Banana Tree founder launches WonderBunz concept in Hammersmith: William Chow, founder and chief executive of eight-strong south east Asian restaurant group Banana Tree, has launched new concept WonderBunz in Hammersmith Broadway shopping centre. The new restaurant features steamed Asian buns with Western-fusion flavours offered via self-service kiosks. As well as buns, which include fillings such as BBQ “wonder” chicken, veggie curry and the full English, the venue also offers flaky pies, rice boxes, breakfast pots, salad boxes and soup noodle pots. WonderBunz also offers three versions of its “buttery pretzels”, with pineapple and cranberry, aromatic “kaya” custard, and coco peanut butter fillings, with a choice of two toppings – cream and salted caramel or cream and Nutella sauce. WonderBunz operates a “more is less” policy, with every additional purchase at a discounted price. The company’s website states: “At WonderBunz we are passionate about, yep you guessed it, bunz. Our master chef works extremely hard to ensure each steamed bun is a perfectly crafted little parcel of joy, so whether it’s a fresh breakfast, hearty lunch or a fun snack you’re after, there’s a bun for everyone!”

Seafood Pub Company buys first Yorkshire site: The Seafood Pub Company, the country inn, restaurant and pub group, has bought The Red Lion pub in Harrogate – its first property in Yorkshire. As part of the deal, the pub in South Stainley, North Yorkshire, is set to undergo a £1.5m development programme and will reopen under a new name in the summer. Acquired on a freehold basis, the venue will relaunch as a pub, restaurant and function space with 260 covers and modern guest bedrooms. The Seafood Pub Company, which is backed by Penta Capital, currently has ten sites across Lancashire. The new Yorkshire site, acquired through agents Christie & Co, is part of a continued growth strategy that is expected to deliver further acquisitions during the next 12 months. Since its inception in 2010, the company has grown significantly and now employs more than 280 staff and has a turnover exceeding £11m. Seafood Pub Company managing director Joycelyn Neve said: “We’ve been looking at crossing over the border into Yorkshire for some time and, as a striking and well-located site, it was exactly the sort of property we were looking for. We are incredibly pleased to be able to take our award-winning food to Yorkshire and we’re looking forward to becoming part of the local community and to make sure we are delivering menus and service fitting of the area and its people.”

Loungers closes Bristol site: Loungers, the Lion Capital-backed cafe bar operator, has closed one of its Bristol sites. Deco Lounge opened in Cotham Hill in 2005 but has closed suddenly. Loungers was founded in Bristol by friends David Reid, Alex Reilley and Jake Bishop, who opened the first site in the city in 2002. Reilley told the Bristol Post: “We’re nearing the end of the lease of the site and, as a space, it no longer feels that relevant for us. It’s half the size of the minimum amount of space we’d look for in a new site. It’s a real shame as we had to fight really hard to open Deco in 2005 and we’ve had a great 12 years – but it’s the right time to close. Cotham Hill has got an increasingly exciting independent restaurant scene and it would be nice to see Deco replaced by one of the new emerging independents. I’m happy to say we have no plans to close any other sites and, if anything, we’re likely to add one or two more sites in Bristol in the coming years.” The company, which also operates the Cosy Club brand, has five other Loungers sites in Bristol. It intends to open a minimum of 20 sites in 2017 and will reach the milestone of 100 venues by the end of April. In 2015, Reilley stressed the importance of the company’s West Country origins. He said: “We’ve been able to maintain a real West Country-ness about what we do. We’ll get people in Lincolnshire moan about why our products aren’t from Lincolnshire, but the West Country is at the heart of what we do.”

Escape game brand Tick Tock Unlock to launch new adventure concept in Leeds: Escape game brand Tick Tock Unlock is set to launch a new adventure concept at Trinity Leeds shopping centre. The “UK first” will open in April and be Tick Tock Unlock’s third site in Leeds – and sixth in total. Husband-and-wife team Ali Khan and Samrien Hussain founded the Leeds-based business in 2014, with the company’s other sites in Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow. Hussain said: “We’re keeping tight-lipped about our latest adventure for Leeds but you can be assured it will be the first of its kind in the city – and a first for the UK. Leeds has never seen anything like this before, and we can’t wait to share it with everyone.” Trinity Leeds marketing manager Dan Wharton added: “We’re so excited for Tick Tock Unlock to join the line-up here, providing an unmissable experience for visitors. We’re sure people will travel from far and wide to come to Trinity Leeds and try out this thrilling new concept.”

Nobu to launch its first European hotel, in Shoreditch: Nobu is set to open its first European hotel, in Shoreditch, which will also feature the brand’s third London restaurant. The 240-cover restaurant will offer a “series of innovative culinary experiences, specially created for Nobu Shoreditch”. When the restaurant is full, customers will be able to order food in the lobby bar, meeting spaces and via 24-hour, in-room dining, Hot Dinners reports. The menu from chef Nobu Matsuhisa, executive chef Greg Seregi and head sushi chef Teruya Noriyoshi will feature Japanese, Peruvian and other South American elements, including Nobu classics such as black cod miso and yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno. A grand staircase will lead up to the restaurant, while there will also be an 80-capacity four-level terrace, which will be available for hire, as well as a semi-private dining space for 18 overlooking the custom-built, open kitchen. The restaurant will have its own bar offering vintage sakes, limited edition Japanese whiskies and rare champagne. The hotel in Willow Street will feature 243 rooms and seven suites, each with a balcony overlooking the courtyard and pocket garden.

Daniel Thwaites’ £6m Beverley coaching inn plans hit by delay: North west brewer and retailer Daniel Thwaites has been hit by a delay to its £6m plans to convert a former hotel in Beverley into a coaching inn. The Beverley Arms hotel in North Bar Within was set to reopen in August after closing a year ago. However, the brewer cannot start work on the iconic building until access for construction and demolition trucks can be agreed at the rear of the property, which nestles amid the Yorkshire market town’s historic, narrow streets. Daniel Thwaites acquisition manager Paul Dale told the Hull Daily Mail: “One of the most anticipated parts of our redevelopment of The Beverley Arms is the demolition of the eyesore block at the rear of the building. We need to get specialist demolition rigs to and from the site to carry out that work and this means we need to vary part of the planning condition. We have some fantastic plans that will see The Beverley Arms refurbished to an exceptional standard. We are now keen to get started on-site so we can reopen in spring 2018 and bring footfall back to this important area of the town.” The conversion will see the hotel turned into one of Daniel Thwaites’ Inns Of Character, with 38 bedrooms and a restaurant and bar. The opening will create 60 jobs. The Beverley Arms has been shut since February 2016 after it was put into administration.

Village East team launches Rail House sister site in Nova Victoria: The team behind The Riding House Cafe in Fitzrovia has opened a sister site at the new Nova development near Victoria station. The company, which also operates Village East in Bermondsey, has opened the 330-cover Rail House Cafe, which is considerably larger than its sister site and also features an outdoor area seating 90. The all-day brasserie offers food and drinks on the ground floor, with another bar and private room on the floor above. The menu features “playful and innovative twists on contemporary favourites”, such as green tea waffles and the burgerdict (an eggs benedict-burger hybrid). The main focus is on healthy food for every day, incorporating raw dishes such as sea bass ceviche. For the soft launch this week, the venue is operating an “honesty policy”, which invites guests to pay for what they enjoyed at breakfast, lunch or dinner (drinks not included). A spokesman said: “Rail House Cafe is putting its trust into the hands of guests by asking them to pay for what they enjoyed. Love a dish, pay for it – if you didn’t, don’t.”

Panacea founder bids to open £3m fine dining restaurant in Manchester masonic lodge: Joe Akka, founder of Manchester cocktail bar and celebrity haunt Panacea, is planning to open a fine dining restaurant and bar – Fable – in the city’s Freemasons Hall. Shed architects has drawn up plans for the £3m redevelopment of part of the grade II-listed, neo-classical landmark. With a planned opening later this year, Fable will offer a pan-Asian menu focusing on mainland Japan, with Asian culture and fables at the heart of the interior design. The hall will be transformed into the main dining area, with dragons suspended from the vaulted ceiling. A central bar will sit on top of the terrazzo flooring, while perimeter bench seating will be used with “prayer cushions” and divider screens and a DJ booth at the pulpit stand, Insider Media reports. Akka said his intention is for the Fable brand to expand into major cities internationally, with London earmarked for a second site. The hall was bought in 2015 by Vision Investments One, with freemasons relocating to the third floor, leaving the basement, ground, first and second floors available to rent. The wider building, known as Manchester Hall, is set to house new restaurants, a bar, conference centre, 11 bedrooms and rooftop terrace bar.

St Austell Brewery launches chef scholarship: Cornwall-based St Austell Brewery has launched a chef scholarship, with ten apprentices signing up for the course. The budding chefs will receive tuition at the company’s Academy 1851 training centre as well as first-hand experience working with head chefs within the business. At the end of the 12-month scholarship, the apprentices will gain an industry-accredited qualification. The course is being delivered in partnership with HIT Training, the national apprenticeship provider to the hospitality industry. St Austell Brewery learning and development manager Richard Parkes said: “This is so much more than an apprenticeship and, through this training course, we hope to be able to set these students on the path to fantastic careers in the south west. We are looking to embed training and development opportunities throughout our business. Our head chefs recently undertook specialist leadership training so they have the skills to impart their knowledge and experience to those working beneath them as part of a structured in-house career programme.” Paul Mannering, of HIT Training, who is principal of the chef academy, added: “Few employers are offering this kind of opportunity and even fewer at the level St Austell is offering.” St Austell Brewery also plans to launch a full-scale chef academy at the Cat & Fiddle pub near Exeter.

Buzzworks Holdings to invest £500,000 in flagship site: Buzzworks Holdings is to invest £500,000 in the renovation of its flagship restaurant, Scotts of Troon, which is located in the Scottish town’s marina. Buzzworks Holdings managing director Kenny Blair said: “Scotts of Troon already has a strong reputation for being one of the best marina restaurants in the UK and this investment will allow us to enhance the fantastic experience we already offer visitors. A lot of planning has gone into the improvements being carried out and Buzzworks Holdings can’t wait to welcome new and returning guests to enjoy our upgraded venue. Coupled with the perfect harbour location, we are really offering visitors a world-class experience.”

Mosimann head chef Jerome Henry to open fine dining restaurant in Edinburgh: Jerome Henry, whose 20-year career includes seven years as head chef at Anton Mosimann’s private dining club in Belgravia and in the kitchen of Les Trois Garçons in Shoreditch, will open his own fine dining restaurant – Le Roi Fou – in Edinburgh. The 35-cover restaurant, a collaboration between Henry and creative director Isolde Nash, will open in March in the city’s New Town. Le Roi Fou, which means “the mad king” in French, will be a bijou fine dining restaurant offering modern European dishes influenced by Henry’s French roots. The venue will also feature a bar with an “Austrian modernist feel”, a 16-cover private dining space, and a salon decorated in red velvet and dark grey greens. Henry said: “At the centre of most dishes will be the best fresh Scottish produce prepared simply and elegantly, always ensuring natural flavours are the star of the show.” Nash added: “Le Roi Fou is a neighbourhood restaurant, which we hope will also have a sense of ‘home’ for people living and working nearby and in the arts. I always loved the European tradition of bars and restaurants where artists and writers hang out.”

Bath-based restaurateurs launch Italian tapas, wine and live music bar in the city: The team behind Ponte Vecchio restaurant in Bath has launched Italian tapas, wine and live music bar Piattino in the city. The new venue is in The Edgar Buildings in George Street at a site that formerly housed Sardinian restaurant Aio, which closed earlier this month. Piattino, Italian for “small plate”, is the brainchild of Dani Quaglietta, Andrea Lamanna and Carmine Manfredi. Quaglietta told the Bath Chronicle: “It’s a new concept. We have fish, king prawns, Italian cheese, meat and a large selection of wine, with live music almost every night. It will have a nice, buzzy atmosphere with a different style.” Quaglietta said the team plans to open an Italian deli – Pasta Station – further along George Street in March. Aio owner Mauro Matta blamed a rise in food and staff costs, rent and more competition since Aio opened in 2009 for the closure of his business. He added: “We will be back serving food and drink in another place. We don’t know where, but it is what we do.”

Oakman achieves top ten placing in Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For list: Oakman Inns & Restaurants has entered the ranks of the Sunday Times top ten Best Companies To Work For in the UK. While consistently achieving a top 50 ranking year on year – this year the company significantly won the Best Improver Award in the mid-sized category with its new overall top ten placement. Oakman Inns chief executive Peter Borg-Neal, who founded the business in 2007 with his first pub The Akeman in Tring, said: “I am incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved. To reach the top ten in The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For list is a credit to every one of our team.” Key commendations that contributed to its high ranking included Oakman employees appreciate their bosses’ openness and honesty (86%, fifth among mid-size companies); the company’s “Oakmanology” training scheme which, staff said is of great personal benefit, scoring 82% positive (fourth); employees finding their jobs good for personal growth (85%, eighth); managers regularly showing appreciation for good work (85%, third); caring about staff job satisfaction (82%); Oakfest, the company’s annual music festival where all Oakman sites close and pub teams organise their own nights out – employees have plenty of fun together (87%) and feel a sense of family (83%); and motivating teams to give their best every day (79%). Jill Scatchard, who has been head of HR at Oakman Inns for five years, said: “Much of this success is down to Oakmanology, our in-house training scheme which is delivered via an online software system specifically designed for and by Oakman. We started work on it almost four years ago and, since we released it just over a year ago, our staff have overwhelmingly claimed it to be of great personal benefit. Oakmanology involves everyone and its skill development modules are taken by everyone from the main board down. We want them to be passionate and proud about what they do, to really care about their attention to detail, and for their acquired knowledge and extraordinary skill sets to positively impact on our customers’ experience.”

Land Securities sells The Printworks development in Manchester for £108m: Land Securities has sold The Printworks in Manchester to DTZ Investors for £108m. Redeveloped and reopened in 2000, The Printworks is a leisure destination in Manchester city centre that covers 368,770 square feet over four floors. The site is anchored by the 20-screen Odeon cinema, which houses the only IMAX auditorium in Manchester. It is also home to a health club and 17 food and drink brands, including Nando’s, Wagamama, JD Wetherspoon, Tiger Tiger, Hard Rock Café, and Yates’s. The venue benefits from annual footfall of more than seven million people per year, linked to events at the nearby MEN Arena. The property generates a net annual income of £6.8m, with more than 99% of the income secured to national multiple covenants, Land Securities said. Polly Troughton, head of the leisure portfolio at Land Securities, told London South East: “We have created value at The Printworks through asset management, resulting in the lowest level of vacancy rates for a number of years. This sale crystallises the increased value the team has delivered.”

Art dealers begin multimillion-pound development of Scottish hotel under Highlands Hospitality banner: Influential art dealers Iwan and Manuela Wirth have started their multimillion-pound revamp of a 19th century Deeside hotel in a bid to turn it into one of Scotland’s leading resorts. The Swiss husband-and-wife team are stripping back the Fife Arms Hotel in Braemar to its Victorian roots and blending it with modern designs and artwork from high-profile contemporary artists. The “five-star experience” is set to open next year under the couple’s Highlands Hospitality banner, which also operates The Roth Bar & Grill in Somerset. The Wirths also run Hauser and Wirth, considered one of the globe’s most powerful art dealers, and own galleries and other properties in Zurich, New York, London and Los Angeles. The development will cut the number of rooms from 80 to 46 but add a spa, pub, cocktail bar, restaurant, banquet room and courtyard. There are also plans for a 40-seater cinema, while the opening will create 90 full-time jobs. General manager Frederica Bertolini told The Press and Journal: “Some of the artists who work with Mr Wirth will be commissioned to do works in the hotel. The strength of Scotland as a tourist destination is unquestionable. We know there is a lot more we can do to drive people to the north east.”

MasterChef winner to open debut restaurant this month: MasterChef winner Steven Edwards has announced the opening date of his debut restaurant. Etch will open on Friday, 24 March in Church Road in Brighton and Hove. He said: “The opening of Etch is a very proud moment for me. I have found the perfect location in Brighton – the local produce available here is outstanding and I’ve loved getting to know the suppliers. There is already a fantastic food and drink offering in Brighton so I can’t wait to open the doors and share Etch with the public.”

Nando’s to open Altrincham site: Nando’s is set to open a restaurant in Altrincham, Greater Manchester. The 2,315 square foot venue will open on the corner of Cross Street and Stamford New Road at a former McDonald’s site. The launch date has yet to be announced but the company is currently advertising for staff at the new venue. The site, which housed McDonald’s for 23 years before its closure in 2007, has been undergoing a major renovation since October. Lunar, the site’s owners, have also made a significant investment in its refurbishment, with a 20-week programme of improvements to be completed this month. Nando’s operates 13 restaurants in the Greater Manchester area, with its Trafford Centre restaurant the closest to Altrincham. In December, Nando’s reported turnover rose to £809m in the year ending 28 February 2016, up from £587m the year before, driven by its newly acquired overseas companies and organic growth in the UK and Ireland. Pre-tax profit dropped to £21.3m, compared with £44.6m the year before. The company opened 50 restaurants in the year. Nando’s operates more than 1,000 restaurants across the globe, with almost 300 in the UK and Ireland.