Michelin-star chef Glynn Purnell is to open a second restaurant in Birmingham – stealing a march on Jamie Oliver’s new Italian outlet.
Purnell is just weeks away from opening The Asquith as an “ambitious, neighbourhood restaurant” specialising in French-inspired cuisine.
The venture, in Edgbaston, which has been cloaked in secrecy, will not be on the same scale as Oliver’s whopping Jamie’s Italian at the Bullring, which is scheduled to open in October and will employ 100 staff.
However, Purnell’s surprise move throws up the intriguing prospect of arguably the city’s best-known chef competing against Britain’s most commercially successful culinary star. Oliver’s personal fortune is put at £65 million.
Carluccio’s, for whom veteran Italian chef Antonio Carluccio still works as a consultant, is also set to open a cafe/restaurant, at Brindleyplace, in the autumn as part of its expansion programme.
Purnell told the Birmingham Post he was not daunted by Jamie Oliver or any other restaurateur.
He said: “It is good to have competition. We are going to try and do everything right at The Asquith. The competition should be frightened of me, not me frightened of them.
“It is good to see good brands coming in. Jamie Oliver coming in is going to be good for Birmingham. You can’t knock that. But you also need smaller businesses, like myself, and young entrepreneurs. I am going to be flying the flag for the local side of things and small business.”
Purnell will be revisiting the scene of earlier culinary triumphs with The Asquith. The listed building in Montague Road, Edgbaston, was formerly Jessicas, where the chef, a protégé of Andreas Antona, first won a Michelin star in 2005 before going solo with Purnell’s in 2007.
Jessicas became Pascal’s and was run by Frenchman Pascal Cluny, garnering critical praise, including a bib gourmand from the Michelin Guide.
The restaurant’s landlord, Tony Gayden, said the property’s lease was being transferred to Purnell.
Mr Gayden said: “The lease with Pascal’s has come to an end and I am looking forward to Glynn moving back on to the site where he first started.”
Purnell believes The Asquith will fill a gap in the Birmingham dining scene for “good, solid cooking” pitched below the level of the city’s well-trodden – not, it has to be said, always successfully – fine-dining path.
The 34-cover restaurant will offer a three-course set lunch for £20 and a £34 three-course à la carte for lunch and dinner service. Purnell said the food will be “French dominated with a Purnell’s twist” and The Asquith will be open Wednesday through to Sunday lunch.
The pricing structure is deliberately “not mega expensive” and wine will be available from £16 a bottle. Purnell said he wants to create a “homely,” informal atmosphere where people will be happy to eat a couple of times a month.
Crucially, Purnell will not be cooking at The Asquith and is appointing a head chef to take charge of the Edgbaston kitchen.
He stressed he will continue to cook at the flagship Purnell’s in Cornwall Street, where he harbours ambitions of gaining a second Michelin star. “You will see me at The Asquith having lunch on a Sunday,” added the chef.
Purnell insisted he will be responsible for devising and writing the menus at The Asquith. The restaurant manager will be Julie Tonsgaard, who is promoted from her current post at the Cornwall Street restaurant.
Interestingly, none of the kitchen brigade at Purnell’s will be transferring to the new restaurant, which the chef hopes will be a showcase for Birmingham’s young catering and hospitality talent.
Purnell said: “I am trying to inject some youth into the Birmingham food scene. I hope the people running The Asquith with me are going to be the new face of Birmingham’s food scene.”
He has not ruled out the possibility of staff taking a share of the business in future – at the moment he is the sole backer – and neither has he ruled out the possibility of further openings. He said he is looking at different models and opportunities.
Purnell said: “I am hoping to put something back into Birmingham. Without sounding too corny, it is about giving young people an opportunity. It is an opportunity to create some jobs.
“The Asquith will have its own identity. I am not rolling out another restaurant with my name.
“Everything we do has to be bespoke and have its own identity. I will cook at Purnell’s and that is it. My name is above the door there. I am not going to jeopardise anything.”