Absurd Bird opens Exeter site, first outside London: Absurd Bird, the Southern US-inspired chicken restaurant brand from Splendid Restaurants, part of the Splendid Hospitality Group, has opened a site in Exeter, its first outside London. The restaurant is in the new £12m dining quarter at the revamped Guildhall Shopping Centre. Absurd Bird joins Lebanese restaurant Comptoir Libanais, Caribbean restaurant Turtle Bay, artisan pizza and cider brand The Stable, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Artigiano’s craft beer brand The Terrace, barbecue restaurant Grillstock and Faucet Innsʼ Scandinavian-inspired restaurant and cafe concept Kupp. Group operations director Mark Hall said: “We were very keen to bring Absurd outside of London, where we think there is an opportunity in the market for our brand. Exeter was always a city on our radar, with a vibrant heart to the city centre and a great demographic to enjoy our offer.” Absurd Birdʼs London sites are in Spitalfields and Soho. Splendid Restaurants is targeting a further ten Absurd Bird openings during the next five years.


Wagamama to open Ipswich site next month: Wagamama will open a site in Ipswich next month. The company is opening the 130-seat venue in the Buttermarket Shopping Centre on Monday, 10 October, creating 65 jobs. It has agreed to occupy a 3,250 square foot unit on a 25-year lease in the newly redeveloped complex. Wagamama global brand director Simon Cope told Insider Media: “We are very pleased to be opening the doors to our new restaurant in Ipswich this October, where Wagamama will continue to reinforce positive eating by using fresh ingredients, served in atmospheric surroundings. It’s an exciting time for us and we look forward to hearing what our new and valued customers in Ipswich make of our arrival.” Earlier this month, Wagamama reported like-for-like sales rose by 9.8% in the 16 weeks to 14 August.


Nespresso and Pret A Manger sign for Leeds development: Nespresso and Pret A Manger have both agreed deals to open at the new Victoria Gate development in Leeds. Nespresso is taking a 311 square metre unit, while Pret has signed for a 124 square metre site at the complex being developed by Hammerson. The Nespresso boutique will offer the company’s range of machines, capsules and coffee accessories and also feature a tasting bar. Hammerson director of retail development Robin Dobson said: “Nespresso and Pret are both welcome additions to the vibrant mix of tenants already secured at Victoria Gate and will play a key part in attracting shoppers from across the region to the north’s new premium retail, dining and leisure destination.” Victoria Gate is due to open on Thursday, 20 October.




Nando’s agrees deal to open site in new Worthing restaurant hub: Nando’s has agreed a deal to open a restaurant in Worthing, West Sussex. The company has signed for a site in the new restaurant hub set to be developed at the Montague Centre. A spokesman told Juice Brighton: “We’re delighted to be opening a new restaurant in Worthing at the end of 2017. Worthing has been on Nando’s radar for a very long time and we’re looking forward to hosting and feeding locals with peri peri goodness!” Nando’s will be joined by Patisserie Valerie, the company that has sector investor Luke Johnson as executive chairman, which has already agreed a site. Plans by NewRiver Retail to convert nine retail units at the centre for use by food and drink businesses were approved in June.




Sticky Walnut owner to open third site next month, in Didsbury: The owner of Chester restaurant Sticky Walnut and sister site Burnt Truffle in Heswall will open his third site next month. Gary Usher is launching bistro Hispi on Friday, 7 October in the Manchester suburb of Didsbury having raised £60,000 earlier this year on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter for the venture. The 85-cover venue is opening in School Lane on the former site of the Jem & I restaurant. Usher initially planned to open a bistro in nearby Chorlton but when his preferred site fell through settled on Didsbury instead, sparking controversy among some Kickstarter backers. He subsequently offered to reimburse those unhappy with the change in location. Usher told Insider Media: “Our bistros are about offering people the freedom to eat really great food on their doorstep. The world is filled with exceptional but often pretentious restaurants where you feel you need to put on a tie to eat well. You can walk into Hispi knowing you will get good, inspired food in a relaxed atmosphere at a really amazing price.”


Leela Palaces to launch first Jamavar restaurant outside India, in Mayfair: Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts will launch its first site for signature restaurant Jamavar outside India, in London in November. The new venue will open in Mount Street, Mayfair, and be the groupʼs sixth Jamavar restaurant in total. The kitchen at Jamavar London will be headed by executive chef Rohit Ghai, who has led several Michelin-starred kitchens, including Gymkhana, Trishna and Benares. While Jamavar London will reflect the essence of its Indian siblings, Ghai and his team will ensure the concept is adapted to suit London diners, with smaller sharing plates an exclusive addition alongside signature dishes such as lobster neeruli, sindhi gosht and coconut payasam. The restaurant will be set across two floors, with the decor designed by Fabled Studio and taking inspiration from the Viceroy’s house in New Delhi. Jamavar is named after the 16th century shawls of Kashmir, and Chaturanga dining tables will be combined with vibrant colours, rainforest emperador marble, dark timber panelling, and a mirror-embellished bar. There will also be a private dining room for eight, with a personal wine vitrine and views of a private garden.


Greene King gets go-ahead for £3m Farmhouse Inns site near Bolton: Greene King has been given the go-ahead for a £3m Farmhouse Inns site in Over Hulton, near Bolton. The company has been granted permission by Bolton Council to build the pub restaurant on the site of the Logistics North business hub, creating up to 80 jobs. The building will be in the northernmost area of the employment park, to the immediate west of the roundabout that provides access to the site from Junction 4 of the M61. It will open from 7am until 1am and have 105 parking spaces. A Greene King spokesman told the Bolton News: “Farmhouse Inns offer a safe environment and a welcoming culture for the enjoyment of all their customers and the benefit of the surrounding community. The restaurant will be a facility for employees and users of Logistics North and for residents of nearby communities.” Greene King currently has 40 Farmhouse Inns sites in the UK. It is an evolution of the 12-strong Cloverleaf carvery business Greene King acquired in 2011 for £55.8m. The company said in December it expected to expand the brand to between 55 and 75 sites.


Contemporary tea brand Tiosk launches £120,000 crowdfunding campaign: Contemporary tea brand Tiosk has launched a £120,000 fund-raise on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. The company, founded by Natasha Kelly and Nicola Simpson, is offering a 10.71% equity stake in return for the investment. It opened its first tea bar and store in Hackney, east London, in 2014 and is looking to open further concept stores and “pocket shops” in the form of kiosk-style takeaway tea bars. The pitch states: “The heart of the business across all platforms is premium loose leaf tea, with tea-ware and associated lifestyle product being the secondary growth driver. Our tea bars will also serve ready-to-drink tea, tea-based drinks and a concise selection of complementary food and alternative beverages. We project that in the next 12 months our turnover will grow to £548,000. Driving this growth will be the launch of e-commerce, roll-out of wholesale and consolidation of our retail performance. Funds raised this round will be used for development of our new dry tea packaging, launch of e-commerce, research and development of new product concepts and remodelling of our flagship store to house our packaged dry tea and tea ware. There have been a number of high-profile acquisitions in this sector in recent years. Starbucks acquired family-owned tea shop chain Teavana in November 2013 for $640m. In the same year, Unilever acquired family-owned Australian tea brand T2 for approximately $60m. We believe that by 2020, with a national retail and wholesale footprint, supported by a strong e-commerce business, Tiosk will represent an attractive acquisition prospect.”


Unity Bar Co to launch nightclub in Dunstable: Unity Bar Co will open a nightclub in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, at the end of November. The company has taken the lease of a vacant premises that used to house After Dark nightclub in the town centre. Unity Bar Co owner Steve Elliott told Dunstable Today: “We are completely refurbishing it. We have a budget of £125,000 and aim to open at the end of November. It is a big unit and has three bars, we will make use of all the bars and one will be a cocktail and wine bar. We will host live music and different events at the club throughout the year.” Cllr Liz Jones added: “It is great to see yet another closed premises getting a facelift and reopening for business in our town. The night-time economy plays an important part in our community and I welcome Unity Bar Co to Dunstable.”


Former RAF engineer turns Papa John’s franchisee at new Dundee site: Former RAF engineer Sam Foster has opened a Papa John’s franchise in Dundee, on the east side of Scotland’s fourth-largest city. His move followed a cycling accident, which led him to decide on a career change. Foster said: “Papa John’s is a happy accident. I spent nine years in the air force and five years as an engineer on an offshore drilling rig. However, it was a serious crash on my mountain bike that caused me to re-evaluate my future. I hit a tree and was hospitalised for two weeks and needed several months at home to recover. With a young family to provide for, I needed a fresh start, which is what Papa John’s offered. My father used to run a rival brand pizza shop some years ago. With Papa John’s back-up and training plus help from my staff, I can’t wait to deliver some top-quality pizza to hungry Dundee residents!” Papa John’s was founded in the US in 1984 and has more than 4,800 stores in 40 international markets and territories, including 300-plus in the UK.


Colchester-based Italian restaurant Il Padrino to start expansion – with second site in same road: Thriving Italian restaurant business Il Padrino is to expand by opening a neighbouring pizzeria. The restaurant, run by Fausto Mazza in Church Street, Colchester, will open a new venue in the former Old Court coffee house in November. The Old Court, two doors along from Il Padrino, closed three weeks ago. Mazza said the new restaurant would be called Il Padrino Italian Pizzeria and have its own pizza chef, kitchen chef and front of house staff. A wood-fired oven from Italy will be installed brick by brick and is due to arrive in mid-October. The pizzeria will also offer a takeaway service. Mazza told the Daily Gazette: “There is a need for this in the town, it is simple. There is nothing authentic in Colchester. It is almost next door so I can control it from where I am.” Mazza opened Il Padrino in 2013 with a focus on pasta and meat dishes.


Leasehold of former Marco Pierre White pub in East Sussex goes on market: The leasehold of a former Marco Pierre White pub in East Sussex has gone on the market. The Rainbow Inn, which is on the A275 in the village of Cooksbridge, north of Lewes, was sold by Pierre White to the current owners in 2014. Offers of £99,950 for the leasehold interest with an annual rent of £50,000 are being sought through agent Christie & Co. The restaurant is split into two large sections, one catering for 70 covers in a room with an open fire. Another part of the restaurant opens via patio doors to a large walled garden with seating for 150 covers. James Hughes, business agent at Christie & Coʼs Maidstone office, who is handling the sale, said: “The Rainbow Inn possesses a lot of character and is ideally located for passing trade as well as local custom. East Sussex is increasingly becoming a favourable destination among potential suitors to run a pub so we expect a lot of interest in the business. The Rainbow Inn would be ideal for someone wishing to take over a successful operation, whether they are experienced or a first-time buyer, with room to develop it further and for them to make it their own.”


New bar and nightclub concept to open in Nottingham: A new bar and nightclub concept is opening in Nottingham on Saturday (1 October). Pom Pom is launching at The Cornerhouse in Burton Street following a £750,000 transformation of the former site of The Forum. The venue will have two rooms that fuse an Eastern influence with bright neon signs, flamboyant urban art and all the eccentricities of an inner-city street party. Rory Murphy, marketing manager at Pom Pom, said that with many nightclubs closing down across the UK, the opening of a new venue in the city was testament to Nottingham’s thriving late-night economy. He added: “We want Pom Pom to be a fun and casual place to enjoy a cocktail early doors on a Saturday night and then somewhere for clubbers to party until the early hours. We would encourage all of Nottingham’s party-goers, whatever their age, to come on down, keep your mind open and breathe in this unique nightlife experience.” Pom Pom will be open on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays from 10.30pm to 3am and Saturdays between 8pm and 3am.


Loughborough-based Tex-Mex concept starts expansion with second site in town, owner eyes city location for further growth: Loughborough-based Tex-Mex concept Plan Burrito has started expansion with a second site in the Leicestershire town, with its owner eyeing a city location for further growth. Stephen Hopper, who launched the concept in Ashby Road, has opened the new venue in Baxter Gate on the former site of milkshake bar Half Bake and Shake. He told the Loughborough Echo: “We plan on keeping the Ashby Road bar for students as it is more out of town. This location gives us more contact with people in the town, workers and cinema-goers. I am really happy on how it has turned out.” Hopper added he has plans to expand Plan Burrito to a city location by the start of next year.


New sustainable distillery to launch in Kent creating spirits from native crops and surplus produce: A new sustainable distillery will launch in Kent next week creating fine spirits from native Wealden crops and surplus produce. Greensand Ridge Distillery aims to use crops such as cobnuts and the surplus produce supermarkets reject to make a range of premium alcoholic drinks. Its first bottling will be of a London dry gin, which includes eight botanicals that grow within a mile of the distillery, including cobnuts, gorse flowers and oak moss. It will also release a limited edition of the UKʼs only raspberry eau-de-vie, made from surplus berries grown by local farmer Giles Cannon. The distillery at Shipbourne, near Sevenoaks, is powered by 100% renewable electricity and has a zero target for chemical use and non-recyclable waste. Gin-lovers can also visit the distillery and create their own bottle of gin to take away. The business is the brainchild of Sevenoaks-born entrepreneur Will Edge. He said: “After so many years of practising my craft on a small scale, it will be an emotional day for me when I can bring these ideas to drinks enthusiasts in premium, locally inspired products, and do so in a sustainable way.”


Japanese gyoza pop-up Eatchu opens permanent site in Bristol: Japanese gyoza pop-up Eatchu has opened a permanent site in Bristol. The new venue at St Nicholas Market features a food stall outside as well as a sit-down area. Eatchu is the brainchild of Guy and Vic Siddall, who developed a passion for Japanese street food while travelling around the country. Their gyoza are cooked using the traditional fry-steam-fry method, and are served with a selection of homemade sauces, oils and toppings, including Tonkatsu sauce, spicy miso mustard mayo, and seaweed furikake. Gyoza fillings include pork and garlic chive; chicken and nori butter; and spinach with tofu, the Bristol Post reports. Prices start from £5 for a box of six gyoza. Additional rice and pickles are £1.50, with two toppings free.




New Mexican street food restaurant concept to open in Norwich next week: A new Mexican street food restaurant concept is to open in Norwich next week. Rowan Baker and Lizzie Cater are launching Jive Kitchen & Bar in Exchange Street on the former site of Le Bistro. Inspired by Baker and Cater’s recent trip to Mexico, the menu will feature a range of street food dishes including pork belly carnitas tacos, chipotle hot wings and beef barbecoa burritos as well as churros with butterscotch sauce. Baker told the Eastern Daily Press: “I’ve always known this was something I wanted to do, but it wasn’t until I actually visited Mexico that it became real for me. When Lizzie and I got home from our trip, we went back to work but decided to try and see whether we could actually make the restaurant happen so started holding pop-ups at various events in the city. The food went down really well and we managed to secure a great space for Jive. The rest, as they say, is history.”




Putney-based Italian restaurant starts expansion with second site: Putney-based Italian restaurant Zagarone has started expansion by opening a second site in the south west London district. It has opened the new restaurant and aperitivo bar in Putney Bridge Road on the former site of the Glass Dome steakhouse, reports Putney SW15. The restaurant offers “cicchetti”-style food – small snacks similar to Spanish tapas that originate from the area around Venice and consist of small servings of meat, fish or vegetables on a bed of polenta. Zagaroneʼs other restaurant is in Upper Richmond Road.


New tapas and bar concept Comida to launch in Birmingham next week: New tapas and bar concept Comida @21 will launch in Edgbaston, Birmingham, on Thursday, 6 October. The new venue in Highfield Road, on the site of former Scandinavian restaurant Norkskje, will feature a 70-cover, first-floor restaurant and bar, with a deli, a second bar offering small plates and snacks, and an open plan kitchen downstairs. There will be 20 covers downstairs, including in the courtyard. As well as traditional tapas, there will also be British influences on the menu, such as beef and truffle pie. Beers will be from local brewer Purity. The menu will also have a large focus on vegetarian food. Owner and head chef Stewart West told the Birmingham Mail: “It’s important to me to use the freshest quality ingredients possible and not make anything that feels too rich. There are lots of creative ways to create vegetarian dishes.”




New bistro concept to open in Haverhill: A new bistro concept is set to open on the site of a former Greene Ling pub in Haverhill, Suffolk. Brothers Daniel and Robin Pilley are launching the Nine Jars Bistro on Saturday, 15 October after transforming the Bell pub, which Greene King shut in 2013. The original public bar area has been converted into a new bistro, with dining area, cocktail lounge and heated outside seating. The bistro will serve wraps, sandwiches and cakes alongside a small plates menu of tapas-style dishes consisting of meats, seafood and vegetarian choices as well as a range of sharing boards and antipasti. There will also be cocktails, hand-picked wines and beers. James Pilley told the Haverhill Echo: “We’re very excited about bringing a new style of wining, dining and socialising to Haverhill. A lot of thought has gone into the workings and design of Nine Jars and we are confident people are going to enjoy the new bistro experience and with their help we will make a success of this new venture.”




The Great Escape game centre to start expansion with Leeds city centre launch: The Great Escape, a live escape game centre launched in Sheffield, will start expansion when it opens a new venue in Leeds city centre on Saturday (1 October). Founded in 2015 by Hannah Duraid and business partner Peter Lacole, The Great Escape involves a group of people tackling a physical adventure game, where they are “locked” in a room and have to find clues and solve puzzles to escape within a set time. The business attracted 27,000 visitors in its first year. The Leeds venue is a 6,000 square foot former office space in King Street. An initial 16 jobs have been created, but this will rise to 40 as more rooms are added, with the company aiming to attract 50,000 visitors a year. The building will house three games – King Arthur’s Secret, a “fun-filled journey back in time”; Underworld, a “fast-paced action thriller”; and The Devil’s Playground, a “truly chilling game for those who dare”. Duraid told BDaily: “These games take the puzzle room concept to a Hollywood level. Having studied games all over the UK, we believe we have created one of the most technologically advanced escape games in the country.”


New vintage tearoom concept to open in Lincoln next month: A new vintage tearoom concept is to open in Lincoln next month. Ruth Darnell and Phil Cooke, who have hosted pop-up restaurants around the city and have ten years’ experience in the industry, are launching the venture in the Bailgate Assembly Rooms on Wednesday, 12 October. Having hosted a pop-up charity tearoom at the Assembly Rooms in July, Darnell decided to see about making the venture permanent at the venue. She told the Lincolnshire Echo: “At the time we were looking into getting funding for a restaurant, so we changed the business plan for a tearoom instead, and thatʼs how it all came about. It’s going to be vintage, so early 1900s. It is very fashionable, the vintage style, and I have very specific ideas about what I want for the tearoom. The emphasis is going to on homemade food because of my pastry background. Myself and Phil, a full-time chef, have been in the catering industry for about ten years each, moving around and working in hotels and bistros.”


Simon French – Merlin Entertainments’ balance sheet remains strong but there is little dividend support: Cenkos Securities leisure analyst Simon French has said Merlin Entertainments’ balance sheet remains strong but there is little dividend support. Issuing a Hold note on the shares with a target price of 480p, French said: “Merlin Entertainments has released a disappointing trading update with particularly weak trading in Midway Attractions with like-for-like sales down 0.4% year to date (26 weeks: -0.2%) driven by volatility across a number of key markets including Shanghai and London, although an increase in domestic visitors in August arrested the decline at the latter. The group now anticipates Ebitda margins of mid-30s over 2016-17E in this division from current expectations of high 30s. Legoland parks performed relatively well against tough comparables with like-for-like sales up 2.2% year to date (26 weeks: 3.3%) with Florida impacted by the Zika virus and terrorism. Resort theme parks has turned positive as it laps the easier Alton Towers impacted comparables with like-for-likes up 3.0% (first half: -10.2%) although absolute visitor volumes still remain some way below 2014 levels at Alton Towers. The group remains on track to reach its 2020 milestones in its Midway division and has launched a pilot of an internally developed brand, Little Big City, as part of this process. However. we expect that consensus forecasts will fall primarily reflecting the particularly weak performance in Midway. The stock is not priced for disappointment trading on a 2017E price-to-earnings ratio of 19.4 times and an EV/Ebitda of 10.6 times. The groupʼs balance sheet remains strong but there is little dividend support with a yield of 1.8%, Hold.”