Flexible dining choice

Pictures Martin Bostock'The Empress Grill'The new Heathcotes restaurant at Blackpool Winter Gardens.
Pictures Martin Bostock'The Empress Grill'The new Heathcotes restaurant at Blackpool Winter Gardens.
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Blackpool’s newest fine dining experience is back in business again this weekend.

The Empress Grill Rooms – housed in the Winter Gardens and operated by award winning Preston-based Heathcote’s – has opened as part of the £1.5m restoration of the Winter Gardens.

The former Backstage Bistro in the Victorian complex has been transformed into the Empress Grill, part of the Heathcote’s Outside portfolio and opened its doors for the recent dance festival in the complex.

It is open again this weekend and next, serving food from noon to 9pm on Saturdays and noon to 7pm on Sundays.

Eventually aiming at more regular hours the Empress is currently testing the market with conferences and other peak trading times, said manager David Cura.

“Our menu for the first few weeks will be aimed at being for quite a quick turnaround – nothing too complicated,” he said. “While we are part of the Heathcote’s Outside portfolio the Empress is all about being in the Winter Gardens in Blackpool.

“We have been in the resort for a number of years providing catering at the Tower for example and we operated the bistro here last year for the dance festival.

“But this is a unique venture, specially tailored to the Winter Gardens. The client base is very diverse so we are developing a menu which has flexibility.

“We will be providing the Heathcote’s standard and food quality but our menu will need to be something that can change with whatever the customer base is at any given time.”

To that end, while the core menu would remain the same the Empress can adjust to the likes of the Rebellion Punk Festival, the darts championships and the pigeon weekends, he said.

“Likewise we will be seeing when the demand has peaks and troughs before we finalise our opening hours,” he said. “Obviously we will be looking to trade off the back of the major shows and concerts which come to the Winter Gardens.”

The restaurant, which replaces the previous Backstage Bistro, has a stylish 30s feel to it with views of the newly renovated Floral Hall and neighbouring Mazzei Coffee Shop.

“We are aware that the first 12 months are probably going to be hard,” said David. “We have to make people aware that we are here and that we are different to anywhere else in Blackpool.

“No one is pretending that will be easy but we are confident that world of mouth will help.

“The feedback and reaction we have had so far has been excellent.”

He has been with Heathcote’s Outside for 14 years and has a background in quality hotels, events and convention catering.

“We are not looking for Michelin stars and we know we will have to be flexible, especially in the winter months,” said David. “But it’s exciting to be part of something which will have to be very diverse to appeal to the varied client base.”

He is hoping to see seven days a week trading within 12 month and expand the current staff of 12 and 110 covers.