Ex-Flying Pizza boss is back in Leeds with new £2m restaurant

One of Yorkshire's most experienced, popular and successful restaurateurs is returning to Leeds with a new £2m eatery.

Martin Pickles, best known in the city for his decade-long ownership of the Flying Pizza, will join forces with his long-standing friend Martin Hicks to open Convive at Weetwood Hall.

The new restaurant will create 25 new jobs at the new-build authentic Mediterranean restaurant which is set to open in February next year.

Mr Hicks and Mr Pickles have been friends for over 30 years and their new venture represents the second time that the duo have worked together professionally.

The new restaurant will be part of the University of Leeds-owned Weetwood Hall estate but retain an independent identity of its own, open to customers looking for a high quality dining experience outside of the city centre as well as to guests staying at the popular hotel complex.

As Convive’s head of operations, Mr Pickles will be responsible for managing the restaurant day-to-day and looking after the strategic direction of the business along with staffing and management duties.

Originally from Keighley, he has been involved in the restaurant trade since 1981.

After a decade of success at The Flying Pizza, Mr Pickles ran the Garrick Club’s restaurants and private dining rooms for five years in Covent Garden. This came after 14 years’ service at the famous Langans Restaurants in London, owned by Richard Shepherd CBE and his partner, Sir Michael Caine, where he also worked alongside Mr Hicks for the first time.

Mr Pickles said: “A high-end Mediterranean restaurant is what Leeds has been crying out for and I’m delighted to be back in the city I love and delivering the most exciting restaurant Leeds will have seen in many years.

“Leeds has a bustling restaurant and dining culture it can be proud of and I’m thrilled to be back in the thick of the action bringing such a fantastic new dining experience to the table.

“Working with Martin Hicks and the team behind the success at Weetwood Hall coupled with my 30 years in the business mainly spent in London, is a fantastic opportunity for me personally and I’m looking forward to it immensely.

“The really great thing is that this is outside the city centre, ideally placed at Weetwood, to make it a true destination restaurant without the hassle of parking problems in the city centre. All parking will be free and the restaurant is well served by local transport networks.”

Convive will have the capacity to seat 120 people and guests will be able to enjoy a full dining experience including an alfresco area under a retractable roof within the gardens.

It will be twinned with Mediterranean restaurants across Europe creating inspiration through innovative chef swaps and ingredient sourcing on quality food and drink. Many ingredients used in the kitchens will be sourced from local Yorkshire farmers.

Mr Hicks is the managing director of Weetwood Hall and has been responsible for establishing and maintaining it as one of the leading conference venues in the city.

He said: “This is really exciting news for Leeds and I’m genuinely excited on so many levels. Firstly, the food and beverage offering will be first-class and Convive will more than meet a demand that I identified several years ago.

“Secondly, the increased gift aid to the University of Leeds is a unique and very positive gesture that benefits the University, its students and the city as a whole, I’m not aware of any other commercial restaurant that operates in this way. And finally, I’m simply excited about the prospect of working with an old friend.”