Ryan Giggs speaks one year after opening George's restaurant
He is one of the most decorated footballers in history but away from the limelight of Premier League football, Ryan Giggs has a different passion. Speaking at his restaurant one year after it opened, he tells Lucy Roue how the business has flourished
Sitting on the Bridgewater canal in Worsley village, George’s restaurant has an air of tranquillity about it. At the heart of this leafy Salford neighbourhood, it’s very existence marks a lifelong aspiration of three school pals to go into business together.
But wind back the clock back one year and things were a little more manic, as co-owners Ryan Giggs, Kelvin Gregory and Bernie Taylor opened in the run-up to Christmas.
“It has been good,” Giggs tells me as he sips a morning coffee. “Kelvin has always taken an interest in food and restaurants and Bernie really has the experience.
“He had the restaurant before when it was an Italian, so he has the know-how from being in the restaurant business for the last 15 years and has guided us with a lot of things that perhaps we didn’t know.
“It has been tough at times, obviously, trying to open before Christmas was a rush last year so that’s why we are looking forward to Christmas so much this year. We are settled now and we are established.”
The trio opened the modern British cuisine restaurant last December, after recognising a gap in the local market.
“Me and my friends felt that Worsley was just missing somewhere like this where you could go, no matter what time of day,” continues United’s assistant manager, who grew up in the area. “We are pleased with how it has gone and now there are people like us who can do what we wanted to do 10 years ago when we were growing up.”
Gregory, co-owner and a former solicitor, adds: “We had always talked about doing it together and when the opportunity arose to do it here in the village at Bernie’s location, it seemed the obvious thing to do.”
Reminiscing on the previous year, it seems one main highlight really stands out for the lifelong friends.
“When we opened, we wanted some outside space which the original restaurant didn’t have,” explains Giggs.
“We wanted to open at the back because that’s where you get the most sunlight and we have heaters at the front and a great view of the canal.”
After seeking council planning permission, the additional areas at the Barton Road venue, which seats 32 at the front and 40 at the back, opened in summer. “I think it surprised everybody, the amount of business we did,” says Taylor. “Just the fact you can open the doors and it creates a totally different space.”
“That’s Manchester now,” chips in Giggs, “creating that café culture where you sit outside and you have a coffee.
“We have never had that in the village and that’s why we were so keen and fought so hard to have it.”
Making the most of all its facilities, George’s caters for business lunches, conferences and even afternoon teas.
And with an average of 1,200 customers coming through the doors each week, the friends are pleased with its progress.
Discussing local feedback Giggs says: “It has been good and you get to know the regulars.
“But it is also having customers come from far and wide who have heard about the place and who have enjoyed the experience.”
The restaurant and bar currently employs 32 staff, which was up to 40 at the summer peak, and prides itself on the quality of the dining experience.
“All our food is cooked from fresh and that’s what really stands us out from our competitors, we are an independent, we aren’t a chain,” explains Taylor with pride.
“Everything is absolutely locally sourced and our head chef, Andrew Parker, makes a point of doing that.”
The seasonal menu changes three times a year, with venison being the latest dish of choice. And it’s not just the delicious food that is causing a stir, as George’s also offers its own specialist cocktails. With a nod to the festive party season, the Snap Out Of It Recovery Cocktail features a mixture of Bombay Saphire gin (Giggs’s favourite), tomato juice, chilli and basil to perk customers up.
“Our bar manager is quite an established mixologist” explains Gregory, “so he designs fresh cocktails every month.”
Giggs compared the latest concoction to a Bloody Mary, adding: “You wouldn’t think that it would help you recover, but it is great.”
Speaking of his personal involvement in the project, Giggs adds: “I’m pretty hands on, especially in the early stages and the planning before we opened, and then once we open it is just dipping in and out and seeing how it is done and leaving the experts, the people who run restaurants and the chef, to do what they do best.”
Watch Ryan Giggs do keep-ups with a potato in the restaurant kitchen
But how much of an impact does his involvement in the restaurant have, considering his celebrity status?
“We always get requests for signed menus but obviously it creates an interest which is great,” laughs Gregory.
“Some people come to experience the restaurant on the back of knowing that Ryan is involved, but equally it means that the expectation levels are high so we have to deliver,” he continues.
And it is proving so popular that the restaurant has sold out for Christmas Day and they anticipate a full house on New Year’s Eve. It may be a hectic Christmas after all...