Video: Gary Neville celebrates Cafe Football anniversary
- Credit: Archant
“Everyone thought it was going to be a sports bar, but we knew it was going to be something different.”
A year after Cafe Football opened in Westfield Stratford City, owner Gary Neville has reason to celebrate.
The restaurant, a joint venture with his former Manchester United team-mate Ryan Giggs, has proved popular with football fans and food critics alike.
“We’ve had good reviews and good ratings on Trip Advisor, which shows you’re doing something right,” Gary explained.
“For us, it’s all about the food, even though we screen games on match days.”
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The ex-England defender, who retired from the sport in 2011, is relaxed as he walks around the restaurant, talking to staff and posing for photographs with fans.
His next venture, Hotel Football, is set to open in March, close to his former home ground of Old Trafford.
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It will feature a second Cafe Football restaurant as well as a dedicated floor for Manchester United fans unable to get match tickets to watch the big game together.
Despite all the praise for Cafe Football, fans outside of London and Manchester may have to travel as expansion to other cities isn’t on the cards just yet.
“When I was playing, we didn’t think about winning the third, fourth or fifth game until we’d won the first and second, and it’s the same here,” he said.
“We’ll see how Cafe Football and Hotel Football go before thinking about any more.”
The menu at the Stratford 140-seater restaurant features traditional match-day grub, including fish and chips and pie and mash.
Every item on it is handmade, including – as executive chef Brendan Fyldes assures me – the baked beans.
Creative director Michael Wignall is the brains behind the distinctive twists to popular dishes, while general manager Liz Reece can be found making sure customers are having a good time.
The young chefs in the kitchen are all learning the trade from the highly accomplished Brendan.
Gary is full of praise for the staff who run Cafe Football on a day-to-day basis.
“The success is all down to the staff,” the 39-year-old said. “People wouldn’t come here if they weren’t getting a good experience, and they’re the ones providing it.”
As he and Liz team up to cut the celebratory cake – chocolate, caramel and praline, decorated to resemble a football pitch – there’s little doubt that this is just the beginning for Gary and the Cafe Football team.