: When you say serve the community, how many kids are coming here at a weekend.

MR: Around 350 every weekend, that is how many we have in the club, we have 22 teams. Two disabled teams, two men’s teams, nine girls teams and the rest boys. And we have our little angels, Cleveland Juniors Angels girls they are from 4 year old upwards. So we have a lot of kids here.

Q: So this is a cross section of all the community then.

MR: Of all the community. There are no barriers at all with what we do, not in ability, age, in gender. There are no barriers.

Q: We are standing near the old facilities, if we can call them that.

MR: Yes the rusty container and the portaloo were all we had unfortunately but we made do with it for four years and it served a purpose and we grew with poor facilities to this so imagine how much we can grow with good facilities.

Q: Tell me a little about the building we are standing outside it and it really looks impressive.

MR: Yes it is amazing. It has got everything, it has got four changing rooms, two referee’s room it has got a nice little office. It has got just the most amazing feel to it outside, inside it is just phenomenal. I love it. I love every bit of it. The builders have done an amazing job.

DKS architects and Weatherhead (Construction) they take full credit for it. They have been fantastic.

Q: Am I right in thinking that this isn’t a full stop you have future plans?

MR: We have future plans yes and we have future backers. We have a great company called Applied Integration that sponsor all our kits, they have supported us from day one. With people like that we will grow constantly and we’ll only get bigger and better.

Interview with former Boro and England manager and now Derby boss, Steve McClaren.

Q: Steve it must be good to come back to Middlesbrough to support this community venture and open the new facility?

SM: Well, that’s right I come back often, I still live in the area. So I have kind of followed this project for many years, John Burns (Lionsraw) enthusiasm got it off the ground, together with Michelle (Rush) and the other partners have produced a fantastic project here. A magnificent building which all the kids can use and it brings the community together and saves them getting changed in a porta-cabin and using a portaloo. So a little bit different.

Q: You went on from Middlesbrough to England and so I imagine you will recognise the importance of grass roots. This is where it all begins, isn’t it?

SM: Yes that’s right, I think that is the beauty of this project and this club Cleveland Juniors. The volunteer coaches, there are about 40 of them I think, who come along on a Saturday morning and coach the kids. About 350 kids turn up. They are the real heroes, they are giving up their time to coach kids and to look after them and bring the community together. I think that is the key thing, when you see the enthusiasm from everybody, it is bringing the community together, that is what the prime purpose of anything like this should be. Then the production of good footballers, like we have seen from this club, Tony McMahon  and Andy Johnson, that is a bonus. It’s the community and the togetherness and keeping the kids off the streets and getting them on the field and play football.

Q: When you say it is a bonus this is a club encompassing girls, young people with disabilities, the whole community. It is something that everyone can get enjoyment from, isn’t it?

SM: The prime purpose is not to produce footballers for Middlesbrough Football Club that is a bonus, I think it is to bring the community together and all the community, boys and girls and the disabled. Michelle has done a fantastic job here producing I think 17 teams and expanding even more and now with a great facility and a building like this it can just keep growing and growing.

Q: Football clubs like Middlesbrough and Derby, where you are now are built on community projects like this aren’t they?

SM: This is what football clubs are all about, they are about the fans, they are about the community, they are about the city and the town. And that is one of the first things speaking to Steve Gibson, he bought the club (Boro) and he runs the club for the community and that is what he believes in and he has been very successful doing it. Long may that continue.

Q: It was your first managerial job at Middlesbrough and you have put down roots here. Does it still mean a lot to you?

SM: Five great years. Dave Allan has produced one book about the Carling Cup final which was  terrific and now he is producing another about the years in Europe which were incredible years. How little we probably appreciated it then but how we appreciate them now. I have just had a look at the book, and it is a great book, with great photos, great stories and is probably going to be as successful as the Carling Cup book.

Q: Memories that we will take through our life and for the young kids coming here this is the start of their footballing experience, isn’t it?

SM: Yes, they won’t know that time and that era, they have got that to come but it is good.

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Middlesbrough Restaurant Week – Brasserie Hudson Quay

On 29th September Middlesbrough’s eateries will be in the spotlight at the start of the first ever Middlesbrough Restaurant Week. An initiative that has been tried and tested to great success elsewhere this will be an opportunity to explore the culinary delights that the town now has to offer. With lots of exclusive deals to the week what better opportunity could there be to get out and perhaps try something and somewhere new.

There restaurants signed up for the week long offers include gourmet burger and cocktail bars, Asian, Italian, bistros and brasseries. In other words, hopefully, something for everyone.

In this blog I speak with Peter Volans from the Brasserie Hudson Quay. A fabulous location on the waterside and as well as its regular diners known to many that pass by the sign on the way to the Riverside. In fact football fans, did you know that you can park for free for the match if you spend £10 or over in the restaurant?

Peter and I had a chat over a cup of tea whilst basking on the comfortable chairs near the bar. I could see the waters lapping up on the quayside beyond. It was probably just about as relaxing and picturesque as it gets in down town Middlesbrough.

Q: How long have you been open?

Peter: Just over a year.

Q: Why did you decide to locate to Middlehaven? It might not seem the most obvious location to many?
P: We believed in the Middlehaven area for development for the future. We think that Middlehaven in general is going to be a serious destination point for the town for the future. I think a lot of the facilities of the town centre will ultimately move over into the Middlehaven area. Over by Middlesbrough College, the redevelopment there, with the new gardens. It is very spacey this area for new developments to come along. For instance the latest that we have heard of is potentially an indoor ski slope and a sky diving unit and rock climbing. There’s the opportunity for water skiing out on the dock. These are all things that we took into account when we were looking for development potential in this site.

We were also working very closely with what was then Fabric who are extremely keen to bring people to an area which would not otherwise be visited. Why would you want to come down to Middlehaven unless there was something specific you wanted to for? It is not a natural destination. And Fabric are now part of the Thirteen group, our landlords, so it seemed like a good marriage, a concept to bring a destination restaurant to this part of town.

I think to open a restaurant like this in the town centre itself, Linthorpe Road, which is the major eating area, one there was not right size property, this is a large restaurant. The car parking is limited. The Linthorpe Road restaurant style, the town centre style is primarily trading for people who are already in town and on the pub circuit in town to have a night out whereas we felt very strongly that we wanted to create a restaurant that is a destination where people spend the night here and not call in as a part of their night out.

So most of the people that come to us here come specifically to here from here they go home, they don’t go on into town afterwards. That was part of our concept, and where we want to go.

Q: And hence when you step in from outside you step into a different world in this restaurant.

P: Completely. There are restaurants like this throughout Europe and everybody is used to going to restaurants like this when they are on holiday. We thought, why can’t we do that at home?

There are a lot of nice people living in Middlesbrough and the area and all too often the Middlesbrough people are pilloried and done down from Channel Four to the news in general and it is wrong there are a lot of nice people around here. I think Middlesbrough needs a nice place to go to where they can come and have a little holiday.

The music is chosen specifically to run through the whole thing, we don’t have a music profile that runs in the background, you can actually hear it. And it is all European music, it’s all the kind of music you hear if you are in Spain, Italy or France and that music is very carefully chosen.

The design for the place came really from the classical European café restaurants where you have a long bar, a relaxed seating area and you have a garden and you have got a quality dining area. We couldn’t put the garden out on the quay so we brought it inside. We have taken those four classic elements of the European restaurant and brought it into the 21st century. That’s it, nothing clever about it. It’s common sense. Those restaurants that you see when you go to Europe have been around for a couple of hundred years, so they must be doing something right. I am a guy from Middlesbrough, I am not going to reinvent the wheel and put myself up against what has been a centuries old tradition, I am not that clever, none of us are.

Q: And of course you have a stunning outlook.

P: Yes, a stunning outlook.

Q: So many people walk past the dock and remember it perhaps as a working dock but maybe are now looking at it again.

P: That is what we like. Looking out of our windows you have got the dock in front of you, you have got the modern architecture of Middlesbrough College, you have got the iconic Transporter Bridge, which hopefully will be lit up again soon. Then you have got the famous three sided clock and you have got this fabulous piece of art, Temenos. So you have got the old, the historical and the new in one picture window which I find absolutely fascinating.

When people found out what we were doing they couldn’t figure out why we were building a restaurant, as they say on the docks. Why do you want to build a restaurant on the docks? Really, come and see what is here now because the old perception of the other side of the water, over the railway lines…

Q: Over the border.

P: Over the border.. that has gone and Middlesbrough Council have done a tremendous job over the years slowly evolving this part of the town. And the people that haven’t been down here are the ones that will probably still be wary because they haven’t seen it and are still going back on the memories of it instead of what it has become and what its future is going to be. Frankly my view is that this area is going to become over the next few years the heart of Middlesbrough.

Q: Return to being the heart again.

P: Return to being, absolutely right as it always was.

Q: And because of the football club next door and Middlesbrough College thousands come to this area every week.

P: Absolutely and it is an amazing development. It is the only quayside I know of in the north of England that is not being developed into a thriving centre for restaurants, hotels, cafés and the like. Newcastle, Manchester, Leeds along the canal side, Hartlepool marina, they are all being developed. Here they don’t call it the quay they still call it the dock. It is that, that needs to move forward I think.

Q: What about the food you serve here? We have talked about the concept and the location but the food is obviously very important.

P: The food is very important. We won’t serve any dish that is not associated with Europe. In other words we would not do a Thai chicken curry; it is not our thing, for instance. Equally so we wouldn’t put in an American dish, it has to be something that is European, and which people associate as being European.

I know people associate the burger as being American but its not, its origins were Italy and before that it was Germany. So the Germans had the first burgers, they were developed in Italy and exported.

Q: Hamburgers?

P: Absolutely, says it all, European. So we put burger on the menu. But equally we try to provide a food that people want to eat. We try not to be clever with it. People want to know what it is that they are eating. They want to recognise what they are eating. They don’t want to have some confusing jargon that sounds nice but they don’t understand what it is. So, we try to keep our food good quality, simple, well cooked, well prepared and we source as much as we can locally. The meat is all local, we use farmers from the Dales. We use local suppliers for our fish. All of our fish is locally caught. The only thing that I think we have that is frozen is prawns and the skinny fries. Everything else is fresh, never been frozen. We would never present a piece of meat that had been frozen, never, it changes the texture of the meat and changes the flavour of it. So, for instance, we don’t import New Zealand lamb, it is local.

Q: We are sitting here on a morning and lots of people are here drinking coffees etc.

P: It is a meeting place. It is somewhere to go. We are doing as much trade now during the day time as we do in an evening. Corporate trade is now expanding hugely. Historically when there was the crash in 2008 a lot of the corporate trade dried up nationally, companies were cutting down on their expenditure, I think the tax laws changed and discouraged people from entertaining clients. The perception of the economy now is more encouraging. People are more upbeat about the future from a business point of view, from a corporate point of view. Because of that we are getting growth which is rubbing off happily for us because people are starting to have meetings over lunch. People are starting to come out to places and get away from the office and meet the clients and sit down where they can have a quality cup of coffee in an area that is not an embarrassment to your corporate image. And we are in town, which is good. And we have parking spaces, which is great and basically ten minutes from everyone that works in the town centre.

Q: You very accessible from the A66.

P: Absolutely, again a big factor for being here, the road communications are absolutely perfect, they were built that way for the stadium we’re simply the other side of the road from the stadium. We have piggy backed on those facilities from the stadium as far as road access is concerned.

But the corporate trade, just to finish off on that side, is expanding rapidly now. We have been putting on a fast track lunch, an inclusive lunch if people tell us when they arrive they want to fast track, in other words I’ve only got a limited time period. We queue jump them, we pass people who have got more time to spare.

Q: Or who want to spend more time.

P: Yes, who want to want spend more time. Who want to sit and look out of the window and watch the seals fishing. A lovely way to spend a couple of hours over lunch. Whereas if you are corporate and want to be in and out and only have a limited period of time we offer that facility. We put on a specific menu. It gives an inclusive starter/main course/sweet for less than £20 and it is quality stuff again, really good food. Whatever we do, even if we do a shorter or simpler dish we always focus on the quality.

Q: Do you have many staff at the Brasserie?

P: When we opened here we created 32 new jobs. Plus we created four apprentice assistants as well because part of our charter is to not only to integrate with the local community but also to provide a work opportunity that would not otherwise have existed. So we work closely with Middlesbrough College, we are partners with the college in giving development opportunities for young people who want to come out into the catering trade.

We have at all times four apprentices working with us, two front of house and two in the kitchen. And we also do placements from the college just for work experience. So we take on a full year’s apprenticeship and if they come through at the end of that, they don’t always stay the course, then we will offer them a full time job. That is part of what we are about. That works very well for us; the down side is that sometimes our service to the customer may not be as efficient as what they would like it to be. So we occasionally tell people the young person is an apprentice and we are training them, just give them a bit of slack. From the professional point of view it is to our detriment to have the young people. It takes time; there is a lot of information for these young people to absorb before they become a fully proficient waiter or chef.

Q: I’m guessing a lot is also confidence.

P: A lot of it is confidence, yes. They can take everything on board but their confidence takes months to develop. But we just let people complain, it doesn’t matter. On the full scale of things I am sorry but if people can’t bear with us to teach young people then I am not going to listen. I am not being arrogant I am just so determined that we do provide an opportunity to young people, otherwise they won’t get a chance. What can we do except to help the young kids coming out of school, there is a lot of unemployment. There is a very high proportion of young people out of work here, it is the highest in the country at that age and these people are starting jobs and lives. These are such formative years for them.

Q: We need the young people to stay here not have to leave.

P: Thank you, absolutely right. So that is again part of our charter, part of what we believe in. We will do that no matter what, I don’t care about how much we get criticised.

Q: Are you looking forward to Middlesbrough Restaurant Week starting on the 29th October?

P: Yes, I think it is a great initiative and I think it is laudable that the council has put that together and has come up with that initiative to develop that within Middlesbrough. It works well within cities; it works well in Newcastle for instance. They started it about six years ago and now they do it twice a year. It has become a big thing for them now and it brings people into town who wouldn’t normally come. So, from a restaurateur’s point of view it would give us exposure hopefully to people who wouldn’t normally come out midweek. And from the town’s point of view again it shows people what the town has and what it can develop. How it can be. That’s wonderful. So we are enjoying being part of that.

Q: And will you have a special menu for the week?

P: Yes we will have a couple of special meals. The corporate menu we have at lunchtime, where that is an inclusive £17 for two courses, £20 for three courses for restaurant week we are doing three courses for the price for two. So you will be able to get a quality three course lunch for £17. That is good value and it is good quality stuff. It is discounted what is already discounted.

For Sunday lunch, everyone that has a full meal with us will get a free glass of wine thrown in. Let’s at least give something back. Again everything is discounted down before and then we are throwing in a glass of wine as well.

Q: So the week is all about people experimenting and hopefully trying something and somewhere new isn’t it? It should be good for your restaurant and good for Middlesbrough.

P: I think it is good for Middlesbrough and that is the main thing. What is generally good for an individual restaurant is good for the area as well, it has to be.

Middlesbrough Restaurant Week Monday 29th September – 5th October

Akbars, Al Forno, Bahia Bistro, Central Park, Eliano’s Brasserie, Hot Wok, Kebabish Original, Manjaro’s, Nando’s, Oodles Noodles, Pixies Diner, Purple Pig, Taste of Arabia, The Brasserie Hudson Quay, Waterside Brasserie.

 

 

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Middlesbrough Restaurant Week – The Purple Pig

Restaurants will be opening their doors to serve up mouth watering offers in Middlesbrough’s first Restaurant Week – September 29th – 5th October.

I am counting myself as very lucky to have been dispatched to chat to the proprietors of all the 15 eateries signed up. You could say that I am working up a hunger to return and order from their menus at the end of the month. I cannot wait.

The Purple Pig online menu proudly proclaims We do burgers, we do cocktails, we do great music every day of the week! It is true to say that Middlesbrough’s newest restaurant The Purple Pig is already one of the most vibrant as far as atmosphere is concerned. I opened the front door to Linthorpe Road and was almost blown onto the street by the buzz of happy chatter and clatter from inside.

The head man is a charming Aussie called Colin and he was only too happy to tell me a little about a new venture that is making such a big impression in the heart of the town.

Q: The Purple Pig will be quite new to many people. Can you tell me something about the restaurant please?

Colin (Purple Pig): We’ve been open about 3 months. The previous restaurant is the one in Yam that has been open 8 months. So the reputation was already there before we opened this one. As soon as we opened this restaurant it just took off straight away. We probably took another 10% on the revenue we were taking down in Yarm, straight away. It was really quick. Three months down the line we have doubled the takings we have in Yarm consistently over the past 4 weeks. We offer probably a lot more than Yarm does. They have half the menu that we do in Middlesbrough. We have a side section, hanger steaks, chicken, combo meals, a big trough for sharing, a big chicken, things like that. Eat from a big bin lid for between 2 and 3 people sharing. So we have a lot more to offer on this menu than the one down in Yarm.

Q: I can sense the atmosphere and hear the talking, probably all to do with sharing I guess.

PP: Yes everyone shares benches and sits next to each other. Maybe chat about what burger have you got there etc. They might say that looks great I might try that.

Our cocktails are fantastic as well; we have put a lot of effort into creating our cocktails. We have pineapple express where we use fresh pineapple and there is water melon, everything is served in jam jars with glow sticks.

It is very much a quirky concept and it seems to be working very well at the moment. Especially on this particular road, Linthorpe Road. It seems to be expanding with ever more trade coming down.

Q: You are finding that things are picking up then?

PP: Yes, very much so. We have Sticky Fingers next door, and we really bounce off each other very well. When they’re packed I am packed. If they are in my restaurant they will go off there for a pint. If they are having a pint in there they wander next door for some food. Across the road you have got things like Rude Grooming, male hairdressing, a family run business and we help each other out and there are a few more restaurants opened up down the road as well. This street itself is really picking up. It is good for Middlesbrough.

Offer wise in here we treat it as a venue and we open until 1am on Friday and Saturday now. We have a DJ playing 10-1am. We don’t only just promote the food side of the business we are also pushing it as a cocktail bar as well. The lights come down, the music goes up and the atmosphere is fantastic and we get that extra trade in between 10-1am. So I have that extended license and I can keep it open until 1am during the week if I need to.

Q: Do you close at some points during the day or not?

PP: We keep going really. We are open at 12 and stop serving food at 10pm. But I am allowed to stay open until 1 in the morning.

We close at 11pm during the week most days but if there is a group of people in and they are going to spend some money then I will keep it open until 1 o’clock.

Q: There seems to be a lot more restaurants staying open through the day and early evening. It is good for the town isn’t it?

PP: Of course yes, there are a lot more people staying out a lot later than what they would have done 2 or 3 years ago. You still find people coming in here 10.30 or 11 o’clock for a cocktail even on a Monday night. So it fantastic to see people going out every night of the week and instead of just Friday and Saturday.

Q: It is mid afternoon and Monday and not in student term time yet there is a real buzz in this restaurant.

PP: Well, it is quiet to tell the truth.

Q: But it is a Monday.

PP: But it is still good for a Monday, previous restaurants I have worked in Monday was a bit dead. I can’t really tell that it is a Monday it is just as busy any day. I have people waiting at the door at quarter to twelve before it is open, waiting for a burger.

So it is great, the reputation is fantastic at the moment and that is going to go higher and higher and higher. So we are going to keep implementing things, keep pushing forward and growing the business we get to where we want to.

Q: Do you know what you are going to offer for Restaurant Week?

PP: We are doing a burger and cocktail deal for £10. We are going to do a double cheese burger or you can either have one of our cocktails or you can have a mocktail of your choice. A non alcoholic cocktail or an alcoholic cocktail and you can have a double cheese burger or a meadow burger off the vegetarian option. The vegetarian option or meat option and non alcoholic or alcoholic cocktail.

We will be pushing the promotion over the next couple of week through facebook and instagram that is where we do most of our promotion, most of our advertising is through social media.

Q: And word of mouth.

PP: Well yes if you can build a business like we have from word of mouth then you are laughing you don’t need to go any pay for advertising etc. If you can do this trade without promotion then that is fantastic.

Q: You have literally a buzz here that hits you when you open that front door.

PP: Yes, we served 1600 people last week and that is not including the drinking so you are talking a couple of thousand people coming in the venue, last week alone.

Q: I think a lot of people will be very pleasantly surprised to see somewhere like this thriving in Middlesbrough. You might expect a Purple Pig in London, Manchester or maybe Leeds but that has to be a good sign doesn’t it for Middlesbrough?

PP: Very good. Middlesbrough has been tainted as a bad town but as it stands it is one of the most busy.

Q:  And you are seeing a difference then?

PP: Of course. I have worked in the region for about 8 or 10 years. I worked in the Keys, Yarm and we can compare ourselves favourably to that big operation.

If you can make this work here in Middlesbrough you can make it work anywhere, in Harrogate, Hull, York, Leeds, Durham, Darlington.

Q: Great to say you made it work in Middesbrough first.

PP: Yes, exactly I will be going down south soon and will be opening one in Hull in 6 weeks and then one in Harrogate and then York and then I will be managing the three venues down south.

Q: The south?

PP: Yes, sorry it isn’t south. I am from Australia and I haven’t travelled too much in this country.

Q: I like that you saying it is the south, it is the opposite to people from the south east classing everyone north as beyond Watford.

Are there any other new plans for the restaurant here?

PP: We have a middle level that we are constructing at the moment and making it into a function room. It will have a bar and nightclub area will be for wedding parties, christenings etc. People can have a drink and if they want to come down here and eat. Hopefully, that will be up and running by mid November. I have a whole range of targets, bar market, food market.

I don’t want to really leave here; I want to keep going, as it is going to go big. We are all really trying to push forward and everyone is on board and ready for a big first Christmas. I don’t want to go down south.

The Purple Pig

Gourmet Burgers and Grill, plus cocktails

156-158 Linthorpe Road TS1 3RD

Open 12 noon until late every day of the week.

www.purplepiggroup.co.uk

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