A ‘sky bar’ will feature in a new £8m Chester dining quarter featuring four restaurants opening in time for summer.
Invited guests were this week given a tour of the building site in Pepper Street to view progress in creating more than 25,000 sq ft dining space at former retail premises, with plenty of outdoor seating including a roof top terrace or ‘sky bar’ at what will be Las Iguanas, offering South American cuisine.
Looking at the frontage left to right, will be Las Iguanas, within a three-storey scheme, next door will be two-storey The Restaurant Bar and Grill, followed by ground floor only Coast to Coast, an American-themed bar and restaurant and, finally, two-storey Mexican restaurant Chimichanga.
The timing of the photo opportunity by co-owners Bride Hall and The Carlyle Group was awkward as it came just days after it was revealed the companies have put their neighbouring Grosvenor Shopping Centre on the market for £67m.
And Roger Gorham, director of Bride Hall, told The Chronicle the dining quarter will be handed over to undisclosed new owners on completion by Middlewich-based builders Pochin’s Ltd.
Speaking at a lunchtime presentation after the site tour, Mr Gorham informed the audience, which included Cheshire West and Chester Council leader Mike Jones: “I’m really excited how we are hoping to change this really important area of Chester.
“You can see by removing the frontage of what was the Habitat space, the creation of individual buildings means you get much better sight lines of the chapel. And the whole site is in clear view of the walls.”
Emphasising the use of quality materials and enhanced lighting, he added: “We have already seen the existing restaurants in this area and by introducing four more high quality restaurants we really believe we can create a new restaurant hub for the city which will drive the economy, particularly the evening economy.”
Cllr Stuart Parker, portfolio holder for culture and economy at CWaC, said: “I’m delighted to attend this ‘topping out’ ceremony to celebrate another milestone for Roger and Bride Hall in their continuing investment in to Chester and the Grosvenor Shopping Centre.”
“Chester is definitely on the up again,” added Cllr Parker, who cited plans for the £300m-plus plans for the Northgate Development and the under-construction central business district near the railway station.
Stephen Wundke, of the Restaurant Association of Cheshire, said: “We happen to have around 100 members in our restaurant association and they view competition as healthy. What it does is raises the bar and keeps the pressure on.”
He said Chester was gaining a great reputation for cuisine with the likes of Sticky Walnut in Hoole and more recently The Chef’s Table in the city centre.
The arrival of Las Iguanas and Chimichanga was part of the Tex-Mex revolution sweeping the UK but with no rival offer in Chester at the moment.
The former city restaurateur, who ran Paparazzi and the Groves Bistro & Bar, advised the new operators: “We’re a nosy bunch in Chester and if a place opens we’ll go there and for six weeks everybody has a honeymoon period.
“If you’re good, we’ll tell loads of people about it, the converse also applies. So it needs to be a good product, you’ve got to work hard, don’t open until you’re ready and when you do open, no excuses, make it good and I’m sure these operators have opened lots of places across the UK, we know that.”
The sale of Grosvenor Shopping Centre appears strange in a local context because the owners, US-based global asset management firm Carlyle Group and London-based Bride Hall Estates, recently invested in a £5m-plus conversion to bring TK Maxx and Sports Direct into the centre this spring, but The Chronicle understands it is a corporate decision and ‘nothing to do with Chester’.