“It’s when I get in here early in the morning, and I’m the first person on site. Having that view and that space all to yourself, says Chris Laidler.
It’s his favourite bit about Climat, the restaurant he opened a year ago this week. “It’s one of my favourite times of the day if not, if not the week.”
It’s a fair comment. Climat has quite the view. It’s not all show-offy, like the views you might get from some of the taller buildings in town. It’s more like an observer. You’re part of the action, not above it looking down.
You can see the ornate roof of the Barton Arcade, Deansgate carving a line through the middle of town to the south, and from the terrace, Chetham’s library and the cathedral.
“By contrast, seeing the restaurant full of people, and then seeing people see the view for the first time, that’s great too,” he adds.
When Chris first looked at the location where Climat would eventually be built, it required some blue sky thinking to visualise it. Quite literally. It was simply a roof, with nothing but the sky above it.
“We were asked to look at it with an open mind,” he says. “They took us up to the rooftop and it was literally just a rooftop. A flat roof. So watching it from that to what it is today has been so interesting.”
The restaurant is his second, after Covino, the wine-led spot in Chester, a smaller, street-level bistro that’s become known – like Climat – for its impressive wine cellar.
But Climat took off at a more rapid pace, thanks in no small measure to exec chef Luke Richardson’s cooking. Also, within three weeks of opening, Observer critic Jay Rayner had given the place his seal of approval. “You’ve come to the right place,” he wrote, calling it ‘every kind of hot’ in a glowing first notice.
“We can’t complain,” he laughs. It meant the place got very, very busy, very, very quickly. “It was great, and it came so early in our existence.
“Like any restaurant, after the first month you have some creases to iron out, things that you thought would work didn’t work, and that’s usually your opportunity to make changes, and we weren’t really afforded that!”
Since then, it got shortlisted for Opening of the Year at the Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards 2023, as well as multiple categories at the Manchester Food and Drink Festival Awards. It also nabbed Best Up-and-Coming Wine List at the Star Wine List.
As it celebrated its first birthday yesterday with a special menu to celebrate one of the most notable days in the wine calendar – the day the Beaujolais Nouveau is released, always the third Thursday in November – the restaurant was full and buzzing.
The kitchen served up autumnal dishes like a salad of salted celeriac, scorched clementines and salsa verde, perfectly pink hogget loin and slip soles with mustard and anchovy-heavy Cafe de Paris butter.
The hash browns that have become one of the restaurant’s signatures, came with a heap of wine-ey, bacon-ey beef bourguignon tartare balanced on top, and the Beaujolais was as fresh and light as you could hope.
The team has achieved a huge amount in just a year, and it feels like Climat has been part of the Manchester eating scene for considerably longer.
“It was massively ambitious, and we knew there would be a lot of learning on the job,” Chris says. “And I’m still learning a heck of a lot on the job now. From four members of staff to 30, and then throw in economic turmoil too, and it’s been a challenge.
“But I wouldn’t change it. It’s made us a better restaurant.”