Hypha ( the name refers to the branching threads that make up the body of a fungus) Chester’s first plant based restaurant, opened in February. Owner Nicholas Friar spoke to us about the philosophy behind the venue.
” We want to get across that we are plant based, I dont even use the word vegan. We’re not preachy ,we’re not trying to convert people . I don’t eat any animal products personally, the amount of greenhouse emissions from the meat and dairy industry is shocking. All we want to do is to make some tasty food, and yes the vegan market is big for us but we want to get people who in who aren’t vegan. I’m hoping that we’ll be up there with some of the best places in Chester.
“Sustainability is big factor . In terms of the produce we use.” Nicholas offered me a glass of Tepache , a Mexican street drink, made from fermented pineapple. “Its dehydrated pineapple turned into jerky, then the skin is fermented with red pepper, cloves, and brown sugar for 3 days” He explained.
“When we first came up with the concept we were using the phrase “zero waste” . We realised we couldn’t start off with it, so waste is as minimal as possible with the eventual goal being zero waste. ” Nicholas was inspired by the first zero waste restaurant in the UK, Silo in Brighton. “They have things like a composter on site . That’s our vision.
“We try and be as local as we can. But you have to be aware that some of the ingredients dont grow locally. For example the orange and olive salad. The oranges are from Portugal, but we try and use the whole fruit. We pickle the rind, then segment it, from the scraps we make a vinaigrette to dress the salad. I’m aware of the food miles , we try and make the most of each ingredient. On the bar we minimise garnishes. I don’t use any fresh citrus on the bar”.
Offering a menu that changes daily, the restaurant can accommodate 30-40 diners. Being small plate based has given Nicholas, who designs the menu the chance to play around with the ingredients. All of the drinks served are also completely plant based. ” To be a certified vegan vineyard you have to have to practice for 12 months. ”
Nicholas welcomes the other plant based establishments now open in Chester. ” I think they’re great. Generally we want to be a good restaurant and bar first. ” Opening hours are currently limited to Thursday to Sunday but this will change following a kitchen extension which is happening soon. ” I’ve got 4 full time chefs now, and we make everything from scratch. We’re looking at opening on Wednesdays soon. We’ve got some events coming up soon, the 25th September we’re doing a tasting menu with wines to match. every dish that we come up with has a story behind it. I always try and get that over to the guests. ”
Hypha received a successful Michelin inspection after just 4 months and Nicholas is hopeful of getting into the new guide release in October. Alongside this Nicolas is making a big push on the bar space, with a space at the front of the restaurant always reserved for drinkers.
On the subject of the Northgate development, currently a hot topic for the Northgate Trader’s Association, Nicholas has remained neutral. Whilst he doesn’t support the addition of chain restaurants he says that the idea of getting more people coming into Chester is welcomed. ” There are nights when its like a ghost town. The more people that come into the city centre the better. We’re a bit off the beaten track up here but we’re still close enough to everything going on in Northgate street . The rent is a lot more on the main street. I like us being a destination venue. My perfect night would be come here have a glass of wine and a plate, go and see Chris at Covino, go to Porta. “”
Can Chester sustain so many restaurants I asked ? ” I moved back to Chester to open my first business (The Suburbs) . I think there’s enough of a demographic here. People in Chester do go out and eat and drink. I can sit here and moan about the big chains but you’re always going to get them..
” Theres always a market, theres enough people interested in food. I went to Oxford recently , and it was heaving. Its all tourists and they all go to chain restaurants. Theres less footfall in Chester but people like good food and drink here. Look at places like The Chefs Table, still winning awards and still full all the time. That’s where we want to be with this. ”