Everyone loves lists. From the world’s top 50 bars to the 100 best kebab shops, they bring lively debate and discussion and a sense of achievement for those included. The latest list for the hospitality industry is the first NRB Top 50 which was revealed at a special reception at the Northern Restaurant & Bar show in Manchester this week. It honoured 50 “influential” individuals from the north’s hospitality industry, including many familiar names from the bar trade.
The NRB Top 50 list – which is alphabetical rather than in order of importance – included Tim Bacon and Jeremy Roberts, who have been steadily growing Cheshire-based Living Ventures’ portfolio of restaurants and bars over the past few years including Australasia, the Oast House and The Alchemist in Manchester. Also on the list are the founders and directors of Inventive Leisure, Roy Ellis and Neil Macleod. Based in Ashton-under-Lyne in east Manchester, they have built the business up to nearly 70 Revolution vodka bars and Revolucion de Cuba rum bars.
Jake Burger makes the list for Jake’s Bar & Grill in Leeds, which he quickly made into a must-visit destination for all cocktail lovers. Refurbished earlier this year with the addition of a gin still, it is part of Leeds-based Leelex, headed by Jake and his fellow directors Ged Feltham, Paul Lane and Derrick Jones. Their other bars include Oporto and The Hummingbird in Leeds and Portobello Star in London. The NRB 50 also recognises the achievement of one of Manchester’s iconic cocktail bars, Socio Rehab, by including its owners Marie Carter and Beau Myers (pictured above). It has been going strong since 2004 and has seen many of the UK’s top bartenders develop their skills behind the bar.
The list would not be complete without Mal Evans, joint owner of Leeds-based Mojo Bars and a leading mixologist. He and fellow director Roger Needham opened the first Mojo in Leeds in 1996 and, more recently, they have gone on to open more in Manchester and Liverpool. Also on the list is Paul Newman, a partner in the The Lord Binning Pub and Kitchen in Kelsall, and expanding new operator The New Moon Pub Co. He has been a leading player in the north’s bar scene since being marketing director of Living Ventures back when it was opening the first Living Room bar in Manchester in 1999.
Other figures from the bar scene include Si Ord, owner of Sandinista bar-restaurants in Leeds and Manchester, and Joel Wilkinson, who opened Trof bar in Fallowfield, south Manchester, in 2001 and went on to open five more, with two further sites planned this year. Another bar operator on the list is Martin Wolstencroft, managing director of Leeds-based Arc Inspirations. Over the past 12 years, his company has grown to eight sites including Arc, The Box, Trio Bar & Grill, Skippy’s, The Hub and Banyan Bar and Kitchen. Hotelisers include Jonathan Slater of the Grosvenor Chester, home to the Arkle Bar.
The top 50 were chosen by an anonymous panel of industry experts from associations, educational establishments, the media and consultants who have many years’ experience in the northern hospitality sector. The 50 who made it onto the list were commended for making a significant impact in their businesses, driving commercial and critical success, creating employment, training and investment, as well as creating a profile and prestige for the region and its hospitality sector.
Already, the debate has started on who is left off the list. Our own thoughts include Ross Mackenzie, the man behind Manchester’s Blackdog Ballroom and other well-known bars and clubs in the city, while Jake Burger’s fellow director, Ged Feltham, and Mal Evans’ business partner Roger Needham are noticeably absent. And Liverpool’s booming bar culture owes much to the likes of Rob Preston and Stuart Ross of Alma de Cuba and Noble House. But 50 is a small number for trying to recognise the people behind the many amazing bars, restaurants and hotels across the north.
NRB Top 50
Martin Ainscough, Owner, Ainscough Restaurants
Paul Askew, Chef Patron, The London Carriageworks
Mohammed Aslam MBE, Owner, Aagrah Group of Restaurants
Tim Bacon, Managing Director, Living Ventures
Craig Bancroft, Joint MD, Northcote Manor
Jonathan Barker, Joint Managing Director, Mitchells of Lancaster
Simon Berry, Managing Director, English Lakes Hotels
Tim Berry, Director, English Lakes Hotels
Jerry Brunning, Owner, Brunning & Price
Andrew Buchanan, Operations Director, Daniel Thwaites
Ken Buckley, Managing Director, Bravo Inns Ltd
Jake Burger, Owner, Jake’s Bar & Grill
Marie Carter, Owner, Socio Rehab
James Crawfurd Porter, Managing Director, Tadcaster Pub Company
Lynne D’Arcy, Managing Director, Trust Inns Ltd
Morgan Davies, Co-Owner, Barburrito
Carlo Distefano, Chairman, San Carlo Group
Marcello Distefano, Managing Director, San Carlo Group
Iain Donald, Operations Director, Individual Restaurant Company
Sarah Dunning, Chief Executive, Westmorland Ltd
Roy Ellis, CEO & Director, Inventive Leisure
Mal Evans, Owner, Mojo Bars
Anthony Flinn, Chef Patron, Anthony’s Restaurant
David Fox, Owner, Tampopo
Nigel Haworth, Chef Patron, Northcote Manor
Paul Heathcote, Chef Patron, Heathcotes
Chris Hopkins, Managing Director, Hydes Brewery
Nick Jeffrey, Owner, Tampopo
Richard Kershaw, Managing Director, Joseph Holts
Terry Laybourne MBE, Chef Patron, 21 Hospitality Group
William Lees Jones, Managing Director, J W Lees
Neil Macleod, Director, Inventive Leisure
Beau Myers, Owner, Socio Rehab
Paul Newman, Partner, The Lord Binning Pub & Kitchen / The New Moon Pub Co
Eammon O’Loughlin, Owner, Eclectic Hotels
Si Ord, Owner, Sandinista
Andrew Pern, Chef Patron, Star at Harome
Clive Preston, Chairman, Amber Taverns
Graham Price, Owner, Brunning & Price
Jeremy Roberts, Commercial Director, Living Ventures
Oliver Robinson, Commercial Director, Frederic Robinson
Peter Robinson, Chairman, Frederic Robinson
Simon Rogan, Chef Patron, L’Enclume & Roganic
Jonathan Slater. Managing Director, The Chester Grosvenor
Richard Smith, Chef Patron, Relax Eat & Drink
Steven Walker, CEO, Individual Restaurant Company
Roger Ward, Owner, The Victorian Chophouse Company
Joel Wilkinson, Owner, Trof
Martin Wolstencroft, Managing Director, Arc Inspirations
Stewart Yip, Owner, Red Chilli
To view the NRB Top 50 list, including overviews of each individual, visit www.northernrestaurantandbar.co.uk/nrbtop50.
Thom Hetherington, managing director of Northern Restaurant & Bar, said: “Despite a tough economic landscape, the region’s food and drink sector has remained resilient and the NRB Top 50 is a great way to recognise and reward those who have not just survived but thrived during these challenging times. The NRB Top 50 will be back at Northern Restaurant & Bar 2013 where we hope to see it evolve and grow further.”