Leeds is about undergo a fast dining revolution at the hands of Teppan 260 as one of Harrogate’s favourite restaurants attempts to break into their neighbouring city.
You may have come across The Orchid before – since it opened in 2001, it has been one of the many reasons to take a trip north to Harrogate with its refined take on pan-asian cuisine within the confines of the Studley Hotel.
However, the team behind The Orchid are ready for a new challenge and it’s one that has taken them as far as Leeds. Whilst their style of cuisine may be the same, Teppan 260 promises an experience that is altogether different – with the focus on fast, quality food whose cooking plays a vital role in the customer experience.
The size of their task isn’t lost on Managing Director Bokmun Chan – the variation between catering for a market the size of Harrogate is a world away from that of their considerably bigger neighbours. “It’s completely different,” he says with a sense of exasperation. “Harrogate is Harrogate and Leeds is a big city. I’ve noticed straight away, Leeds is a bit more vibrant, it feels like a bustling city which is quite different to good ol’ Harrogate.”
This isn’t to say that the pressure is getting to Chan and co. In fact, with just under a week to go until Teppan 260 opens, their preparations were in full swing with the kitchen kitted out and appliances fitted in, and it would be quite timely to recall upon their expertise from their previous venture.
“We’ve been operating The Orchid restaurant for nearly 14 years now and we feel that we’ve done a very good job” Bokmun proudly recalls. “I said to my chef, we’ve got a lot of experience here, why don’t we do something new and go out of our comfort zone – to try and do something on a bigger scale? Why not go to our neighbour city in Leeds?”
“Over the years many people have asked us why don’t you open The Orchid here and there but we never got round to doing it. We thought about doing something when we were ready – we feel we are and hence we’re pressing the buttons to go!”
You could be forgiven for thinking they’re smashing them rather than just merely pressing them as work on Teppan 260, the former home of the now sadly departed Casa Mia on the corner of Millennium Square and Great George Street, has seen the place come together particularly quickly.
“Location is everything and Millennium Square is very much a focal point for Leeds. We believe we can pull people to another location [other than Trinity]. We will be trying to get people to move out of that centre of attention and to think if you want good thing where do you go? I know personally if you know there’s good food you’ll make a ten minute or so walk. We have to make sure the atmosphere and the food is wonderful and at the right price.”
Of course with any restaurant the key component which will bring the hordes of Leodiensians in is food and that comes under the supervision of Kenneth Poon, former Michelin starred Head Chef of The Dorchester and now Executive Chef of Teppan 260. Should you be familiar with pan-Asian foods, you may as well get your booking in now as the new Leeds restaurant fuses the best of Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, China, Singapore, the Phillipines and Indonesia under one roof. But, with the food, comes Bokmun’s desire to get the atmosphere just right…
“Experience is everything,” he exclaims with a boyish excitement. “At the end of the day it’s about what goes in your mouth really and you want that ‘wow’. You’ve got within two seconds – no matter what restaurant you’re in – you’ll make that decision in two seconds. If you don’t deliver, everything else, however important it may be, is lost.”
To make sure that doesn’t happen, he has a team built behind him that has been able to bring his and Kenneth’s vision to fruition and will open Teppan 260 up to Leeds with the same confidence and esteem that The Orchid has had in Harrogate.
As he points out, “the team is everything. We’ve got some very enthusiastic new members as well as the guys with experience – two have worked in a Michelin starred restaurant and Kenneth was Head Chef at the Dorchester, also with a Michelin star, so we’ve got a good mix of experience and then youth, energy and vitality – we’re able to push boundaries.”
That bodes well for any new establishment in Leeds. Those boundaries being pushed are ultimately necessary too. With a raft of places in Leeds that cater to pan-Asian fans, even if it isn’t of the highest quality, Teppan 260 needs to make sure it has something else to offer those in search of their fill – and according to Chan we should have little to worry about.
“This is a brand new concept not just for Leeds or Yorkshire, but for the country. When customers order they use the iPad – there’s no more waiting or waving around like a madman for service, which will speed things up for the customer experience. Secondly, the food and the atmosphere is completely different in the way that we’re heating these plates up to 260 degrees, the food is completely fresh, and it starts to sizzle on the plate as it reaches the table, with the freshly made sauces on the side and then you become the chef!”
Whilst it might be daunting to those who can’t profess to being the next Ramsey or Oliver, what it does allow for is a certain playfulness to a new restaurant experience that isn’t taking itself too seriously – it merely concentrates on being the best it can be for themselves and for the customer. Speed will play a big part in determining Teppan 260’s success. Whereas most Asian restaurants in Leeds may have a fast food option, the eat in aim of Bokmun Chan is to make it a refined fast food, with elements to tell your friends about.
“Then there’s the speed – when customers order via the iPad, it goes straight to the kitchen and in under five minutes it’s on your table – so there’s no waiting or looking at your partner or thinking should I say something? And that happens very often. If you imagine a nice lunch – you might have 45 minutes or an hour to eat and you want some hot food. What can you do? KFC? McDonalds? Or do you go for a sandwich but they get a bit boring.” Give the man his due – he has a point.
“How do you get in time? Here you get it in five minutes, after 20, 25 minutes you can be leaving. This is a concept that is very new, I’m very excited, good food makes me excited. It’s nice because it was born in Yorkshire, so instead of London coming up here, we’re going to be going down here and I believe it is revolutionary.”
Is Leeds ready for a dining out revolution? Are Teppan260 ready to deliver it? Serving a restaurant full of people all within five minutes is a monumental task, at least without it having a detrimental affect on the quality of food – but this new Leeds restaurant has is a blend of youthful vibrancy, wise experience and quality food – if they can keep that consistent, Leeds will not be the only place they end up spreading their wings to.
Teppan 260, 6 Millennium Square, LS2 3AD.