It started when Mrs NP and I met at Manchester Polytechnic back in 1987.
We had both partially survived the appalling Nouvelle Cuisine of the early ’80s and we just wanted good honest scoff – on a students grant of course. Just up from my hall of residence (Broomhurst) in Didsbury used to be an amazing restaurant called The Steak and Kebab House and it was here that I became a waiter and the tiny dream of an idea for Nowt Poncy® was born. Nouvelle cuisine, £200 for a meager meal that usually needed a pit-stop at the local chippy on the way home.
The S&K was amazing. It had a wine cellar that was crammed full of everything from really basic wine to Chateau Mouton Rothschild and Chateau Lafite Rothschild. The soundtrack was provided by Ella and Etta, Louis and Frank, and the food – oh the food. Fresh Fruits de Mare, the best filet steak and the most amazing kebabs all brilliantly cooked by an ex-pot washer who stepped up one busy night when the chef didn’t turn up and who stayed for years. The qualification for being a waiter was you had to be able to carry 4 loaded dinner plates anywhere in the building which was unfortunate since 60 to 80 covers were on the first floor and there were usually three services a night at the weekend. The place was open till the last person left which may have been 04:00hrs. You were paid £1 an hour but the tips were stellar. £100 each on a reasonable night as the patrons were very generous and the S&K was THE place to go for bands such as Simply Red, A-Ha, and the Haçienda crews. The manager and I once cleared a rowdy table of 13 by whipping their plates away mid-meal, me being piled up with assorted crockery and the manager escorting them out to the cheers and applause of the other diners.
Sometimes when the last person had left, the manager would fire up the grill, dispatch one of us to the cellar and we’d have an 06:30 early breakfast of kebabs and steak toasting each other with horrendously expensive wine at £20/glass. A quick wash and then straight to lectures. Oh my days, what brilliant memories.
The best thing about the S&K though was it was very unpretentious. You could wear what you wanted and as long as you were respectful to the staff and the food you could stay as long as you pleased – and people came two, three times a week. Mr Benedictine, a wonderful gentleman with fabulous stories and who always had a post-meal liqueur and the very quiet and secluded corner frequented by a well-known celebrity and his fancy woman, my lips are still sealed of course.
When we went out for something to eat, if the food was good enough it would go on the menu for the virtual bistro we’d open one day (everyone wants to open a bistro right) and that bistro would be called Nowt Poncy. When we had a change of circumstances after Karen left teaching in 2014, we needed a new challenge and so Nowt Poncy was born. Twenty-odd years late but we LOVE what we do and what we have created.