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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Mon 22nd May 2023 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Inception Group secures £6.7m to help support expansion plans: Inception Group, the hospitality group behind Mr Fogg’s Maggie’s, Bunga Bunga and Cahoots, has secured £6.7m to help support its expansion plans, Propel has learned. The loan has been provided by OakNorth as Inception Group looks to open new sites. Founded in 2009, the group currently operates 13 sites. OakNorth initially provided refinance and expansion facilities in January 2018, and further supported the group during the pandemic. Since the pandemic, Inception Group has opened three new sites – Battersea Power Station’s Control Room B, Mr Fogg’s Apothecary in Mayfair and Mr Fogg’s Pawnbrokers in Soho and is soon to open Mr Fogg’s Hat Tavern and Gin Club in Soho. The £6.7m capital from OakNorth will extend existing facilities the business has with the bank, as well as funding the opening of new sites. Charlie Gilkes, co-founder of Inception Group, said: “With OakNorth’s support, we’ve been able to open several new sites, including Control Room B at Battersea Power Station, which has exceeded our expectations in terms of performance. With this capital, we’ll be able to open additional sites and continue bringing our unique bars and restaurants to London’s residents and visitors.” Deepesh Thakrar, senior director of debt finance at OakNorth, added: “Charlie and Duncan [Stirling] are great examples of the extraordinary entrepreneurs we have in the UK. They have built a creative and unique business under six different brands – all of which continued to trade throughout the pandemic. Given the ongoing economic challenges, they have made realistic assumptions about the future performance of the business, making sure they don’t expand too quickly or too much. We’re delighted to once again be supporting them in their growth ambitions.”

Industry News:

Number of franchise operators set to join updated Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies: A number of franchise operators are among the 21 new multi-site companies being added to the next edition of the Propel Premium Database of Multi-Site Companies, which will be released on Friday (26 May), at midday. The updated Propel Multi-Site Database, which is produced in association with Virgate, features W Liddy and Co, which is a McDonald’s franchise in the north west of England, led by Bill Liddy, and operates seven sites. Also added this month is Tahir Group, the Starbucks and German Doner Kebab franchisee, owned by Fazan Tahir, and is the largest KFC operator in London, which now operates 41 restaurants across London and the Midlands. In addition, McDonald’s franchisee Lonetree, which is led by managing director Ronald Mounsey, and operates 15 stores in the South Wales region, will be featured. Meanwhile, Yorkshire McDonald’s franchisee Anne Wainwright, who operates eight restaurants with the chain, is included. Premium subscribers will also receive a 1,300-word report on the new additions to the database. The comprehensive database is updated monthly and provides company names, the people in charge, how many sites each firm operates, its trading name and its registered name at Companies House if different. The database now features 2,853 companies. Premium subscribers will also receive the next edition of the New Openings Database on Friday, 2 June, at midday. It focuses on newly announced openings and upcoming launches in the sector and is updated every month. The next edition also includes a 5,000-word report on the new additions to the database. Premium subscribers also receive access to three other databases: the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book; the UK Food and Beverage Franchisor Database; and the Who’s Who of UK Food and Beverage. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Email jo.charity@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription. Premium subscribers are also to be given exclusive access to the recording and slides to Propel Multi-Club Conferences. Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel group editor Mark Wingett.

Fiennes – ‘don’t let DRS become political hot potato in rest of UK, Scotland valuable opportunity to test and learn’: Britvic commercial sustainability director Tom Fiennes has said the deposit return scheme (DRS) must not become a political hot potato in the rest of the UK, and its initial introduction in Scotland is a “valuable opportunity to test and learn”. The project was due to go live in Scotland in August but put back to March 2024 following uncertainty about whether it would get approval under the UK government’s Internal Market regime. The scheme will now go live in the Republic of Ireland first, in February 2024, swiftly followed by Scotland, and then England, Wales and Northern Ireland in October 2025. Operators and small businesses have also said it will place extra costs and burdens on them at a time when they are already struggling. Asked at the Britvic Soft Drink Review 2023 if the initial run in Scotland will help iron out issues before DRS hits the rest of the UK, Fiennes said: “I’m going to say yes, but that’s a vote of confidence in the need and the opportunity rather than in the politicians. When we talk about supporting a well-designed DRS programme, if it starts to become overly complicated and difficult to manage, then you go back to the complexity driving the cost and viability. There has to be greater collaboration, less political games and more action. There will be increased risks and costs, but Scotland is a valuable opportunity to test and learn.” Data shows since DRS schemes were introduced in other countries, it has led to 98% recycling rates in Germany, 96% in Finland and 93% in Denmark. The UK’s rate is currently around 63%, and the target for Scotland is 90% by year two. “The industry needs to overcome challenges like cost-of-living, politics and timings, but 70% of Scots are in favour of DRS and 86% said they will use it,” said Fiennes. “Culturally, it will change in the same way as plastic bags. There may be till shock at the beginning, but we expect that as with plastic bags, with time it will become a one-time cost which circles around. There’s a lot of nervousness out there, but many cultures have already embraced this, and there’s no reason why we can’t.”

Survey launches into experiences and challenges that women face in the workplace regarding their health and well-being: COREcruitment and Ten Health & Fitness are conducting a survey to gain insights into the experiences and challenges that women face in the workplace regarding their health and well-being. The purpose of the survey is to gather information about various aspects of women's health, including physical health, mental well-being, work-life balance, and support systems in the workplace. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “We want to understand the specific issues that women encounter and identify potential areas for improvement in order to create a healthier and more supportive work environment for all women. By sharing your experiences and insights, you will contribute to the advancement of women's health in the workplace and companies develop strategies and policies that can positively impact women's lives. Let's work together to create a healthier and more inclusive work environment for all women.” Take the survey here.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a luxury high-end operator in London that is looking for a general manager for a new opening. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “This role will see you leading on all operational departments, reporting into the chief operating officer – you will have financial control of the venue, develop, and nurture a people first culture, providing excellent training and excelling in the members experience of the operation. Everything needs to be grade A and you will develop the best team in the business to provide this. Alongside the usual background and strong experience in hospitality, with exposure to new openings and working with a high-net worth clientele, it will be essential for you to have worked in private members’ clubs and multi-faceted sites.” The salary is up to £150,000. For more information, email kate@corecruitment.com

Company News:

Fresh activist joins battle for change at TRG: The Restaurant Group is facing mounting pressure to break itself up after a new activist investor took a stake in the business and called for change. TMR Capital has in recent weeks presented TRG’s chairman Ken Hanna and chief executive Andy Hornby with proposals to sell-off all its brands bar Wagamama, reports the Sunday Telegraph. The British Virgin Islands-based investment company, which has bought a stake in TRG, has also argued the business can no longer survive as a public company. It adds to growing pressure on TRG, which also owns Brunning & Price, Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito. TMR is the fourth activist to take a position in the company’s shares and push for change. TMR then wants TRG to expand Wagamama before taking it private in a sale. Derek Vago, strategic advisor at TMR, said: “We want [TRG] to acknowledge that the future is not as a plc. It has to start with that... [and] that everything is non-core other than Wagamama.” It comes after activist investor Oasis called on TRG to sell off its Brunning & Price pubs and airport concessions business. Last week, fellow activist Coltrane, with a 3% stake, broke cover and urged management to be open to “all strategic options”. Another investor, Irenic, with 2.5%, is also calling for change. Other big investors in TRG have backed it in recent days. Royal London Asset Management, which owns 5%, said it was supportive of management. Columbia Threadneedle Investments, owner of a 19% stake, has also added its support to the management team. A TRG spokesperson said: “As you will have seen from our recent trading update, the market’s reaction and upgrades from the analysts, we will continue to let our numbers do the talking.” TRG’s annual general meeting takes place tomorrow (Tuesday, 23 May).

Cornish Bakery opens in Truro, focusing growth plans on Midlands: Growing independent chain The Cornish Bakery has opened a new shop in the Cornish capital of Truro but will be focusing its next growth phase on the Midlands. The new store, in Boscawen Street, is the company’s tenth in Cornwall and 45th overall. It has taken up the two units previously occupied by Vans and Accessorize and has 56 covers, as well as creating 14 jobs. Andrew Ward, the company’s area manager for Cornwall, said Cornish Bakery is always looking at expansion opportunities and the imminent focus for growth is in the Midlands, where the business, which employs more than 500 staff, is keen to invest. Sarah Hart, store manager at the new site, added the search for a site in Truro had taken a while. “We had been looking for a site in Cornwall’s capital city for some time and nearly found one near the cathedral, but it was not quite what we were after,” she told Cornwall Live. “Then this site came up and it’s perfect, it’s right bang in the middle and is where we wanted to be as a company. We knocked through between the two shops and created this big space.” In February, Cornish Bakery founder Steve Grocutt told Propel the brand’s expansion will focus on the high street, with plans to open 15-plus new shops a year. It comes after the business reported record profits and sales across tourist locations and strong recovery for its high street stores for the year ending 30 May 2022. It reported an Ebitda profit of £4.2m and a pre-tax profit of £3.1m. Cornish Bakery features in Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book. Its turnover of £20,892,358 in 2022 makes its the 274th highest in the database. The Blue Book ranks companies by turnover, profit and profit conversion, listing directors’ earnings for the past five years. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £995 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £495 plus VAT for operators and £595 plus VAT for suppliers. Email jo.charity@propelinfo.com to upgrade your subscription.

Shareholder revolt over McDonald’s ‘overuse’ of antibiotics in mass meat production: A shareholder revolt at McDonald's over its continued “overuse” of antibiotics in mass meat production is being led by Britain's biggest asset manager. Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM) will take McDonald’s to task at its annual meeting next week. LGIM has tabled a motion on the topic and will be urging McDonald’s to adopt World Health Organisation rules on the use of the drugs across its supply chain. LGIM, a top 20 shareholder in McDonald's, fears excessive use of antibiotics in industrial farming is fuelling antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and the rise of drug-resistant superbugs among humans. AMR is estimated to kill more than a million people each year and could cause £800bn of economic damage by 2050. “Without co-ordinated action now, AMR could lead to the next global health crisis,” Maria Ortino, senior manager at LGIM, told the Mail on Sunday. “Failure to adequately respond to AMR could lead to far greater risks – for our clients, society and the global economy – than any individual company costs McDonald's would incur by addressing this issue.” McDonald's is one of the biggest beef buyers in the world. In 2018 it pledged to reduce the amount of antibiotics in all beef sold in its 40,000 restaurants worldwide. But campaigners said the company failed to announce details of the reduction targets by the end of 2020, as it had promised. The motion is backed by Amundi, Europe's largest pension fund, and Hesta, an Australian “superfund”, which together manage assets of more than £2.8tn. McDonald's said it accepts AMR “is a critical global public health issue” which, with its suppliers, it has “a responsibility to help address”. But it argued it has “a strong track record of responsible antibiotic use”.

Cameron Ventures Group exceeds pre-pandemic levels of revenue and profit: Cameron Ventures Group, which owns and operates hotels in East Anglia, exceeded pre-pandemic levels of revenue and profit in the year ending 31 August 2022. Turnover more than doubled from £3,154,756 in 2021 to £6,568,046. It was also up on the £4,599,694 reported in the last full year before the pandemic, ending 31 August 2019. Pre-tax profit almost trebled from £417,008 in 2021 to £1,214,907 (2019: £31,596). The company received £253,194 in governments grants compared with £777,057 in 2021. Dividends of £120,000 were paid (2021: £40,000). At the year end, the group had net assets of £2,578,720 (2021: £1,775,204). Since the year end, the company has sold the Best Western Brome Grange Hotel, near Eye in Suffolk, for an undisclosed sum to Instol Group. The December sale leaves it with three Best Western hotels – in Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich and Stowmarket.

Israeli chef Eyal Shani opens upscale restaurant concept Lilienblum: Israeli chef Eyal Shani has added to his growing London portfolio with the opening of upscale restaurant Lilienblum in City Road, east London. Shani, who operates two restaurants in London under his Mediterranean-inspired street food concept Miznon, in Soho and Notting Hill, has named the restaurant after the street of one of his first restaurants in Tel Aviv. Propel reported last month that the business backing Shani, The Sabbath Company, plans to open ten restaurants in London with the chef, across five brands, over the next three years. Shani is also set to launch a restaurant under his Seven North concept at the new Sircle London hotel in Devonshire Square this autumn. At the same time, he is looking to open a site under his fine dining restaurant HaSalon concept in the capital this year and has been linked with the ex-Joy site in Portobello Dock.
 
Gunpowder co-founder to launch new disco-themed Indian restaurant next month: Harneet Baweja, the co-founder of home-style Indian kitchen concept Gunpowder, is to open his new disco-themed Indian restaurant Empire Empire in London’s Notting Hill next month. As previously reported, the 40-cover Empire Empire will open in All Saints Road and serve food rooted in the Punjab region on the Indian subcontinent. Launching on Thursday, 15 June, the venue will also blast “Bollywood bangers” from a custom-made jukebox. Baweja said he wanted to create a restaurant that celebrates the “golden age of Indian music”. He said: “When disco became big in India, my dad would put on his silk floral shirt and bell-bottoms and hit the town — often eating, drinking and dancing all under one roof. This is my personal inspiration for Empire Empire. We wanted to bring the golden age of Indian music, art and food together in one place, and hope this makes for a unique spot in Notting Hill.” At the end of last year, Gunpowder opened its first international site, in Lisbon, Portugal. The first Gunpowder restaurant opened in London’s Spitalfields in 2015, with a second site overlooking Tower Bridge launching in 2018, followed by a Soho site in September 2021. Jamie Harvie-Austin, of Austin Commercial, acted on the Notting Hill deal.
 
Creative Restaurant Group opens new ‘dining experience’ in London for fourth site: Creative Restaurant Group, which is behind Michelin-starred Endo at the Rotunda and sushi spot Sumi, has opened its fourth site in London, 20 Berkeley. The 120-seat, British produce-led restaurant and bar concept has launched at 20 Berkeley Street in Mayfair, offering an á la carte menu that changes with the seasons. The upper ground floor consists of a drawing room overlooked by a pantry, where 20 Berkeley’s produce is on display. There is also an orangery, a downstairs private dining room and a bar dedicated to cocktails. Executive chef Ben Orpwood, who previously held roles at Maison Estelle, Gordon Ramsay Group, Azumi Group and Caprice Holdings, heads up the kitchen. Alex D’Aguiar, managing director of Creative Restaurant Group, said: “When we had the opportunity to take on this particular site, we were excited as no hospitality venture has ever sat on 20 Berkeley Street previously. The space has the feeling of walking into a manor house, and it felt fitting that, given this restaurant will be a celebration of British produce, the atmosphere would capture the feeling of being in a home, and that the British Isles would serve as our back garden.”
 
London plant-based Indian concept opens fourth site: London plant-based Indian concept En Root has opened its fourth site in the capital. The business – which was started in 2016 by Nish Modasia, his cousin Harshil Modasia and friend Thomas Price – has just taken over the kitchen at The Railway Tavern in Tulse Hill. It comes following the brand’s launch at Brixton’s The Ritzy cinema in November and joins its other locations in Clapham and Peckham. The company grew from originally selling smoothies and energy balls outside Herne Hill station, after the trio took on a cafe in Herne Hill, which was self-funded after each partner put in £1,200 each. Rent increases led to the cafe closing after four months, but after building the business back as a food truck, travelling up and down the country to festivals and events, a new premises was secured in 2019, in Clapham’s Ascot Parade. A second venue, in Peckham Rye, followed in March 2022. Among the offering at the new site will be loaded fries topped with a jerk plantain mushroom mix and onion and tomato salsa; and a crispy oyster mushroom burger served with “rajannaise” and mango chutney, reports Hot Dinners.
 
Team behind Chiltern Firehouse and Allegra opens new King’s Cross restaurant: The team behind Marylebone luxury restaurant and hotel Chiltern Firehouse and Allegra at The Stratford hotel has opened its new restaurant in London’s King’s Cross. Restaurateur and hotelier Harry Handelsman, who is also behind Booking Office 1869 at St Pancras and the restored St Pancras Hotel, has opened The Midland Grand Dining Room in Euston Road, in collaboration with chef Patrick Powell, who will continue to oversee Allegra. Sitting alongside the restored restaurant is a stand-alone bar called Gothic Bar, offering cocktails and a bar food menu by Powell. There is also a 14-cover private dining room and an eight-person chef’s table experience. An expansive outdoor terrace will open this summer. The opening is the culmination of Handelsman’s decades-long regeneration of King’s Cross, which he spearheaded with the acquisition and redevelopment of St Pancras Chambers in 2002. The new restaurant is named after Midland Grand Hotel, the 19th century hotel that originally occupied the building. Powell spent four years as head chef at Chiltern Firehouse before being hand-picked by Handelsman to open Allegra. His regularly changing menu has French origins but with a particular focus on British fish and meat.
 
London nightclub The Cross opens debut restaurant: London nightclub The Cross has launched Wild, its debut restaurant. The 55-cover restaurant serves diners a carefully curated Mediterranean menu designed for sharing. Having built a reputation in the London dance music scene between 1993 and 2007, The Cross reopened after 15 years in its new guise in September 2022. Located on the first floor of the six-storey site, the restaurant serves a produce-led, seasonally changing menu from head chef Luis Diego Loria Ortega, previously of Brasserie Blanc Threadneedle Street and The Ivy St John’s Wood. Dishes include croquetas bravas filled with jamon Iberico and Monte Enebro goat’s cheese; grilled king prawns garnished with red chilli, garlic, parsley, anchovies and fresh lime; and roast hispi cabbage garnished with pomegranate, tahini, and hazelnut dukkah. The drinks menu features a full organic wine list as well as signature cocktails, which include the coconut margarita, pandan whisky sour and pecan pie old fashioned.
 
Scottish family baker set to open 18th bakery shop: Scottish family baker Harry Gow is set to open its 18th bakery shop in the country. The company, which also sell its produce in 34 Co-ops, two Morrisons and one Asda across the north of Scotland, will open its latest store in Grampian Road, Aviemore. “We are incredibly excited to be opening a Harry Gow bakery shop in Aviemore after fans demanded we make the move south,” managing director Davis Gow told The Herald. “As the first of our shops to be opened in the area, we’re looking forward to meeting new faces and getting to know more about the community. With this new shop, local fans of our delicious bakes will get to enjoy more of their favourite treats, including our famous dream rings, marzipan apples, pineapple tarts and a whole host of bread, pies and savoury goods.” David Gow is one of five siblings working for the company – with Jane and Sara both directors, Pamela in charge of customer relations and Fraser responsible for marketing, product development and technological improvements. They are the fifth generation of bakers in his family and all the children of founder Harry Gow, who set up the company as it is today in the 1970s. But its roots can be traced back even further to 1898, when Harry’s grandfather took over the bakery of William Milne & Sons in Inverness High Street to found Burnett Bros Bakers. In 2000, it baked a special piano-shaped cake as a gift for one of the performers at Madonna and Guy Ritchie’s wedding, believed to be Sting.
 
Bristol operators to open immersive Asian barbecue-inspired restaurant for fourth site: Bristol operators Adam Bryan and Zowie Yip are opening an immersive Asian barbecue-inspired restaurant in the city for their fourth site. Asian BBQ & Hotpot is set to launch in the former Double Barrel bar premises in St Nicholas Street, next to the duo’s bar and cafe, The Library. Diners at Asian BBQ & Hotpot will be able to grill marinated meat and vegetables at their table, as well as mix meat, seafood, vegetables and noodles in a simmering communal broth, reports Bristol 24/7. The Asian BBQ & Hotpot website states: “We’re not just a restaurant – we’re an experience. We love Asian barbecue and hotpot and we can’t wait to share our passion with you.” Bryan and Yip also operate steakhouse concept Mugshot and are working on transforming the former High Street entrance of the Rummer into the Mary Le Port Hotel, which will contain nine rooms.
 
South Shields hotel sold out of administration to Yorkshire operator: The Sea Hotel in South Shields has been sold out of administration to a business that owns several hotels across Yorkshire, as well as a pharmacy business. The Sea Road venue was put up for sale with a £1.65m price tag last year following the business’ collapse in the summer of 2022, after racking up debts of nearly £2m. Since then, the hotel, which had been owned by The One Collection Leisure, has been traded by administrators at RSM, who said losses of £117,000 are likely to have been incurred since their appointment. New owners Resource Medical (UK), which acquired the venue for an undisclosed sum, plans to continue running and invest in the 34-bedroom hotel, which includes a restaurant, bar and function room. RSM said a “small number” of redundancies among the hotel’s 95-strong team had been necessary to reduce costs, and a core team had been retained to keep it running as Colliers bought it to market. RSM was called in by lender Assetz Capital Trust in July 2022, and subsequent investigations found it had incurred losses of £123,000 in the first half of 2022, having also made a loss the year before. A report from last year shows the business owed nearly £2m at the time administrators were called in, including sums to Assetz, HM Revenue & Customs and suppliers. Lee Lockwood, partner at RSM UK and joint administrator, told Business Live: “It has been a complex nine months facilitating the sale of the Sea Hotel and I am pleased we have been able to agree a sale with the new owner, which has secured the majority of future bookings.”
 
London brioche sandwich concept secures first permanent site: London brioche sandwich concept Crunch has secured its first permanent site, at Spitalfields Market. Opening on Monday, 12 June, it will offer sandwiches such as the Truffle Patty Melt (truffle injected Angus beef patties, Red Leicester cheese, crispy onion marmalade and black truffle mayonnaise) and Donald’s Duck (slow-cooked Gressingham duck leg, mixed leaves, banana shallots, crispy onions and smoked apple sauce) alongside sides and drinks. It follows a successful pop-up last summer at the Prince Arthur Pub in Old Street, reports Hot Dinners. The group comprises former college friends Alexandre Yonan and Michael Medovnikov, and chef Joni Francisco, who trained under Alexis Gauthier at Gauthier Soho and Nuno Mendes at Chiltern Firehouse before becoming executive chef for the Experimental Group.
 
Taco Bell lodges plans for Oldbury restaurant: Mexican restaurant brand Taco Bell is set to open a site in Oldbury in the West Midlands. The company has lodged plans with Sandwell Council to open a 56-seater outlet in Oldbury Green Retail Park in the former Carphone Warehouse premises. It would be the first Taco Bell in the Black Country and create up to 30 jobs, reports the Express & Star. Taco Bell operates circa 120 restaurants in the UK.
 
North west operators partner for F&B offering at new Manchester ‘cultural space’: Two north west operators have partnered to lead the food and beverage offering at new Manchester “cultural space”, Farm International. Super Serve is a collaboration between Solitaire Restaurants, the team behind Ox Club in Leeds and Yes in Manchester, and Square One, which provides large-scale bar operations at events such as Highest Point Festival, Creamfields and Parklife. The new team will preview its offering during Manchester International Festival this summer ahead of a full roll-out when the venue officially opens in October, reports BDaily. The new venue, in Manchester’s Water Street, will host a year-round programme of music, performances and events. Super Serve managing director Stevie Mulgrave said: “With many of the team starting their hospitality careers right here in Manchester before going on to work with some of the best independent operators throughout the north west, it’s an honour now to be chosen as the food and beverage partner for Factory International.” Solitaire director of operations Gemma Hampton-Stone added: “We’ll be taking our inspiration from dining tables across Manchester, and we’re looking forward to presenting a seasonally changing menu that reflects the vibrancy the area has to offer.”
 
Pepe’s Piri Piri lodges plans for Stevenage site: Flame-grilled piri piri chicken brand Pepe’s Piri Piri is planning to open a new restaurant in Stevenage, Hertfordshire. The company, which operates circa 170 outlets in the UK, Pakistan and the UAE, has lodged plans with Stevenage Borough Council to open in Queensway, in the premises previously home to a PDSA charity shop. The restaurant would have 30 seats and open daily between 11am until 11pm, reports The Comet.
 
Birmingham operators open second site: Birmingham operators Zi Wen Boo and Jeremy Mun have opened a second site in the city. The duo, who own Malaysian Delight at 8 Ladywell Walk, have opened Thai Classic in Birmingham’s Chinese Quarter. The 30-cover restaurant, situated at the Latitude building in Bromsgrove Street, serves Thai dishes such as Tom Yam Goong soup, Gaeng Massaman curry, grilled crispy pork bao buns, fisherman soup with vermicelli, Pad Kra Paom and Pla Pad Kra Pao. Boo and Mun said they serve authentic fare at an “affordable price”, with head chef Phoomsri Rangsan’s bao buns priced from £5 a portion, while curries are from £9.90. “We wanted to keep all the authentic flavours of Thai cuisine on the menu, but also have some dishes that are less spicy, less sour and less sweet, while still remaining authentic, and that’s what makes us different,” they told Birmingham Live.
 
Bristol Vietnamese restaurant set to open second site: Bristol Vietnamese restaurant Viet Kitchen is set to open its second site in the city. The independent Vietnamese bistro currently serves phở, bánh mì, bao and hot drip Vietnamese coffee from its site in Stokes Croft. It is now opening a second site in Cotham Hill, in the former Falafel King unit, which shut in December to concentrate on its wholesale bakery, reports Bristol 24/7.

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