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Simply Heathcotes closes for good

Jonathan Schofield gets distracted while pondering the death of a city flagship

Written by . Published on August 26th 2010.


Simply Heathcotes closes for good

Ah challenging times these.

Here’s another one that’s bitten the dust. Paul Heathcotes flagship Liverpool Restaurant, Simply Heathcotes, has closed.

The big problem, apparently, lay with the bridge link over the Strand which connected the Pierhead with the city centre and was closed and demolished months ago. This brought thousands of office workers, tourists and the like past the door each day. With the bridge gone the supply died, Heathcotes found itself in a windy no man’s land playing Billy no mates.

So on Wednesday the couple of dozen staff at one of the city’s showcase venues have been shown the door and Liverpool Two has lost a place where the city’s tourist authorities used to host guests.

Coupla points about this.

It shows that Heathcotes despite its qualities never made itself a destination restaurant. If it had people would have beaten a path through the narrow streets to nosh down irrespective of the smashed up bridge. This was also the case with the Manchester Simply Heathcotes which closed some years ago. In the end the food wasn’t as good as the aspiration. Or the initial marketing.

Second point – one for debate.

Confidential has recently eaten in one star Michelin places in the Lakes, the Samling and Holbeck Ghyll. It seems that most of the top quality starred venues outside London are located in country hotels, or down mossy lanes in small restaurants. Both Liverpool and Manchester have excellent city centre restaurants – London Carriageworks for instance, or Podium - so how come plush country areas get so much of the recognition?

Maybe it’s because we still suffer nationally from cutsy-itis. The innate snobbery of the Michelin critics naturally draws them to places of old fashioned patronage – they’re still a sensitive bunch who would rather gaze at a distant view of the soaring Langdales than of the gritty Dock Road. That would be a bit too post industrial. Not chocolate box enough.

Having eaten at one-starred places across the North I fail to see why no city centre restaurants in Manchester or Liverpool have made it into the starry firmament of Michelin guides in the last decade. There is no particular difference in quality, no massive yawning abyss, between the best in the city streets and the best down the country lanes.

It’s a real puzzler. Maybe it’s the service rather than the food quality which brings city centre places down? But again having experienced a recent cross section of award-winners I haven’t noticed any major difference in how punters are received.

Not that any of this has much to do with another Simply Heathcotes closing. Not directly at least.

But maybe recognition, when restaurants deserve it, in the Michelin Holy Grail might encourage the others, raise a city’s game and increase footfall - demolished bridges or not. Then again me thinking that certain critics have a blind spot when it comes to Northern cities might just be a case of yours truly wearing a fat northern chip on his shoulder. Simply nonsense rather than simply the case.

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38 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

NortherngeezerAugust 26th 2010.

Mrs Geezer had the best seared Tuna she'd ever eaten at Heathcotes in sunny Manc when it first opened.
Incidently, the restaurant was in the old register office off Deansgate where we got married, but thats another story, sheeeeeesh.
Jonno - I'm quite happy to not have a Michelin star restaurant in gods own city, means the prices are kept down rather than inflated cos sum critique thinks it deserves a label.

ellpollolocoAugust 26th 2010.

what's with the Michelin fixation anyway...it's so last century. In the words of the immortal Greg Wallace...just give me a decent plate of food!!

Scott NeilAugust 26th 2010.

true enough, Ellpolloloco, but perhaps JS is getting at the fact that if Bristol, Belfast, Sheffield, Nottingham and Birmingham can all have Michelin stars (none of these places are exactly small chocolate box towns down south), it does seem perhaps a tad odd Mcr or the Pool can't seem to manage it. (disclaimer: never ate in a Michelin restaurant, or a Bib Gourmand. no real interest to do so either. just saying.)

DunlopAugust 26th 2010.

What we need is a new standard of food reviewer; Michelin have monopolised the industry for so long and we all accept their own bench-mark.
Retiring superstar chefs need to get their heads together and put england back on the map for the poeple. I do get fed up with the hoity-toity, clique french offering, JS is right about the chip but there is a huge gap and there is no reason given other than most michelin reviewrs are getting a kliitle too old and set in their ways,Egon-Ronay moved aside, perhaps these guys should wake up a little.

NortherngeezerAugust 26th 2010.

Smacks of being a bit prententious to me, eating in a Michelin star restaurant and paying exhobitant prices for the 'pleasure'. If as an individual you feel you are a better person for doing so, then go for it.
For me personally, Its all about enjoying whats put in front of you, whether or whether or not the establishments got a fat tyre bloke logo on the front of it. I think we can all name at least one greasy spoon or pub where the food has exceeded expectations, i dont need a michelin star referal to tell me what i like, i much prefer to go off the man in the streets reccomendations, particulaly those mentioned by the ranters on MANCON. Reviwers, i've shit 'em, if we took any notice non of us would ever eat at Obsidian again!!!!.

Jonathan Schofield - editorAugust 26th 2010.

Even the starred places in the other big English cities are in plush suburbs not the city centre - aside from Purnell's in Birmingham. But Elpolloloco is right in that having a Michelin star in a city centre shouldn't matter. What I'm not getting is the inconsistency of the judging in this instance - it's fresh in my mind after visiting Michelin places I suppose.

AnonymousAugust 26th 2010.

What's with the Podium, had dinner there last week and it can only be described as barely average, me thinks advertising revenue is swaying soeones view

Scott NeilAugust 26th 2010.

i want to know what the Brummies put in their water, they have Purnell's in their city centre, one of their other stars is a mile from the town, and the other one is two miles from the town. though if i was in Brum and wanted a meal i would admittedly head for the Balti Triangle, all day long, which i like to think the Masterchef boys and Mancon commenters would agree with!

NortherngeezerAugust 26th 2010.

Dunno really Scott, i reckon curries are very regional, i'm not a great Balti lover, and i find the curries in the midlands a bit too thick for my liking, i prefer summat i can dip me bread in so to speak ;-)

JonAugust 26th 2010.

I can't think of anywhere I've eaten in Manchester which has exceptional food. There are quite a few 'ok' places; but none which blew me away (and I eat out a lot!) That's what a Michelin star restaurant should do; and if the rural establishments in the North West haven't done that for you Jonathan, then I think it's their standards which have dropped - and not vice-versa...

(OK, I admit it... Seoul Kimchi has blown me away, especially at £25 for two. But it's really one for the 'Michelin Star of Takeaways' guide I guess;-)

jill19006August 26th 2010.

I agree with Jon. There are too many passable restaurants in Manchester which got excited about themselves during the early noughties and charged too much for food.
But is there another reason for this lack of quality? Could the high rents in the city centre have something to do with it? Might the takings be spent on those, rather than on food, the cooking of it and service. I don't go out to eat much now…but my favourites at the moment are Red Chilli, Croma and The Lime Tree.I also like Aiden Byrne's place in Lymm…had great pork belly there…but I think it lacks a bit of atmosphere…I know these aren't Michelin possibilities with the exception of AB, but they are great value...
It is sometimes nice to eat while looking at a view.Perhaps Manchester restaurants should try to get away from northern stereotypes themselves and take more care over their appearance. Went to a lovely modestly priced restaurant in Provence recently and it was beautifully set out, clean and professional. No views really, but a lovely environment.
I don't agree with you Jonathan about anti northern-ness on the part of Michelin judges…the restaurants in the city just don't cut it...

AnonymousAugust 26th 2010.

Interesting stuff. I believe this city has the restaurants it deserves on the whole, with the exception of a handfull of places. people tend to fall into one of two catergories, those who will sacrifice food and service just to be seen in a particular place and those who think Cafe Rouge, La Tasca, Pesto etc. are the hight of fine dining. I always think it strange that diners will pay £200 for a poor bottle of bling Champagene but baulk at paying £20 for a decent aged fillet steak.

Scott NeilAugust 26th 2010.

maybe there's a relationship to be plotted between the amount of WAG dollar being chased in a particular city and the quality of its high-end places? ;-)

bobbyhAugust 26th 2010.

had an "early bird" dinner at Heathcotes Liverpool a couple of weeks back. It was pretty disappointing. The starter was OK, crayfish and smoked salmon (not difficult to make, and no cooking!) The main was fish and chips which was not a patch on the f & c which I had enjoyed at Manchester Simply Heathcotes in the past. Not sure what the greyish fish was, but deffo not Whitby cod, which was usually served.

AnonymousAugust 26th 2010.

Scott; there was a survey recently which proved exactly that. Manchester and the surrounding area has the highest concentration of Premier League football clubs than anywhere else in the country. The survey concluded that the resulting 'fur coat, no knickers' brigade, intent on bagging a footballer, was also highest in Manchester. On a different note, did anyone read the article recently about the demise of Prestbury? Footballer/WAG effect was blamed.

AnonymousAugust 26th 2010.

Grey fish sounds like rock salmon, AKA basking shark. Lots of pubs, takeaways and some restaurants are now serving catfish and passing it off as cod

NortherngeezerAugust 26th 2010.

You'll find a lot of chippys now offering fish and chips where they used to offer cod and chips. Seems cod is now becoming a luxury food. I'm drooling now thinkiing about the big f**ker i had a couple of years back in the Magpie Cafe in Whitby................ahhhhh, memories.

AnonymousAugust 27th 2010.

I've eaten in several one star restaurants and a couple of two stars. Though a few are absolutely a cut above anything you'd get in Manchester, a good few aren't. Locanda Locatelli's didn't knock me out and a couple of others in London. For me, Harvey Nics, Podium and The French are all deserving of a star.

IanAugust 27th 2010.

There was a fantastic documentary recently about Michelin Stars called 'The Madness of Perfection' by the chap from Waitrose Food Illustrated, it should be required viewing for foodies!

ellpollolocoAugust 27th 2010.

Anonymous, being a Prestbury local I can tell you that we all thought that article in the Daily mail was a load of shite. The post office closed down because the owners were clueless, the butchers because he failed a health inspection and the Whitehouse because the place went downhill after being bought from the original owners. At this moment in time, a curry house is opening on the whitehouse site and Charlie Lawson (Jim Macdonald)is in discussions with the landlord of the old butchers to open a farm shop there. There are many business's in Prestbury that are thriving and do so without the "wag dollar". All the bling goes to Alderley Edge...the article was typical Daily Mail reporting..lazy, sensationalist and ill informed
On a michelin note, I seem to remember Paul from the late lamented Juniper wanted to open in Manchester prior to deciding on Edinburgh but when he did the calculations the sums didn't add up. At the end of the day, you've got to make a living.

Happy MuncherAugust 27th 2010.

Mmmm the debate over London centric critics venturing to the frozen north always seems to raise it´s head, but then if anyone read the recent Telegraph review of ‘Grado´ one would think the man had a personal vendetta against poor Mr Heathcote.

AnonymousAugust 27th 2010.

If you want somewhere special to celebrate,think of San Carlos, then think again ! My daughter and son-in-law had just had their second child and as it was also their 4th wedding anniversary,they saved for a celebratory meal at their (once) favourite restaurant.They were home by eleven.The meal ,on Saturday night, took 45 minutes.They were rushed through it from start to finish,got the train back and the happy evening ended in tears.I know, I was the babysitter! A much anticipated night ruined !

NortherngeezerAugust 27th 2010.

Anon - Dont let the MANCON staff hear you critisising San Carlo (or 1 or 2 other establishments i could mention)........they think the place is fookin great!!!!

Leigh ScottAugust 27th 2010.

Geezer your boring me today ! say something funny

NortherngeezerAugust 27th 2010.

Scoteee - I've just signed up for the hero's dining card..............fookin hilarious or wot, hehehe.

Hero
GordoAugust 27th 2010.

Northern! Bless You! all is forgiven, we luuuuuurve you

NortherngeezerAugust 27th 2010.

T'aint all sweetness an light Gordo, i've just tried to enter a 'hero's only' comp and it wont let me!. I've emailed one of your hand maidens for an explanation.

Hero
GordoAugust 27th 2010.

i will hobble over to her desk to check it out

NortherngeezerAugust 27th 2010.

Sooooooooooooo, given i'm now a hero..........why cant i enter the Harvey Nicks spend a day in Fleetwood comp?

paulhAugust 27th 2010.

hey 20yrs in business another 14 learning your craft sometimes you get things wrong and make mistakes,who doesn't?sometimes the goal post changes(or the bridge in this case!)many can make comment that's the easy bit putting your b*lls and your money on the line is more difficult thats why many don't want to.i started with little and still have along list of achievements and great people who work with me,its sad simplys closed but we have much to be proud of still.thanks for the kind comments and the less complementary.. if you've achieved much..then well done

AnonymousAugust 27th 2010.

Good to see Mr. H here. You have done a great deal for the North west dining scene over the years - it's been tough for all of us, but you're still standing and I wish you well for the future.

NortherngeezerAugust 27th 2010.

Paul - I dont think folks are critisising your business contribution to the North West.
The quality of the food you, or anyone else for that matter, produces is always going to be subjective (see my earlier comment about seared tuna). Anyway, its only 'Der Pewl', there contribution to the culinary arts was a pan of scouse. They do a veggie version now, blind scouse ffs!.

AnonymousSeptember 1st 2010.

Although it closed last week, I see the official press release confirms the closure of Olive Press Leeds. I fear this will be a domino effect

AnonymousSeptember 1st 2010.

"

Hero
Katie AmosSeptember 1st 2010.

Grado is loverly, unfortunatley Simply Heathcotes Manc once served me raw chicken and didn't even offer to knock it off the bill. Due to that I almost didn't go to Grado.. you have to give everyone more than one chance. Good luck with future vetures Mr H.

AnonymousSeptember 1st 2010.

As someone said, Mr. H has spread himself far too thin. Five different concepts is just too much

RaySeptember 2nd 2010.

It's a shame Heathcotes has closed down. I have less than fond memories of the Manchester one, as it quickly lost its allure. I think Manchester suffers from a lack of top restaurants partly due to a lack of tourism. Edinburgh (four michelin restaurants) does well here despite being a fraction of the size of Manchester. Another reason may indeed be rents; the Birmingham restaurants probably thrive because of their out of town location. Turners there is great value, by the way, demonstrating that michelin status does not necessarily trash your wallet/purse (although Simpsons will flay it alive, as I found out in July). As for the tiny portion/fussy french argument against Michelin restaurants, that's complete nonsense. Go to Pipe & Glass (nr Hull) or Tyddynllan in north Wales to see generous portions. I was at Tyddynllan on Saturday, and could barely get through two courses (which was actually about 4). I was stuffed. For £39 it was also a steal (like Turners). The starter was a half lobster for heavens sake!! Now having said all that, one doesnt need a michelin badge of approval to preside over a great restaurant, but the fact remains that Manchester has, at best, two or three "Good" restaurants (HN, Abode, possibly one other). I'm not sure they are at Michelin level though. A shame - echoing a comment made above, it's distressing to see the Walking Wotsits in Panacaea drinking Cristal and Krug at £200+ when they won't countenance fine dining at a fraction of the price. They will drink Veuve, not Vieux Telegraphe; Moet (which they cant pronounce), and not Montalcino. If I were a restauranter, I would get very depressed at that fact.

ADSeptember 3rd 2010.

I think Ray deserves a star for hitting the nail on the head.

Re the Lakes the sharrow bays good but not spectacular either and fits into JS argument above nicely. But I dont think liverpool's carriageworks is good enough for top recognition ditto some of the other places mentioned like HNKs.

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