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Bistro 1847 – Six Months On A Meat-Free Diet

We talk to owner Damien Davenport about the tricky first months of a fledgling restaurant

Published on July 25th 2011.

Bistro 1847 – Six Months On A Meat-Free Diet

TRYING to establishing a new restaurant is a daunting task even when the economy is thriving. To attempt it in the middle of downturn takes a bounding leap of faith. Manchester vegetarian restaurant Bistro 1847 has proved that with the right idea and approach, it can be done. Six months since its launch, we speak to owner-manager Damien Davenport about the highs and lows of bringing cream cheese-stuffed chillies and vegan gin and tonic cake to the city centre.

It was a case of, 'If this doesn't work, we'll have to shut the whole thing'. But everything changed from the moment we opened the doors as a vegetarian restaurant.

Did you ever think what have I got myself into with this?

I opened the business in April last year as Detoxretox [a daytime sandwich and salad bar], and I had the whole 'Oh shit, what have I done?' feeling up until February when I rebranded it as 1847.

It was a case of, 'If this doesn't work, we'll have to shut the whole thing'. But it completely turned it around. Revenue, turnover, customers – everything changed from the moment we opened the doors as a vegetarian restaurant.

What have been the highlight so far?

2Mo0_FEstablishing something that's unique in Manchester city centre. And finding Wendy [the chef] who's done great things – the menu has gone down very well.

And we hit number one on TripAdvisor for about a month out of 590-odd restaurants. We currently sit in the top five. And also, last night, it was announced that we're nominated for Newcomer of the Year at the Manchester Food and Drink Festival.

We're not a big chain – it's just my little business so these type of things mean a lot to us.

Any disappointments along the way?

I had such a bad year last year but since we changed to 1847 it's all been quite positive.

On your Facebook page it says you're recruiting a new chef. Is this to work alongside Wendy?

Yes. We currently open Wednesday to Sunday but because we're always busy, we want to open seven days a week. So we need to add more staff in the kitchen.

Are you going to be changing the menu at all?

From August we're introducing a new food menu. Wendy is coming to me with it next week, then we'll be trialling it out.

Over the last six months it's all been about the food. Next I want to establish 1847 as a cocktail and wine bar as well. So I'm doing wine tastings and meetings with suppliers to bring in a whole new wine list, plus a cocktail list, and draft beers and different ales. We ripped out the old counter about a month ago and added in a new bar area. 

What's the thinking behind this idea?

It's because of where we're situated – just opposite Manchester Art Gallery. Around here there are lots of pubs – The Vine, The Crown, The Seven Oaks, The City Arms. I want to make this a completely different kind of place where people can come in after-work for a good glass of wine and a cocktail.

Any more big plans?

This year we're focusing on really settling into Manchester. Next year, we're looking to open another restaurant in another city – I can't say which one just yet.

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