When Adam and Drew Jones closed the doors on their restaurants in March, 2020, they didn’t know if they would ever open them up again.
The brothers’ modern Chinese restaurant chain Tattu, born in Manchester in 2015 and expanding into Birmingham, Leeds and, last year, London, were shuttered by the pandemic, leaving the brothers at once anxious for the future and at a very rare loose end.
So they became creative again, something they’d not had time to do while running three restaurants a few hundred miles apart.
And that’s where Fenix was born. That, and some travel to Greece, and Drew and Adam’s love of classics in school – particularly, of course, the folkloric tale of the phoenix.
“We genuinely thought for a couple of weeks that Tattu would no longer be a thing,” Adam told Finest. “Maybe even going out might not be a thing for four or five years. It was a very scary time.
“Going from running the business to doing nothing and fearing for what the future might hold, the only way I could deal with that was try and channel all my energy into creativity again, which is what we did when we launched Tattu but hadn’t had time to do again since.”
Previous travels to Mykonos – and perhaps partly a yearning to be somewhere else – informed what has now become the Jones brothers’ new concept. A modern Mediterranean restaurant that feels like you’ve been lifted up and dropped somewhere, well, nicer.
They poached a couple of world class chefs encountered on their travels – their executive head chef, Ippokratis Anagnostelis, who has worked in Athens and Mykonos, notably at Michelin starred Hytrain, and their head chef Zisis Giannouras – and so both the menu and concept came together seamlessly.
So the menu showcases Greek classics like moussaka and stifado, but with a twist. So the moussaka is made with honeyed aubergine, layered with slow-cooked short rib and topped with graviera espuma, while the stifado is made with wagyu striploin. Langoustines are flamed with ouzo and served with orzo and feta.
The pitas are soft, handmade and grilled to order, and tzatziki is, as you’d expect, exceptional, cut with spearmint and a cool cucumber gel. It’s not reinventing the wheel. It’s just putting the wheel onto a Ferrari.
At the bar, the cocktails – like at Tattu – are statement pieces. The Siren’s Call (Grey Goose, blood orange, sweet tomato and toasted coral) comes festooned in dry ice, and served in an ornate glass shell. The brooding Fenix Nest Sour (Metaxa 7, Roots Rakomelo, roasted cashew and chocolate) arrives ablaze, with a collar of fire.
The decor and ambience shares equal billing with the menu. Downstairs, the central bar looks like it’s carved from thousands of wooden feathers – and with what appears to be flames guttering above it. It’s a pretty dazzling centrepiece, with a full size olive tree to one side and at the back, hollowed-out alcoves to sit in.
Upstairs, the mood is starkly different – a light, airy dining space, with a chef’s table around the open grill. The lighting is even geared to your dining experience – cycling slowly over hours, so you’ll feel like you arrived at one restaurant and left another.
“We want people to walk into our restaurants and feel like they don’t know where they are,” Adam says. “They’re not in Manchester, they’re not in Edinburgh, they’re not in London, they’re in an exotic land.
“We wanted to bring in that escapism that you get from the Greek isles. We want to take people on a journey.”
The pair also love their mythology, and as you’d expect, there’s some in the concept here, and not merely the name.
“The phoenix, there’s a misconception that it’s from the East,” says Adam. “The story of the firebird is actually steeped in Greek mythology.
“Really, the name and the brand came about because it was created in a time when the industry and the world were in catastrophe. So the idea of something beautiful coming from the worst time in a lot of people’s lives was quite poignant. We have to be passionate about what we’re doing, and believe in it.
“The fact that the identity of this place will always act as a memory of how lucky we are to be able to socialise with friends, family and loved ones, it’s got a core meaning for us. It’s magical, that.”