Martin Pickles, former owner of Leeds restaurant Flying Pizza, is to open a new £2m restaurant in the city.
The move comes after Pickles joined forces with Martin Hicks, managing director of the University of Leeds-owned conference venue Weetwood Hall, where the new restaurant will be situated.
Hicks and Pickles have been friends for more then 30 years and will launch the new venture, called Convive, in February 2017.
The Mediterranean restaurant will be part of Weetwood Hall but will retain an independent identity of its own, open to the public as well as guests at the hotel complex.
Pickles will be head of operations and will manage the restaurant and the strategic direction of the business, along with staffing and management duties. He owned Flying Pizza in Roundhay, now operated by San Carlo, for over 10 years. He also ran the Garrick Club's restaurants and private dining rooms for five years in Covent Garden, London. This came after 14 years' service at Langan's in London, owned by Richard Shepherd and his partner, Sir Michael Caine, where he also worked alongside Martin Hicks for the first time.
Convive will have a 120-seat restaurant and bar and include an outdoor area with a retractable roof. It will be twinned with Mediterranean restaurants across Europe and manage chef swaps as well as sharing advice on ingredient sourcing.
The profits from the Weetwood estate including Convive will be gift aided to the University of Leeds and the money used to fund research and development projects and for students' benefit.
Pickles said: "A high-end Mediterranean restaurant is what Leeds has been crying out for and I'm delighted to be back in the city I love and delivering the most exciting restaurant Leeds will have seen in many years. Leeds has a bustling restaurant and dining culture it can be proud of and I'm thrilled to be back in the thick of the action bringing such a fantastic new dining experience to the table. Working with Martin Hicks and the team behind the success at Weetwood Hall coupled with my 30 years in the business mainly spent in London, is a fantastic opportunity for me personally and I'm looking forward to it immensely.
"The really great thing is that this is outside the city centre, ideally placed at Weetwood, to make it a true destination restaurant without the hassle of parking problems in the city centre. All parking will be free and the restaurant is well served by local transport networks."
Hicks added: "This is really exciting news for Leeds and I'm genuinely excited on so many levels. Firstly, the food and beverage offering will be first-class and Convive will more than meet a demand that I identified several years ago. The ambience will focus on a fine balance between social dining with friends or family and the alfresco dining option and fresh Mediterranean dishes. Secondly, the increased gift aid to the University of Leeds is a unique and very positive gesture that benefits the University, its students and the city as a whole, I'm not aware of any other commercial restaurant that operates in this way. And finally, I'm simply excited about the prospect of working with an old friend."
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