Andrew Nutter on the success of his new dining pub, The Bird at Birtle
PUBLISHED: 00:00 15 November 2016
Andrew Nutter is a chef who needs little introduction. Emma Mayoh spoke to the food industry veteran whose mum still pays his wages.
You could never accuse Andrew Nutter of being too big for his boots. He may have two hugely successful restaurants, a high flying career that has taken him around the world as well as a live-wire reputation. But the 43-year-old still has to collect his wage from his mum, Jean.
‘I go every week to get my little brown envelope, just like everyone else,’ said Andrew. ‘Why shouldn’t I? It’s a good thing and keeps your feet on the ground.’
Andrew has become a well known character on the food scene. His lively personality, busy Twitter account – and of course his stellar food – has garnered him a reputation as a successful and seasoned veteran of the food industry.
He started in his teenage years, quickly gaining success by working with some talented chefs. Before hitting 21 he’d already spent three years training at London’s prestigious Savoy Hotel as well as working in Michelin-star restaurants across France.
But keen to stay in Lancashire, he wanted to be able to establish his own place. His dad Rodney, who used to run a butcher’s in Prestwich, bought a building in Rochdale and the then 23-year-old Andrew opened it as a restaurant.
‘It was a natural progression for me,’ he said. ‘I didn’t want to go back down to London. Lancashire is home and important to me. I wanted to do something, of my own, here. It went well.
‘We quickly started to have a packed out restaurant and we won awards. One of my first was Lancashire Life Chef of the Year. I turned up at the awards with Nutter shaved into the back of my head. It certainly got me noticed. The restaurant was called French Connection at first but then I was advised to use my name, so we changed it.’
Television producers soon got in touch and since then Andrew has appeared on many programmes including Ready Steady Cook, Afternoon Life, The Flying Chef and his own series, Utter Nutter. He has travelled around the world to food and drink shows, his first cookbook sold out globally and his second book, Nuts about Food, has been ranked as one of the must have cookery books. He has celebrity chef status.
His most recent success has been the launch of new restaurant and pub, The Bird at Birtle. Located just outside Bury, he has transformed the old Bird i’th Hand pub into a contemporary, sleek dining venue with spectacular views over the moors.
On the day we visited, the Bird was bouncing. No space in the car park, a packed restaurant and the hubbub of a Saturday night. It’s not what you’d expect to see on a dreary Monday lunchtime. But the expected is not Andrew Nutter’s style. In fact, this new venture was a complete surprise.
‘It was a Christmas present,’ explained Andrew. ‘My mum and dad bought it and gave me this rather large gift – the keys. I was blown away.
‘When we were full at Nutters there was nowhere nearby that we felt we could recommend to our customers. So we thought why not do a great dining pub? Somewhere not as formal as Nutters, but still with great food. It seems to be working.’
It’s been quite a journey. With the culinary flair of head chef, Carl Tait, The Bird is soaring. Diners travel great distances to eat here while locals, including the pub’s former landlady, use it as their regular place to enjoy a drink. It’s a mix that few places manage to balance but it’s well executed here. The menu is packed with modern dishes, put together with flair –The Bird’s motto is great Lancashire fare, with flair and imagination. Food from the county is prominent with producers put in the spotlight in dishes like black pudding gyoza, Bobby’s Bangers and Lancashire cheese and onion pie.
While the food is undoubtedly the reason for people to visit, another is Andrew’s big personality – who else would admit their signature dish of crispy Bury black pudding wontons was devised while drunk? On our visit, he was regularly approached by diners, keen to praise the food and service.
‘It’s great to hear that we’re doing things right and people like it,’ he said. ‘We thought, perhaps it could be quiet at first but it’s been full on since the start. It’s something that makes me really proud of the team I have here.
‘I know I joke about but it doesn’t mean I don’t take our food here seriously. I’m very passionate about what I do and want things to be done the right way. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a laugh along the way.’