Dough&co on track to open new pizza joint in Bishop's Stortford in September
Restaurateur Christopher Sharman's transformation of Bishop's Stortford's former McDonald's into an artisan pizza palace is on track.
The entrepreneur is confident the third branch of his Dough&co Woodfired Pizza chain will open its doors at Anchor Street on September 14, adding to his portfolio in Sudbury and Colchester with Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds set to follow soon.
The fit-out is well under way, featuring the company's trademark furniture and wall panelling made from recycled wooden pallets and an open, central kitchen area so diners can watch their food being prepared in a specialist Gozney oven fuelled by briquettes made from smoke-free, compressed wood shavings.
Christopher has swapped his chef's whites for a tool belt to direct the project as part of his hands-on approach to developing his business.
He said the transition from a fast-food joint had been a smooth process, apart from the sheer volume of lights left by the burger bar which have been removed to provide a more atmospheric interior. Tracking down the central timer which controls them was a further challenge for his team.
He will be training the kitchen brigade himself, with help from Dana Murton, his head chef in Colchester, while area manager and best friend Tomas Zuj will handle front-of-house training at the 80-cover restaurant. About 20 jobs are to be created as part of Dough&co's plans.
Christopher honed his cooking skills with Marco Pierre White and said: "What we're looking for is everything to taste as good as it does in our other branches."
He is confident moving to Anchor Street is the right move, despite the leisure centre's chequered history for food outlets.
When the 95,000 sq ft (8,826 sq m) complex opened in 2000 it was home to Cineworld Cinemas, Cannons Health Club, PB Bowl, KFC, McDonald's and Chicago Rock Bar and Diner. Today, none of the original tenants trades there.
It was constructed for East Herts Council by Citygrove. In December 2017, Kier bought the centre for £7.85m as part of its wider vision for the goods yard area around the station.
Working with Network Rail as Solum, the developer is behind a £200m regeneration of the 12.85-acre (5.2-hectare) Bishop's Goods Yard brownfield site, which will provide more than 500 new homes, two multi-storey car parks, a station square, a Premier Inn hotel, a care home, shops and offices as well as a new link road from Dane Street/Station Road to London Road.
Both Kier and East Herts Council are tightlipped about plans for Anchor Street, despite discussion with the Shaping Stortford steering group, but the Bishop's Stortford Town Centre Planning Framework provides a series of signposts.
It says "the Empire Cinema and Anchor Street Leisure Centre are low-quality structures that present inactive frontage to the riverside" and suggests how they should be remodelled to "improve the riverside frontage and connection to the station".