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01 September 2002

HOT harpers on-trade: sushi & licensing in Manchester

HOT: harpers on-trade September 2002 (issue 25)

A brief investigation into, and review of sushi restaurants in Manchester... Plus a few thoughts on licensing policy and growth of late bars in the city centre...

Miyako (50 Faulkner Street M1, 0161 228 1215) snuggles up, almost unnoticed, shoulder-to-shoulder with the myriad, densely packed and diverse restaurants, bakers and grocers that form Manchester’s China Town. It’s one of a small but growing handful of Japanese & sushi restaurants in the city centre, which includes Teppanyaki around the corner and newcomer Samsi Yakitori on Whitworth Street; plus Pan Asia, Wagamama and Tampopo who serve some Japanese dishes. Out of town is Sakura in West Didsbury and a few others in the metropolitan area.
Miyako has been open for five years and is small modest but relaxed and authentic-feeling. The head chef Eduardo Con-Ui, or Eddie as he introduces himself, has worked at the Hyatt in Dubai and as chef for Japanese Steel. He commented: “Teppanyaki cooking, which is new-ish in the UK and only developed over the last 10-15 years, has become the main focus but is less traditional.” However their sushi selection is impressive proposing a main list of 15-20 dishes, and the full range extends to over 30 including more exotic seafood, some of which is graded as ‘challenging’. “It’s seasonal too and depends on the market, as much of it is from tropical countries; salmon and mackerel we can get locally.” The market Eddie refers to is the celebrated Smithfield in Manchester, where he goes in the morning twice or so a week.
The core sushi menu features freshwater eel, prawns, giant clam, salmon, salmon roe, tuna and scallops, for example. These are priced from £5.50 for squid or crabsticks, £6 for four pieces of tuna or snapper, shrimp £7.50, to queen fish, eel or octopus at £10; and £11 for akagai (ark shell), which looks like an extra from Alien. Other ‘challenging’ species are ika (cuttlefish), kohada (gizzard-shad) and shako (squilla). “People who are familiar with sushi try these, and I have to order them in sometimes.” The dishes are all made on the premises: “it depends on the fish, tuna is prepared in a different way to shellfish for example.”
Being located close to numerous offices, and increasingly new apartments and hotels, also means a burgeoning take-away trade for Miyako. Their main menu is available at lower prices than the sit-down including the stunning looking Japanese platter, which is ordered in advance. The potential for sushi restaurants in general seems sound, as the market in Greater Manchester is by no means saturated.


If you happen to be near Peter Street, Deansgate Locks or the Village (‘gay district’ around Canal Street) after 2am on Friday or Saturday night, the sheer quantity of partied people roaming the streets must surely confirm that there are more bars open late in Manchester. A few years ago this was the prerogative of clubs; is there a trend towards late-licensed bars – whether exclusive, cavernous or plain raucous – taking over as the preferred venue for ‘after hours’ drinking and dancing?
Manchester City Council appears liberal with its newfound freedom in granting licences, as many new premises open their doors to 2am Thursday to Saturday from day one. Local brewer cum bar owner J.W Lees holds a dozen late licences including Rain Bar, Rembrandt, Velvet Underground, South and John Willie Lees. Managing director William Lees-Jones condoned MCC’s policy in glowing terms: “…Council has been tremendous in supporting the development of Manchester as a city embracing licensed premises and residential use. This is making people come back into the city centre after years of no one really living there.”
Mark Cain – proprietor of stylish Velvet bar & restaurant, which opened six years ago on Canal Street – made some interesting points about other possible consequences. “We were advised to run to 11 then go later; we waited a year to bed ourselves in. All recent ones are automatically to 2 as par for the course. It’s a way of making a quick buck…(many places) are busy Friday and Saturday but not the rest of the week. It’s fickle: we’ve seen more bars going to the wall trading solely on late weekend trade…it’s changed the nature of bar going with a loss of diversity.”
City centre residents are rightfully demanding more input into licensing activities, so noise and trouble issues are properly considered, and the council claims to be listening. Lees-Jones added: “People must remember why they moved back into the centre in the first place and that the city needs bars to keep their rates down and services in place.” In addition the concentration of late bars in areas like those mentioned above has arguably alleviated the problem of crowds spilling out at the same time, and by spreading them around the city. There’s also little doubt this has effected clubbing life in the city, and we’re witnessing the development of perhaps a new genre of establishment such as One Central Street, which aspires to bar/restaurant/club status.

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Header image: Château de Flandry, Limoux, Languedoc. Background: Vineyard near Terrats in Les Aspres, Roussillon.