Oooh la’s la’s – musician opens bistro in Widnes
Published by Laura Beckett for Halton Housing Trust in Housing and also in Care and Support, Communities
Annie and Gary
A former musician with The La’s and Echo and The Bunnymen has opened a bistro in Widnes with his French wife.
Chef Gary McDonnell, who also played percussion on Mansun’s 1997 number one album ‘Attack of the Grey Lantern” and his wife Annie, who has worked at some of the best hotels in the world, are now hoping to bring a bit of rock and roll to the Widnes food scene.
The Olive Tree bistro, located within Halton Housing Trust’s Naughton Fields extra care scheme, aims to bring something different to Widnes. Gary said: “All our food is sourced from local suppliers and farmers and we make all the food ourselves. We’ve had fantastic feedback from customers so far. There isn’t anything like this in Widnes so we’d encourage people to come along and give it a try.”
Delicious dishes include mouth-watering quiches, fresh soups and sandwiches and main meals such as cottage pie with a twist. The bistro on Liverpool Road also serves roasts on Sundays, made with locally sourced meat and starters including pheasant terrine, handmade from scratch by Gary.
Opening the bistro was somewhat of a love story for Widnes based Gary, 50, and Annie, 36. Bonding over a love of classical music, they met three years ago when Gary was head chef and Annie the general manager at a Cheshire hotel. Annie trained at one of the world’s leading hotel schools, "Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne" in Switzerland, and has worked at high end hotels in Madrid, Portugal and French Polynesia including the Lanesborough hotel in London. Combined with Gary’s extensive catering experience they were ideally matched.
Asked why he made the switch from music to food, Gary said: “When I was on tour, the only place that I could have a private moment was with the catering team. I just started hanging around with them and learning how to cook over the years. This led to me doing the tour catering for bands such as Queens of the Stone Age and Dionne Warwick. I’m still a musician but also love cooking.”
As well as running The Olive Tree, Gary has owned outside catering business, Empty Plates, for 12 years, catering for large events such as weddings and parties.
The Olive Tree is open for breakfast and lunch from Monday to Friday and for lunch on Sundays.