Tim Bacon - Meet the man at the forefront of Manchester's dining revolution
PUBLISHED: 11:46 21 August 2014 | UPDATED: 15:26 21 August 2014
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Not many restaurateurs can boast of having the legendary striker Eric Cantona as a doorman - but Tim Bacon is the exception.
Tim who it is safe to say has led a revolution in contemporary wining and dining in the city and beyond with venues such as The Botanist, Gusto, the Alchemist, Australasia and Manchester House, recalls the days of his first Living Room venue on Manchester’s Deansgate which almost became a second home to the likes of David Beckham and the young Manchester United team.
‘They were all there back in the day,’ he recalls.
‘It’s funny Cantona used to turn up on a Friday/Saturday night and he’d have his white jacket on. He used to like the idea of being a doorman on the basement he’d quite often be standing there as a door member . He quite liked the idea of that. I don’t know why!’
There were certainly few places like the Living Room in the 1990s. It had glamour, it had celebs and premiership talent and yet it wasn’t elitist.
‘It wasn’t that we went out to court the footballers or other celebrities, it was because we were a vibrant happening place in town. They liked it and we certainly made them feel welcome when they arrived ,’ explains the youthful 50-year-old.
‘We didn’t pander to them but we’d get people away from them so they could relax and it was just a nice conducive environment for them so they tended to come back.’
These days the restaurants and bars that make up his Living Ventures and other business empires continue to bring the glamour into Manchester and Cheshire whether you’re a celebrity or not. They also recently made Olive Magazine’ s Cool List as part of the M62 Corridor.
“Time was a northerner had to head to London to experience food’s cutting edge. No more. Now, the capital’s hip outfits are heading north, while, after last year’s headline-grabbing openings at Manchester House and the French, the hits just keep on coming” they wrote.
Proper burgers? Open kitchens Give Tim a break.
“Everyone’s talking about it as a major innovation but we were doing that back in 93,’ he laughs.
‘OK whatever! Another great concept to come out of London - there you go.’
1993 was the year things began to change for him. He’d worked as a barman at TGI Fridays, won a bar consultancy job and then bought his first place from the receivers JW Johnsons on Deansgate. It soon became a “roaring success”.
‘If you look at the statistics of doing anything in life - everything’s a long shot,’ he says.
‘And that was the first hybrid (bar and restaurant) so it was quite an interesting time. ‘In Australia everything was hybrid, the whole basis of food and drink was a mix but not back then.
‘But there was no conscious thought process; it was just something ingrained in my mind that this was a way you could enjoy a night out and I came from a bar tending background and was very much bar focused.
‘ Bars have always been a big part of the operation. The bar is the heart. If you create an atmosphere in the bar it does infuse into the rest of the room - and I’m not into staid environments generally speaking.’
A former actor who left his native Australia to build an theatrical career and satisfy his wanderlust, Tim admits his 20s were pretty wild but then he met his wife at Johnson’s and the rest as they say is history.
‘She’s my third wife. I had wild tempestuous 20s but I got over that by the time I was 30. Thank God,’ he reveals.
‘We met at work. My wife is French and came in for a job but couldn’t speak English. I said “I’d like to employ you but you know I can’t - do you want to go out instead? She said “non” it took me about a month to talk her into saying “oui” and we’ve been together ever since. We have two kids and are happily married so it’s good.’
‘ JW Johnsons taught me a lot of lessons. Up to that time I had always been managing other people’s businesses but when you’re doing on your own it opens your eyes quite lot. I learned the value of lawyers!’
In fact, this year Tim gets JW Johnson’s back. He’s bought the old site and after briefly contemplating turning it back into Johnsons will be opening it as a sister restaurant to the wildly successful Botanist in Alderley Edge.
But that’s not all, in what he dubs a “busy year” he’s launching another Botanist in Chester, bringing Gusto to the former Olive Press site in Elliot House, Manchester, opening a Botanist close to the Gherkin in the city of London
‘...and we are just negotiating a second site in the city for a new brand under the New world Trading company Business. We’ve got two sites in Glasgow and one in Richmond,’ he says.
‘Maybe I’ve always had an ambition to progress and grow something. I’ve always kept moving. But you don’t necessarily have a structure a line from A to B when you do it. It’s very much a windy road.’
So what motivates him?
‘I continue to enjoy doing it,’ he replies.
‘it’s not just the people you meet who come in; it’s the people you work with the people you do business with and the environment you work in. Although I have a very nice office out in the Cheshire countryside.
My life is very much my family and my work. I don’t have any hobbies. My work is my hobby as much as anything else. I’ve got two young kids Maya who is 10-years-old and Phoenix who is seven. Phoenix Horatio Bacon. I’ll tell you what, he’s either going to love me or hate me for that one day.’
He also has around him people who have been key to his success throughout the years and stayed along for the ride.
‘I think it is quite unusual to have a team who stick together for such a long period of time doing different things,’ he reflects
‘I do quite like that. I like that a lot.’
If you look at the statistics of doing anything in life - everything’s a long shot.