When Michael Chan graduated from university with a degree in hospitality management, he jumped on a plane to New York armed with a work visa, and instantly fell in love with the foodie scene in the Big Apple.
Now, almost two decades on, he is bringing his fondness for Manhattan’s dishes to West Kirby, through the opening of his first restaurant – a joint venture with fellow chef and business partner Mihail Mitkov.
Grand Ave – named after a boulevard in the Queens district – has opened on Grange Road, in the unit previously occupied by Le Jardin.
For Michael, it has come at the right time. He told West Kirby Today: “This is a first for us, but I’ve been looking a long time for a business of my own. I’m 40 now and I’m at a point where I can either keep working for someone, or open up on my own.”
He explains he has used it as an opportunity to bring over some of the creations he first encountered in New York.
“There are some dishes over there that are not mainstream here, and I think it is worth doing something different.”
The menu includes ribs, steaks, burgers, bagels and pancakes through to platters and Sunday roasts, and they will also be serving breakfast.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it also has Michael’s personal favourites from his time spent on the east coast of the United States: the reuben sandwich (corned beef, rye, gherkins, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing), the cuban sandwich (roast ham, citrus braised pork, swiss cheese, pickles and yellow mustard) and beignets.
For Mihail, who is from Bulgaria and has been resident in the UK since 2011 – “I came for a winter, but then I met a girl and ended up staying” – the opening is the realisation of a long-held ambition.
“It’s been one of my dreams to open my own place since I was 17 or 18. I’ve got a chef agency of my own, and that’s how I met Mike.
“We both work together very well, so we thought why not take it to the next level and instead of working for other people, try and do it for ourselves.”
He is no stranger to West Kirby, having previously worked in kitchens at Hickory’s Smokehouse and The Viking.
“I am quite familiar with the area and that’s how I got a bit motivated about it, not that we are going to be competition to them…we’re trying to do something different.
“Mike has been to New York and it is his second home, so we decided, let’s try to bring New York’s spirit to West Kirby. Let’s try to do authentic stuff and do something different to others.”
They made the decision to purchase in April, but only got the keys to the building six weeks ago.
Since then, they have been busy giving the restaurant a makeover to turn it into an American style diner – putting down a new floor, installing colourful graffiti features, pinning vinyl 12″ records to a brick feature wall and hiring staff.
Mihail says they want to make it a relaxed place to come for food and drink.
“That was the style we wanted to go for – a diner, restaurant, cocktail place. It is not for a certain amount of society, everyone can come here.
“Since the moment we got the keys we’ve been here every day, we’ve not had a day off trying to get it straight.”
The pair know the restaurant scene in the town is competitive, with recently-opened pizza parlour Forza just yards away, and they have already acquainted themselves with neighbouring businesses.
Michael says: “We welcome them and are hoping it will attract more people to the street. I love the [West Kirby] Tap and can’t stay away!
“My message is that we’re a small independent local business. We’ve done things the hard way, we can’t compete with the big boys, but please support local businesses!”
Grand Ave, 1 Grange Road, West Kirby, CH48 4DY, open daily from 9am. Visit the website or call 0151 625 0788.