‘There’s an incredible amount of buzz going on’ - ‘Seven star’ chef Simon Rogan on being back in Manchester at the AO’s new members bar and restaurant The Mezz

It's got its own VIP entrance, private cocktail bar and arena access

By Ben Arnold | 6 March 2024

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The plush new members bar and restaurant The Mezz opened at the AO Arena last night, with a star-studded red carpet bash to accompany One Direction’s Niall Horan performing on stage.

Purpose built to elevate the arena’s hospitality offering, the venue boasts modern British cuisine, fine wines, curated cocktails and both pre and post-gig entertainment.

It will also offer up ticket and membership packages with VIP entrance to the arena, all-inclusive food and drink, a private cocktail bar and dedicated host service.

Simon Rogan

It has also managed to snare ‘seven Michelin star’ chef Simon Rogan (he has three at L’Enclume in the Lake District and four more at his other restaurants) to curate a dish on the menu, as well as another by his protege Tom Barnes.

It’s not the first time that Rogan has found himself wrapped up in the Manchester food scene – having rebooted The French at the historic Midland Hotel in 2013. 

Meanwhile, Barnes – who has worked in Michelin starred kitchens for his entire career, will be opening up his first restaurant, Skof, in the nearby NoMa neighbourhood in the spring.

“With Tom coming to Manchester, and me coming to Manchester a lot more and seeing what’s going on with the city, the incredible amount of building work that’s going on, there’s an incredible amount of buzz,” Rogan told Manchester’s Finest.

“Hopefully [The Mezz dishes] are the start of a really fruitful relationship, and we’ll see where it goes. At the moment, it’s two dishes we’ve designed, a lamb dish for the main course which I’ve created, and a rhubarb dish that Tom has created. There might be some more things coming further along the line.

“But there’s other projects to seek out, and be a part of this buzz that’s going on.”

Rogan also spoke about plans to spend more time in the north, after a hefty year of travel since winning three Michelin stars last year, in order to help support his protege Barnes.

“Last year was a crazy year,” he said. “Since L’Enclume got three stars, we get invited to events all over the world. It’s made more demands on our time, so we’re trying to do less of that this year, so I can be in the north west a lot more than I have been.

“With Tom opening, we want to offer as much support as we can. But it’s his baby, he’s got 20 years of experience with me behind him, so hopefully he won’t make a lot of the mistakes I did!” he added.

“I feel like we’re helping one of our star pupils go off on his own, and I’m really excited to see it. I’m sure he’s going to absolutely smash it. We’ve been through so much together, and I want to see him make it to the very top. That would make me so proud.

“There’s no one who deserves it more than Tom. I can’t wait for it.”

The Mezz is open now. Skof opens later in the spring.