Pictured is Tim Sinclair, centre, with group general manager Rob Scott-South and restaurant manager Jemma Chance
The owner of an independent group of authentic tapas restaurants has expanded into the cultural and creative quarter of Hull with ambitions to make it the flagship for the business.
Tim Sinclair has branched out from York and Leeds to bring the popular Ambiente Tapas brand to the rapidly-evolving Fruit Market waterside district, which will take centre stage when Hull is UK City of Culture in 2017.
Mr Sinclair, who owns the business with his partner Zoe Plummer, said Hull was a “sleeping giant” with huge potential, especially as a result of the exciting regeneration creating a new urban village in the Fruit Market.
And he said the investment was a vote of confidence in the creation of a new destination, with business, leisure, retail and cultural uses complemented by a new city living community.
Founded ten years ago, Ambiente Tapas has restaurants in well-established locations in York, at Goodramgate and Fossgate, and at The Calls in Leeds. Having considered other locations, including Harrogate, the owners have opted for Hull and the city’s rapidly-regenerating Fruit Market quarter for the brand’s latest investment.
Mr Sinclair said: “It’s really exciting. There’s so much potential in Hull. It’s a sleeping giant really – a massive market that is under-served by high-quality restaurants with many people choosing to go to places like Leeds and York for a distinctive dining experience.
“We believe this can become our flagship because we’ve been able to create our ideal restaurant from a blank canvas, designed exactly as we wanted it.
“In 12 months’ time I would like to think this can surpass the commercial performance of our Fossgate restaurant in York. It’s a massive opportunity.”
Ambiente Tapas Hull has been created from a £300,000 investment to convert a former fruit and veg warehouse in Humber Street, in the heart of the Fruit Market. The opening has created 25 new jobs, all recruited locally.
Offering Mediterranean tapas “with a Yorkshire twist”, the new, 3,000 sq ft restaurant has 120 covers inside and a further 40 in an outdoor seating area on Humber Street with views of Hull Marina.
The mouth-watering menu includes tapas favourites such as calamari, paella, meatballs, patatas bravas and sardines, as well as dishes from an authentic Spanish Josper oven, including flame-grilled pheasant, barbecued sea bass and dry-rubbed beef skirt. There is also a generous vegetarian selection, including vegetable paella, barbecued halloumi cheese skewers and black bean fritters, as well as daily specials. Diners can wash down their food with their choice from more than 60 wines and sherries.
Ambiente (Spanish for ambience) Tapas is the latest high-quality independent operation to be established as a result of the £80m regeneration of the Fruit Market being delivered by Wykeland Beal, the joint venture company formed by commercial developer Wykeland Group and housebuilder Beal Homes, working in partnership with Hull City Council.
The development partners are driving forward the Fruit Market’s transformation to realise their vision for it to be “a unique, vibrant, cultural quarter where people live, work and play”.
Mr Sinclair added: “Being involved from this early stage enables us to refine our operation and offer and also to help to define Humber Street and influence how it develops. We believe the quality of the environment, food, drinks, service and experience we offer will set the bar high and help to keep it high.
“This is such a rare opportunity to create a new destination and we’ve bought into the ethos of what Wykeland Beal is trying to create here.
“We’ve not just moved into an area surrounded by existing operations. We’re pioneers for what will happen here. It’s a work in progress, but a very exciting one.
“We’re really looking forward to the challenge of exposing the people of Hull to what we do and also bringing people from outside the city here. We’re already had customers from our other restaurants coming here to experience what we have created in the Fruit Market.”
The transformation of the Fruit Market includes new and refurbished commercial, retail and leisure space centred on Humber Street. A limited number of commercial units are now available to let, with further releases in 2017. The commercial units are complemented by a development of more than 100 new mews-style homes around private courtyards, which recently received planning permission.
Other new ventures established in the Fruit Market include two new high-quality restaurants, Butler Whites and Tapasya @ Marina, as well as Cocoa Chocolatier and Patisserie, with new, independent retail operators expected to be announced soon.
Wykeland Property director David Donkin said: “Our focus is on attracting high-quality independent operators to the Fruit Market who will all, in their own ways, contribute to the area becoming a true destination and a vibrant community during the day and in the evening.
“Ambiente Tapas has built an excellent reputation in York and Leeds and the owners can see the Fruit Market offers a unique and very exciting opportunity. We’re in advanced discussions with several other high-quality businesses, particularly independent retailers, who will add to the area’s very special appeal.”
Ambiente Tapas’ opening comes just weeks before Hull’s year as UK City of Culture when the Fruit Market will take centre stage, but Group General Manager Rob Scott-South said they were looking much further ahead.
“We’re not just here because of 2017,” he said. “It’s a long-term investment. It’s a place we care about and want to do well in and build a successful business.
“Generally there is a perception of Hull outside the area that is not particularly positive, but it’s simply not true.
“We want people to come to our restaurant, to Hull and to the Fruit Market and see what a beautiful place it is. We like the idea that, by using our popularity within Yorkshire, we can attract more people to come and see Hull for what it is – a really great place to visit.”