Food profile - Tattu, Manchester
PUBLISHED: 00:00 30 September 2016 | UPDATED: 09:15 30 September 2016
Tattu, in Manchester’s Spinningfields, has a dramatic aesthetic that takes your breath away the moment you push open the doors, writes Kate Houghton
Tattu is a restaurant offering glorious Chinese food to appreciative, sophisticated diners benefitting from a holistic experience that heightens the enjoyment of every morsel.
It was opened in 2014 by Adam Jones, 31, and his brother Drew, 26. Unlike most restaurants, where the style of food sets the scene, it was the scene that inspired the style of food.
Let me explain: it’s all about body art, you see. As in tattoos. Now, those of us of a certain generation see the word tattoo and negative connotations result. It’s a whole other story now - with body art having taken its place in the highest echelons of fashion and beauty and artists who work with inks and a gun as celebrated as those who work with oil paints or watercolours.
Adam explains his inspiration: ‘My goal was that I wanted to work in this industry, but to bring a product to market that I thought was unique. What is more unique and personal than body art? Tattoos bridge age and culture and are very sociable, a real talking point. They’ve now entered the realms of high fashion, with brands such as Louis Vuitton and Hermes tattooing their leather bags.’
Initially, Adam followed the path expected of him, with school followed by a law degree followed by a training contract at a solicitor’s firm in Manchester – but one month in, the realisation that law really wasn’t for him struck hard and he quit, stepping into a role as a pub landlord in Liverpool and taking his then 19-year-old brother along for the ride.
‘I knew I wanted to do something more creative with my life,’ he says. ‘I learned there I would do differently were it my own business. It was a 12 month contract and after that we headed to Marbella, where I launched a concierge service called Key Banus, booking members into the most high end and exclusive of venues, a business we expanded to Ibiza the following summer. We worked with world class venues and gained a real insight into really high-end operations.’
Adam returned to Manchester and invested in an American bar diner, Dogs’n’Dough, on Cross Street, where he learned just what was needed to set up a new dining business.
‘That taught me a lot – and I got an excitement from it. I loved the creativity of it and the sheer attention to detail required at every level, on every aspect of the diner’s experience.’
It is attention to detail that lifts Tattu far beyond the norm. While Adam chose to bring in local interior designer Edwin Pickett, he had his own very clear vision for the interior, even down to drawings of the bar and specific demands for lighting, furnishings and artwork.
‘Tattoos have a very long history,’ he says. ‘Body art as we know it here started in the Far East and was brought to the West by sailors in the merchant navy. There is a great deal of symbolism and I wanted to reflect much of this in the décor, but in such a way that it remained subtle. Many of the diners here have no realisation that the décor is worked around this theme. I chat to people who have dined here many times and they are so surprised when I tell them.’
He has totally succeeded in his aim. Once it’s pointed out to you, it becomes clear, but it’s so elegantly done one quite thrills at the cleverness.
Downstairs, a glorious rose garden fills the window to the street; sailors would use a rose tattoo to indicate a wife or sweetheart waiting for them at home. Above, two huge anchors hang, twisted with rope…just like the sailors used to sport on their biceps. The anchor represents home, safe shores at last. Adam has incorporated them here to represent the fact that Manchester is his home and the city where Tattu was founded.
Upstairs there are 30 bespoke skyscraper pendant lights, reflecting the business district location of the restaurant. The rope ceiling upstairs is made from 3km of twisted rope and, along with the ropes downstairs, it represents the ropes on those early merchant ships.
The artwork showcases some of the UK’s most famous tattoo models, yet they are clad in formal suits, with mere hints of the drama beneath. Bespoke wallpaper in the private dining room, The Tattu Parlour, features three women in burlesque poses, with just one featuring beautiful body art. The leather chairs here and at the bar each carry a unique tattoo, worked into the leather by an artisan Adam discovered in New York.
A magnificent silk blossom cherry tree provides a dramatic centrepoint to both floors of the restaurant, the cherry of course representing the East and the home of the cuisine Tattu offers. And the cuisine is yet another example of Adam’s focus on the detail.
‘The food is modern Chinese; a western style of cooking using eastern flavours. Finding the right chef was vital and Clifton, our head chef, is a genius. He’s never failed with a dish; he spends hours into the development of every new dish and the tastes he creates are sensational.’
Customer favourites include Angus Fillet Steak served with Caramel Soy Sauce, whole Szechuan Sea Bass and Wagyu Beef Dumplings. The volume of regular customers and glowing Trip Advisor reviews speak for themselves and the 20,000 followers on Instagram, the most visual of social media channels, demonstrates that he has achieved the perfect balance of style and substance.
Tattu won the Best Restaurant award in the Northern Design Awards 2015 and is currently shortlisted in the international Restaurant & Bar Design Awards 2016 for ‘Best Standalone Restaurant’, beating more than one multimillion dollar development to the final list. Adam is currently working with Edwin Pickett on the designs for his next venue, in Leeds, which he says will stay true to the founding concept, but be a very different iteration, as will every restaurant that follows after.
Adam has plans to take Tattu global and I have no doubt that this focussed and passionate young man will do just that. Aren’t we lucky he started here? w
Tattu, 3, Hardman Square, Gartside Street, Manchester, M3 3EB
0161 819 2060 | www.tattu.co.uk