Why art collector Frank Cohen is launching a restaurant in Chorlton
PUBLISHED: 00:00 03 September 2015 | UPDATED: 12:22 17 May 2016
Frank Cohen usually collects contemporary artworks but now he's backing Mish Mash - a new restaurant in Chorlton, he tells us why
I’m sitting in the garden of Frank Cohen’s Frazer Crane-designed house, a beautiful low-level white building, that has the feel of a modern gallery.
The sun shines through overhanging trees and out bounds Frank, floppy haired, white shirted and in distinctive dark rimmed glasses.
Half way through the interview, you realise there’s something not quite the same about Frank. It’s the spectacles. He’s somehow by sleight of hand changed into a surreal pair where one frame is straight and the other is round. The effect is off the wall to say the least.
But let’s face it, this is a legend in the art. Frank is a major collector, crowned the ‘Saatchi of the north’ and as he takes us on a brief tour of his vast garden we find ourselves following in the footsteps of visiting artists like Gavin Turk and Damien Hirst.
But we’re not here to talk about Frank’s extraordinary collection much of which he keeps in two exhibition spaces, one in London which is called the Dairy Art Centre and one he opened ‘years ago’ in Wolverhampton under the brand of Initial Access - we’re talking food. Or more precisely restaurants.
‘I sold my business in 1997 and collecting art is all I’ve done ever since,’ says the youthful 72-year-old.
‘But now there’s more and more people interested in art driving me mad every minute of the day. They want me to advise them about their collections - so that is what I’ll do, but I’ll only do it for people with money. if they’ve got no money they can go and b****r off.’
No. His newest venture is a restaurant called Mish Mash in Chorlton’s smart Beech Lane. He’s backing young restaurateur James Plant in the venture and he’s not even sure he’ll ever be one of its clientele.
‘I go to the (Alderley Edge) Bar and Grill, every night of my life - that’s because my wife will only go to the Bar and Grill,’ he says.
‘So even though I’m involved in Mish Mash, I won’t be there - I’ll be in the Bar and Grill.’
All credit to James, who joins us in the garden. He opens Mish Mash after almost two years as General Manager at Cherryl Cohen’s favourite Restaurant Bar & Grill, however Frank reveals that knew him before that when he ran a restaurant in Wilmslow called Dinks.
‘ I’ve watched the way he works. He’s really, really good. On the ball, unbelievably so and then out of the blue I get a phone call. James says he’s wants to open his own restaurant - and then he says, do you know anybody that wants to be my partner?
‘I said let me think about this, so I said how much do you need, he gave me a figure and I says, right I’ll do it and that was it.’
Also on board the venture is Frank’s lawyer Clive Garsden and they’ve brought a third partner in Franks trust lawyer ‘who’s one of the greatest guys in Manchester’ called Geoffrey Schindler.
‘And we’re not investors - we’re partners. We’ve gone down the middle because I hate the idea of investors. I get on with them all they’re all very bright lads and we’ve done other businesses with them in the past and they’ve all been successful. It’s a team!’
Says 39-year-old James: ‘Obviously I have a huge respect for Frank’s taste, so he was involved in initial meetings with our design team and the website but only as much as setting us on the rails as I already have a fabulous designer on board a chap called Mike Maddocks .
‘I had the concept from a few years ago and essentially it was almost born of the necessity of pulling together different disparate styles a bit of a ‘mish mash’ in terms of the art and the furniture and I had quite an idea of how the concept could be and it has been great to see it all come together.
‘I knew exactly how the product would be the food and the drink. The things like cocktails and the food I knew how they’d work out but I was quite happy to bring on a team for the design concept.
‘And I think I’ve landed on my feet in terms of investors.’
Although Frank has kept his distance from the project he says James may want to borrow some credible artwork to liven things up a bit.
‘I did say he could tap into a few things to stick on the wall. I haven’t got Banksy but I have got something by Charming Baker - he is a charming guy - and I’ve been buying his work for years and from a grand it’s now gone up to £50,000 and at his last show in LA his work was fetching £100,000. Damien Hirst collects him in a big way.
‘So I thought I’d give James some pieces to stick on the wall rather than just a photograph of the Derbyshire Hills or something.’
Another thing that attracts Frank is the building itself a former Methodist church.
I love old churches anything - an old church an old fire station an old synagogue (if you could buy one) they have a bit of atmosphere to them,’ he says.
‘The buildings have a bit of something about them. And the size and location is great.’
Who knows? He’s such as fan, he might find himself there more often than he thinks.
Mish Mash is at 133 Beech Road, Chorlton Manchester M21 9EQ