In last week’s Citizen there was an article about the latest new eatery to announce its arrival at Gloucester Quays: The Real China, a “popular Chinese buffet restaurant”.
It’s brilliant news that restaurants continue to flock to the Quays. The Real China joins names such as Nandos, Pizza Express, Zizzi and Chimichangas. Along with the soon to open new cinema, the Quays is looking set to be a great destination for visitors and local people alike.
The problem is, it seems to me that all of this lacks character and individuality: dropped into the middle of the Quays you could be anywhere in the country.
Don’t get me wrong, I like many of these restaurants and, in the same way that every successful high street needs something like an M&S as an anchor store, well known names are important to attract people in. But surely you also need some individuality; something to differentiate you from everywhere else.
The Citizen article states that The Real China already has a restaurant in The Brewery complex in Cheltenham. They also have a Nando’s.
Some time ago I was talking with Chris Oldershaw, CEO of the (now disbanded) Gloucester Heritage Urban Regeneration Company, about the Quays and he said they were modelling it on The Brewery. I had a lot of time for the GHURC, I think they did great things for Gloucester, but on this matter I strongly disagreed.
The Gloucester Quays and Docks are alive with history and have a unique charm. This should be complemented with something individual and maybe a little quirky, not just lots of the same old franchise eateries.
To be fair, we do have some more individual offerings. Portivo Lounge is a great addition to the Quays and across the road in the docks you have Dr Fosters and the excellent Vinings restaurant. There is also the Gloucester Brewery, which is exactly the kind of unique, individual enterprise the Docks needs – it is a great shame that it looks like we’ll be missing out on the benefit of an equally unique new pub by allowing Wetherspoon’s to take over the former Coots bar rather than the brewery.
The trouble is that someone who comes to Gloucester to visit the cinema followed up by a trip to Nando’s may not even realise that the Docks are there. I am pleased to see that some of these places now get a mention on the Gloucester Quays website, but on the ground there is no real link between the Quays and the Docks and certainly no link to the outside world of Southgate Street.
So, by and large, I am very pleased that Gloucester is developing what looks set to be a superb new evening entertainment destination, but please can we try to inject some individuality and make sure that we spread the love beyond just the immediate Quays area.