The city’s burgeoning status as a foodie’s paradise has been given a multi-million pound boost with a string of new restaurants – as the new council put the growing sector at the heart of its first manifesto.
Planners have given the green light to a new £6 million scheme around the Clock Tower in Harborne – which will include three restaurants and a cookery school – while this week also saw the San Carlo group launch its new Fumo restaurant in the city centre.
The region is also set to welcome another award winning chef after the owners of the Hogarth’s Hotel in Dorridge announced that the two Michelin-starred Martin Blunos was joining as culinary director for a new brasserie and upgraded restaurant.
The glut of new investment came as Birmingham City Council leader Sir Albert Bore announced a new food zone in the east of the city bringing together businesses from across the sector as part of his first major policy announcement since regaining power with Labour last month.
A business park will be set up for a cluster of firms in the food distribution and processing line where the firms will share a number of key facilities and good links to the motorway network. They will benefit from economic growth zone status.
The School Yard scheme in Harborne is a mixed use project being developed by EDG Property, Cube director Neil Edginton’s new venture, and will see the buildings around the Clock Tower – which has been covered in scaffolding for almost two years – transformed into a new food hub with a new public square and apartments.
The landmark scheme has already let the two restaurants to upmarket Italian chain Prezzo – which has teamed up with celebrity chef Aldo Zilli – and a new Mediterranean offering from Chris Kelly’s Metro Group, the company behind the successful Metro bars on Cornwall Street and in Solihull as well as the White Horse in Balsall Common.
Chris Kelly, managing director of Metro Group, said: “The Harborne site is part of the Metro Group’s expansion which has always been on the cards once the financial situation allowed. I think Harborne is a fantastic suburb of Birmingham and perfect for us and I could see us in places like Sutton Coldfield or Moseley as well.”
While the group’s other venues are more traditional, Mr Kelly – who owns the company with business partner Alastair Tyson – said the new restaurant would be tapping into a different kind of experience. He said: “I don’t want to use the word tapas as that makes you think just Spanish when I’d much rather Metro continental. This is going to be smaller sharing plates with continental wines and beers. This will be a smaller venue to our others with a lovely alfresco overlooking the new square catering for around 80 covers so we will have to think differently about how we prepare and serve food as we look more towards the grazing style of eating.”
Prezzo chief executive Jonathan Kaye, said he was confident the restaurant would prove popular.
He said: “It is especially pleasing as it will be our first restaurant in Birmingham. We are confident that our Italian restaurant will appeal to people of all ages and be a great addition to the town’s social scene”.
Both restaurants are hoping to open next year after Birmingham City Council’s planning committee gave the School Yard scheme – which has been drawn up by Bob Ghosh’s K4 Architects – full planning and listed building consent which will see the old school building restored along with the old headmaster’s house, the creation of a new square in the old playground and a new apartment block.
The Kitchen cookery school is the brainchild of the Jayne Bradley and will run courses for the public and the local community.
Mr Edginton said the vigorous support of the council was testament to the quality of the scheme on the landmark site that has been wrapped in scaffolding for almost two years because of structural problems.
“From the outset we have seen terrific support from the local community and the council for our proposal for this important site and getting the full consent so smoothly is testament to how efficient the planning process in the city can be if you engage properly and provide the right information to support the right scheme.
“This is a project that will play a key role in continuing the ongoing regeneration of one Birmingham’s favourite suburbs and the announcement of two new restaurants – one from a well known local independent and a great brand coming to the city for the first time – is great for the local economy. Combined with the cookery school, the public space the apartments, we hope this is going to create a real destination for food lovers and a great asset for Harborne.”
Mr Edginton said it was intended to get on site this year, get the listed building complete by mid-2013 and the new building complete by end of 2013.