A Michelin-starred chef and Gary Rhodes’ protégé is heading to Birmingham to run one of the city’s most central venues.
Paul Welburn, who previously ran celebrity chef Rhodes’ flagship restaurant in London, is overseeing the launch of Centenary Bar & Brasserie at Birmingham Repertory Theatre in Centenary Square this September.
Mr Welburn, who was one of the team that opened the Gherkin under Richard Corrigan, has been installed after Searcys won the contract to operate the restaurant in a deal worth a reported £12.5 million.
While his past is littered with Michelin star success, he said his focus was on quality, community and sourcing locally at Centenary.
It will serve as the Rep’s restaurant, but Mr Welburn has loftier ambitions.
He said: “My background has always been in Michelin star restaurants in London, but now we are coming to Birmingham to really make a statement.
“It is a fantastic space and we will be working with the local suppliers and tapping into Birmingham trade.
“Although it is a theatre restaurant, it is going to be a stand-alone restaurant, and it will be really top-end.
“Whether awards come from that, fine, but it is not something we are chasing.
“We just want it to have a good feel.”
Mr Welburn has been brought in to oversee the new restaurant and set up the menu ready for the September opening.
The restaurant will be a major feature of the Rep, which is opening after a two-and-a-half year refurbishment.
It will be a 90-cover restaurant and on site café and bar and there is also a large external terrace to watch the world go by.
The brasserie, which overlooks Centenary Square, will open every day from 11am through to evening dining and late night snacks.
It will serve a range of bistro-style dishes, as well as a two course pre-theatre menu for £14.
Mr Welburn said the café would be a more relaxed affair.
Originally from Scarborough, Mr Welburn worked at the multi award-winning The Star Inn before going to Rhodes In the Square under head chef Micheal James and Gary Rhodes.
After a spell as a private chef for a family in Cannes, he returned to London to work within the original team opening the Gherkin, before moving to the Rhodes W1 restaurant, helping it to open and win the coveted Michelin Star within months, and retaining it for five years as head chef.
He said he had been impressed with the progress of Birmingham’s culinary scene across that time – with the city currently boasting three Michelin star restaurants.
He said: “Over the past seven or eight years I have heard a lot more about Birmingham, which is credit to some of the chefs in the city.
“When I came to London 15 year ago it certainly wasn’t what it is now, and that is why it is a fantastic opportunity for Searcys.
“I have been around a few restaurants and they have surprised me.”
Searcys, the company behind the Gherkin, St Pancras Grand and the Pump Room in Bath, landed the contract to run the Rep restaurant earlier this year.
The Rep will reopen its doors with the first season of productions under the new artistic directorship of Roxana Silbert next month.
The refurbishment includes a restoration of its distinctive 1970s facade, a main 800-seat auditorium and a 300-seat studio theatre created through the partnership with the new library. There will also be a full programme of education and artistic research and development activity in the Rep’s smallest, 140-seat theatre.