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The Chophouses' gossip stopper

Business as usual at classic Manchester food and drinkeries

Published on August 20th 2008.

The Chophouses' gossip stopper

The good old rumour mill eh? Lot's of folk have been posting on our site about the fate of classic Manchester establishments, Sam's Chophouse and Mr Thomas's Chophouse.

Have they been sold to the Restaurant Bar and Grill Group? Are there rifts and riots? Has the absent Steve Pilling, the four square pillar of Manchester food and drink, been buried in a shallow grave down Back Pool Fold? Are the Chophouses being converted into trouser-press factories? That sort of thing.

Of course it's right that people care about these places. They bring tradition and good quality together. They're knitted into the fabric of the city, linking the days of cotton and engineering with those of Hilton Tower and Manchester International Festival. They're also fabulous places to eat long and drink deep.

So the truth behind the rumours is reassuring - prosaic, but reassuring.

Here's a statement from Roger Ward, co-owner of Sam's and Tom's telling it as it is.

'I’m happy to say there is no big deal going on at Sam’s. We have not sold the business to any of the chains. Nor have we changed our way of working. The truth is simply this.

Steve Pilling stood down from his legendary lectern over a year ago in June to open our restaurant in Leeds, much like he stood down from Tom’s in 2001 to get Sam’s back up and running. And now sports wounds have caught up with him. After two years of living on pain killers, he needs to have hip replacement operations on both legs and one knee. He faces a difficult couple of years under the knife and in rehab. And this is going to make it impossible to work as normal.

'Steve has been working on his feet all his life. He was one of the north’s top squash players for years. Anyone who knows him knows that he took to tennis in the last decade with the same zeal. (We reckon he’ll be the only 50-something double-hip-replacement tennis pro with aims on the world top ten when he’s fit again).

'And he’s worked standing up looking after customers for as long as he’s been in a job - which is a very long time, indeed. Now, he needs to put his feet up, put himself first and get better.

'In the meantime, the Chop Houses will continue to be run in exactly the same way by exactly the same team that has been doing so since 2000. We’re proud of our independence, just like we’re proud of Steve and the example he has laid down.

'I hope everyone will join me in wishing him a speedy return to full fitness.'

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

Mark Garner, The PublisherAugust 20th 2008.

Geoff, I agree. Red Ken, sometimes in history people feel that Africans should be slaves, that pakkis should be bashed, that people's private sex lives should be splashed across sunday redtops. I don't. I do know the exact circumstances of Roger and Steve's divorce and it ain't really any of your business as long as they are both happy with it. It's rather banal to be frank. And, on that we freeze this particular saga. Good night and good luck guys.

AnonymousAugust 20th 2008.

i'm sure we're all intrigued - just what 'banter' was exchanged

AnonymousAugust 20th 2008.

Steve Pilling is a lovely man , I was among some of his earliest customers at Mr Toms many years ago . To be truthful Sams standards have been slipping , also is he ever coming back ? He brought that passion to his work . I dined in Sams last week , staff stood around gossiping , long wait for food etc etc . I don't dine in Mr Toms anymore , they built a huge bar in the middle of the room .The Conservation officer at the Town Hall should have had something to say about that . It's a grade two listed building for God's sake

Iccle TickleAugust 20th 2008.

Anonymous - have you got a full length photo so we can see if you're worth further banter?

RonnieAugust 20th 2008.

I have just been told that Steve Pilling is joining forces with Robert Owen Brown at Angel .Don't know if it's true , what a combination .You know what gossip mongers they are in Trof !

rafAugust 20th 2008.

Lets all go the the Angel and see a real chef in action, who incidently use to be top chef at the chop house, Rob is top chef in top pub and a top manc!

gastromanAugust 20th 2008.

As ever with Roger, all fluff and no substance. Where does it say in his statement that steve has sold his shares and is not coming back? This is the real truth

AnonymousAugust 20th 2008.

Is it true that San carlos are moving in opposite sam's?

NickAugust 20th 2008.

In regard to Sam's chop house , I think the whole concept of the fat corporate customers bellowing "Steve , another bottle of the Chateau de Bollocks , stuff em all , I 'm on another 3 hour lunch " is finally and thankfully coming to an end . I am a young professional and see the whole chop house thing as a bit yesterdays hero and if I am really honest a bit sad . Do you see any other aspect of modern business that dwells in the past like this tired and sell by concept . I know my MD enjoys it but I suspect its because he enjoys the fawning service . I think personally its a combination of The Adams family and a shabby 1950's seaside hotel . I have met Steve , he is a charming , honest and very likeable man . What he did at Mr Toms was amazing but Sams was rebuilt totally in 2001 and according to my MD its nothing like the original . So its an illusion , a vision of someone vivid imagination . Perhaps the idea was from one of those sets at Granada Studio tours , back to Steve , sorry to hear you have left for whatever reason . It could be an opportunity to start again

Cliff CliffordAugust 20th 2008.

Blimey , this Steve Pilling blog is the business . I watched Steve from the early days . When he first took over Mr Toms , a dreary little boozer that stank of piss and boiled cabbage , my heart was full of dread . But he did it , turned the place into a much loved and very respected icon . Then of course , his head was turned and he wandered into Sams , that damp , dank basement . Still , he managed to make it a success , namely by pulling the crowd over from Mr Toms . However you can't do the same stunt by doing it in other cities , its just to far to go for lunch . It must have been a hell of a trek every day . However you digest the spin which is being put out , its pretty obvious that the man who founded the whole concept of what a chop house and means is no longer part of it . wWe need to understand that fact . Now would'nt it be great if , when he is " well " if he opens up right opposite Sams and takes all the crowd off them . Now that would an opening I really would like to attend . Oh , by the way eat more fruit you will feel better

Ian WAugust 20th 2008.

Just one more I promise.I dined in Sam's yesterday (Thursday) with two colleagues from London - They'd never seen anything like - Good service, Good Food,Well done to Bergier, Chris and the rest of the team you are doing a great job (Spelling might not be right )but remember "Nil Illegitimi Carborundum" - Don't Let The B****ds Grind You Down and continue to maintain the traditions - if you were perfect and got it right all the time you be able to sign your name annonymous and write rubbish

TommyAugust 20th 2008.

Anyone know what lotus is gonna be.

AnonymousAugust 20th 2008.

A twist to the Steve Pilling story , I was told by someone high up in the catering world , that Steve Pilling sold his shares due to differences in the boardroom . He would not reveal what those differences were . I would love to know

Len FaircloughAugust 20th 2008.

Gastroman , Steve Pilling has sold his shares , wether he was forced to or not , thats a question for him to answer . As for the rest of this blog it sounds like the Roger Ward fan club is circling around the flag , the true question is " Steve , will you return ? "Well , you are not going to do If , and I mean if you was forced to sell your shares in a business you founded , built and made a success . Ask yourself , would you return if you had been forced out . There you go , thats your answer

Ian WAugust 20th 2008.

As a long serving member of the Sam's and Steve Pilling fan club I was sad to see Pilling shipped over to Leeds. However I do know that for some time now the boy has been knackered, a few years ago he spent a considerable time "on his back" in considerable pain and those ofd us who new and cared for him warned him on many occassions to take it easy - "Brick Wall Syndrome".I don't know where annonynmous was dining but it was not in my Sam's - give a bit of creditr to Chris , Georges, Billy, Brynn and the rest of the team at Sam's - Pilling is a hard act to follow whether he returns or not but please don't knock the guys who are trying to maintain the standards they are doing a great job they ran it wellwhilst he was there and whilst he was away off sick and at Leeds - and remember PILLING TRAINED SOME OF THEM.

AnonymousAugust 20th 2008.

Perhaps "banter" should be left for people you know. Having worked as a waitress I've had groups of lads slap my backside or comment on the size of my breasts, which they then tried to pass off as "banter". They got more than a look of disdain off me.....

BrendanAugust 20th 2008.

Cut to the Steve Pilling chase , "priceless.Well done Susie , Now , here's the rub as Rudyard would say .If Steve created the heart and soul of the chop house , how does a living body survive without them ?I was in 2 weeks ago and will not return , shoddy and indifferent service . The staff really do not care if you are happy or not . I to be truthful dont fully accept this story , its too smooth . Steve would be so upset and dismayed at the way that things that he built are in the state they are . Lets have the truth , is Steve Pilling coming back or not ?

DickieAugust 20th 2008.

I don't understand all the fuss, like Kern I too had the Steak & Kidney Pie recently which I could only describe as perfect. Sam's to me is its usual high quality restaurant, if anything it just seems to get better and better.I shall not be put off Sam's by anyone's petty rant. I can make my own mind up and will be back!

AnonymousAugust 20th 2008.

The last time I went to Sam's chop house what me and my friend got back from a bit of banter was a look of disdain from the 'lovely' waitress. Food was great though...

theboyrubyAugust 20th 2008.

steve is the heartand sole of the chop house business, and we dined there last week and whent to tom's for a drink afterwards all good so far but i hope the service standards dont fall!

Geoff DAugust 20th 2008.

Can we let the Steve saga go , I agree with Mark . He has gone , let Roger get on with his team in running the company . Only time will tell , if there is a difference . But the chop houses have be delivering the goods since Victorian times so they must be doing it right . How many restaurants and pubs have closed in manchester in the last 25 years , I can name at least 30

StefanAugust 20th 2008.

Smooth statement from Sams Chop House . But as Roger is an ex Captain of the shiny suits aka The advertising business , I would have expected nothing less . The question is " Is Steve Pilling coming back ? "Plenty of people do and as Steve is a robust character , then why not ?I dont think the chop houses will be the same without him . Its like the French without Mr Bruno

SusieAugust 20th 2008.

I'd much prefer to wish Steve a speedy return to Sam's .... this glorious Manchester establishment owes its entire reputation to date for its wonderful ambience and excellent food and wine to Steve Pilling's expertise. There is no doubt that since his absence there is not only a distinct lack of passion for Sam's amongst its staff, but more to the point, a total lack of enthusiasm. When Steve was around, the service was exceptional, and you were treated not just to eating out, but to a complete dining experience that you'd be hard pushed to find anywhere else in the country, let alone Manchester!So come on, Mr Ward let's cut to the chase and admit that Steve Pilling is, and always has been, the heart and soul of Sam's Chophouse, and bring him back... it'll never be the same without him!

Sid LittleAugust 20th 2008.

Hey Anonymous , there is a picture of that "daft " bar actually in the article .Its like a stage set from the Hammer films . Awful , awful it totally ruins the room , I much prefer the original

Mr IndulgenceAugust 20th 2008.

I have eaten at this fine establishment recently and found everything to be in good order. Great food, service and atmosphere. As long as it keeps delivering on these points then I will keep tucking into their prize steak and kidney puddings.

rafAugust 20th 2008.

It was going to happen apprently then they decided to spend some trillions fitting out the original instead on King Street, which is good because Petit Blanc are a good outfit and add somefing to the city.

YorkyAugust 20th 2008.

Fantastic food and fantastic service as usual. No change whatsoever. Still the best food in town!

SusieAugust 20th 2008.

... an opening at which a good many in Manchester would love to join you.... I'd like to book my place now, please...

lizAugust 20th 2008.

Whats all the fuss? i have been to Sams and Mr Thomas's recently for business lunches and socially. As ever the food, staff and atmosphere was excellent....long may it continue.

Mike CollinsAugust 20th 2008.

Steve Pilling is no angel . Once he gets over the hurt and disappointment regarding the chophouse fiasco , he will be back . He has too many admirers and I would think that he would have no problem getting finance . A space like Sams is just a space , no matter what spin you put on it . Its the passion that ignites the space . Thats what Pilling has , do you think the current crowd have it ?.

AnonymousAugust 20th 2008.

Yeah could not agree more; had the Rabbit and black pudding cake with egg last week it was superb........good luck to them....

Red KenAugust 20th 2008.

Hey Mark , perhaps you forget , that these comments are how people feel . Just in case you don't know , Steve has sold his shares in the company . I suggest you ask him the circumstances of him leaving the company .

Kern HAugust 20th 2008.

I had a lovely steak and kidney pudding at Sam's recently. Rich and lush. And that was just the lady with me. Good memories.

crazyjohnAugust 20th 2008.

Do they still do vasectomies there?

Mark Garner, The PublisherAugust 20th 2008.

A few of the comments on here are highly personal, folks, mean and dispirited and in one case libelous. I don't want these pages used by people hiding behind 'anonymous' to make the kind of comments that people cannot defend themselves against so I am going to bring the rarely used right to edit a couple out. Can I suggest you let Steve and Roger get on with it. They are a pair of absolute pros.

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