Matt Farrell and Daniel Heffy talk to NDML, as part of #WeAreRestaurants
GSG Hospitality, fresh off winning the Special Achievement Award at the Kuits NRB Top Fifty 2023, have announced the opening of a brand new restaurant in Liverpool. Described as a destination restaurant by co-founder Matt Farrell, the new venue leads Liverpool’s growing fine dining hospitality scene, situated in The Plaza.
As long-time friends and supporters of Matt Farrell and GSG Hospitality, we visited Nord just before its grand opening. We were met by the Executive Chef Daniel Heffy, a Liverpool native who has been most recently honing his skills in the Michelin-starred restaurants Frantzén and Adam&Albin of Stockholm. Daniel has been instrumental to Nord’s concept and has fashioned a menu out of locally sourced ingredients. The restaurant as a whole celebrates the North and northern heritage.
We were excited to discuss more, with both Founder and Chef, about the narrative of Nord, GSG Hospitality and Liverpool’s new fine dining restaurant.
“Culture. Diversifying. Quality. Local Produce. This is Nord in one big package.”
First things first, we wanted to clear up the origin of Nord’s name. We asked the two where does the Nord name come from?
Daniel quickly checked us on the name of the restaurant being related to its cuisine; – “People seem to think it’s called Nord because of Nordic cuisine, it’s not a Nordic cuisine at all. The name relates to the northern heritage of the restaurant. The Nordic background that I have is just coincidental and it’s a nice link.”
Matt speaks on how he wants the restaurant to represent northern hospitality and northern produce. He mentions Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool and the Lake District’s growing hospitality scene, including recent Michelin star wins. – “We use quite a lot of suppliers within 25 miles of the restaurant, alongside the sustainability aspects, and then Dan’s influence coming in; the concept has worked out pretty well.”
Leading on from this, we asked the pair: How important is sourcing from local suppliers and how does sustainability influence the menu?
Sustainability is a large part of the Nord narrative, focussed around local suppliers. Fish and meat from the market are bought in daily, using Daniel’s connections to game the best cuts. There are a number of small to medium-sized growing farms in the local area, and Matt talks about the importance of championing local sellers, – “A lot of people want that experience rather than going out dining, they like hearing these stories, I think they are uplifting – and if we can keep helping people in the local economy then everyone wins.”
We ask Daniel about his experience in Sweden and what influences he’s trying to develop with Nord.
It’s the Swedish culture which has clearly made the biggest impact on Daniel. This involves how the guests are treated, how the restaurant is respected, teamwork and working toward a goal. “I’ve been really trying to get the front-of-house team on board with knowing who the local supplier is and the reasons why we do what we do. Sometimes a plate of food can be slightly challenging, but with the right explanation it’s easier to understand, and gauge why it’s been done.”
It’s widely understood that the current economic climate does not favour the opening of a new business, never mind a restaurant. Restaurant insolvencies in the past year have increased by 60%. Inflationary pressures, energy costs and a lack of support have meant restaurant finances are in even more dire straits than during the pandemic. Despite this Matt and GSG have been determined to get the ambitious project that is Nord open and running. We pressed Matt by asking: What are the challenges of opening a new restaurant in the current climate?
Matt admits it is a very difficult time, noting Brexit, politics, and the energy crisis in the video. Listen to his response here.
Nord is set in the Plaza building, a communal workspace within the heart of Liverpool’s commercial district. Owned by Bruntwood, the Plaza also homes GSG’s coffeehouse business, Bold Street Coffee, as well as a gym and shower-cycle facilities tailored to commuters. We wanted to know how the location would benefit Nord.
Matt explains how GSG had been involved in the formation of the Plaza’s offering from very early on. Importantly, Matt feels the restaurant and Plaza building perfectly placed to benefit from the change of culture we are seeing in how people want to work. Bruntwood are leaders in a new style of office space, adapting to those who have an “all-day lifestyle approach,” he says. “It shows how spaces can redefine themselves, because I think gone are the days when you can show people a white box room and they’ll want to work in it.”
Moving from Stockholm to Liverpool strikes as quite a stark transition; we wanted to know how the Executive Chef has found the jump, whether he sees it as homecoming, and also gauge his opinion of the city’s hospitality scene.
Daniel says Liverpool has impressed him since being back, however he feels the city is still behind when it comes to hospitality. “In Stockholm there is something new on every corner every week. They lead on trends, in both fashion, design, food – so for me personally it’s a big change – but it’s nice to see that the city (Liverpool) is trying to keep the ball rolling forward, being positive and trying new things.”
Nord is part of GSG Hospitality, a group of hospitality venues founded by Matt Farrell and John Ennis. We wanted to know what sound of string Nord brings to the GSG bow.
Matt notes the diversity Nord brings to the GSG offering. Monolo, GSG’s speakeasy cocktail bar, recently won the award for Best Newcomer by the UK’s Top 50 Cocktail Bars; Bold Street Coffee, situated parallel to Nord in the Plaza building, has been nominated for a litany of awards; Nord is in some good company. As a high-end destination restaurant, Matt believes Nord is more representative of the quality delivered by GSG. “It’s important we are offering something that the city needs.”
When looking at what to expect from this new restaurant, we ask the two to tell us their favourite item on the menu.
Chargrilled asparagus. Cornish Crab. Butterfried toast. Daniel wets the appetite with his answer, listen to it here.
Finally we ask what’s next for GSG. Matt mentions the restructure they went through during COVID, hinting at the hardship all operators felt during the pandemic. Manchester, Leeds, we are delighted to hear Matt wants to expand and is confident the brand will grow more. He also touches on his plans to diversify and move into a retail environment. It’s this diverse portfolio which benefitted the company during COVID, and how they are one of few now able to push forward so swiftly.
It’s wonderful to hear from Matt that there is a desire from the general public consumer for new hospitality venues, touching on the recent trends of food halls, a la carté and social dining. I remind him, in our previous conversation, that Matt predicted a lean toward outdoor dining, which proved true.
Thank you again to Daniel Heffy and Matt Farrell for their time and allowing us to visit Nord. We can’t wait to see what’s next for GSG Hospitality.
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