Former Corrie actor Rupert Hill behind plans to bring show stopping food and an indoor beer garden to the theatre

It’s about time Manchester’s dramatic Royal Exchange Theatre had an equally mesmerising food and drink offering.

For forty years, visitors to this renowned venue have had to put up with various hospitality incarnations serving decent but mostly unremarkable Modern British food, in a restaurant that stops serving at 7.30pm.

The tinkling sound of teaspoons on tea cups has long echoed round the café area of the building (which once housed the world’s biggest cotton exchange), but the fodder has barely caused a stir with local food lovers.

Now news has reached us that the Royal Exchange has just formed a creative partnership with former Coronation Street actor Rupert Hill and partner Goska Langrish (pictured top); co-owners of The Castle and Gulliver's on Northern Quarter's Oldham Street, The Eagle in Salford and Baker’s Vaults in Stockport. 

They also form part of the original team behind The Parlour on Beech Road in Chorlton, which won the coveted Observer Food Monthly Best Sunday Lunch award in 2012. 

Royal Exchange
The Rivals will open in the Royal Exchange Theatre on St Ann's Square in September

Their new city-centre venue is to be re-named The Rivals, after the very first production performed at the theatre in 1976. The space is to be fully redeveloped to reflect its dramatic location overlooking St Ann’s Square. It will incorporate the Royal Exchange’s restaurant, bars and cafe as well as the introduction of an indoor beer garden within the stunning architecture of the Exchange’s Great Hall.

“The Rivals is a fantastic addition to the Royal Exchange and St Ann’s Square”, said Mark Dobson, Executive Director of the Royal Exchange Theatre, “and we’re thrilled that this new venture will be fronted by the brilliant Rupert Hill and Goska Langrish, who bring all their knowledge of Manchester’s food and drink culture to our theatre. I look forward to celebrating our productions with audiences, cast and crew in this new city centre venue.”

The Castle Hotel Northern Quarter
Hill and Langrish also own The Castle in Northern Quarter Beer Lens

Rupert Hill said, “I’m so excited about this new venture, a place where both my passions come together in one stunning venue. We will be bringing not just a great new food and drink offer (including a wide range of cask ales and craft beers), but also a commitment to the arts in our own events programming and promotion.”

The Rivals indoor beer garden will be open from the 31st August, to coincide with shows, whilst restaurant and bar plans to open to the public by mid-September. As of yet, none of the team have offered a clue as to what type of menu they plan to serve (we're guessing some mod British with global influences), but hopefully it’s an improvement on the previous lacklustre incarnation, ‘The Round’ which Jonathan Schofield reviewed here in 2012.

The Rivals will be open to the public from 14 September.