The team behind a string of Liverpool’s popular food and drink venues, Graffiti Spirits has announced that the Duke Street Food and Drink Market is set to launch this summer. Co-Founders of Graffiti Spirits Group, Matthew Farrell and John Ennis, devised the concept of the 500-capacity venue. The market is situated in a restored 100-year-old warehouse and will act as a platform for the city’s finest independent brands. Their mission is to deliver: fine quality with food and drink, and sustainability, by adopting artisan methods.
One of the confirmed traders is CINDER, headed up by the founders of critically acclaimed restaurant, Belzan, that specialises in open wood fire cooking and dishes to share. Fish, chicken and seasonal vegetable dishes are cooked using a charcoal barbecue.
Pilgrim will be a show-case restaurant in the new market. Another confirmed trader is FINCA specialising in a refined offering of Cuban street food. Cucina di Vincenzo, a family operated Italian restaurant based on Woolton Road, will be specialising in pasta and pinsa dishes.
Interview with Matthew Farrell and John Ennis of Graffiti Spirits:
Q. There is huge growth in independent restaurants and eateries in Bold Street. Do you envisage that Duke Street will be a focus for a food hub, with independents that represent the best on offer, and moves footfall into that district (Duke Street)?
A. Exactly that. There is an increase in rooms, residences and businesses in the Duke Street area and we are hoping to be at the forefront of this. We feel the location sits well geographically, giving access to many of the other quarters of the city within walking distance, as well as appealing to a wide demographic.
Q. Was the idea of restoring a 100 year old warehouse integral to your vision, that you wanted to invest in heritage to showcase an innovative concept, a hub where good food from different vendors becomes a centre for excellence?
A. In a sense, yes. We were approached by our partners and we could not turn it down. GSG has always opted for heritage, grade-listed or conservation builds. They are what makes the city so unique and it is inspiring to be able to restore and put them to further use and trade. The building will look fantastic when it is finished and will be a place where an ethos of good quality and experienced operators can come together under one roof.
Q. Is there still scope to expand (after opening) on the range that can be delivered?
A. There are plans to extend and potentially raise the capacity and offering, depending on how well received it is by the city. It is likely that the market will open in two phases.
Q. Is it an appealing idea to have a Duke Street Quarter where you create a centralised hub, rather than your existing restaurants scattered about the city, or is the plan to maintain both?
A. The city has to maintain both in order to grow and to strengthen the economy. However, it’s also important that the saturation point doesn’t become too much and ends up stifling the growth of independent young businesses. The market concepts fit into the socio-economic model of society at this time. The way people are spending and thinking about what they consume is changing. Sustainability, variety and people’s purse strings are all extremely varied and a community culinary hub like the one we want to create brings people together without premise.
Q. There seems to be an emphasis on a market that focuses on the quality of ingredients and provenance. We have other venues in the city where independents come together. Is quality and choice uppermost in how you conceive this venture?
A. Yes it certainly is and it is something the city has not had yet. As well as housing a flagship restaurant and unique artisan kitchen traders, we feel the quality of food on offer will be something the North West hasn’t seen under one roof. We want this to be a culinary hub for years to come that the city can be proud of.
Q. Footfall is crucial. This has been a part of the city that has seen a renaissance in recent years, with Wreckfish and crowd-funding impacting on the scene. So is part of your plan, a desire to really put Liverpool on the map for fine dining and great cocktails with an artisan backdrop?
A. Yes it has been for many years and I think we started that push around 10 years ago now. When we opened Santa Chupitos, there was nothing independent of that nature in the area. We also want this projected outside the city and to be operational in other cities. Being sons of the city is important to us and the ability to project that further afield is something we have been extremely proud of as a company and individuals.
Q. Duke Street Market is an exciting and inspiring venture. You will have many partners: how will you bring all this together so that everyone involved shares a common purpose?
A. We have been extremely thorough and careful in who we have selected to feature in the market. We need a harmonious group of people that are there for the common cause and understand the industry. We have conveyed our ethos to them from the first meetings. A lot of the traders know each other and some have over 30 years of experience in some great ventures across the North West and beyond. We want these operators to be here for years to come and for them to feel this is theirs as much as ourselves, something we often portray to our staff at GSG. So hopefully this can be replicated.
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