Brains behind Manchester eatery Volta reveal why it works: ‘The best food is in bars where you drink all night’

By Matthew Ord

It appears as though lightning really can strike twice, at least for the owners of new Manchester eatery Volta.

Luke Cowdrey and Justin Crawford, the brains behind Chorlton’s award-winning Electrik bar, opened Volta in early December and have so far enjoyed plenty of success with it.

Yet you might not have guessed it ahead of the opening when the guys told MM they were ‘absolutely shitting it’.

While things may not have calmed down, at least the pair are feeling happy things are going well.

Cowdrey said: “Our first few weeks of trading have been a case of un-relentless grafting in the deep end – but it’s been a strangely exciting time…despite the stress!

“It’s rewarding because you learn what truly works and what people like – about the food, the service, the music… everything.”

Cowdrey and Crawford have DJed across the world as The Unabombers and in 1995 launched Electric Chair, one of the best loved night clubs in the city, before opening Electrik in 2009.

Crawford said: “We’ve worked hard for five years on Electrik, and 2011’s Bar of the Year Award made all that graft worth it.

“You need to keep things fresh or you stagnate.”

Their travels around the world have influenced Volta, particularly the differences between European and UK bars.

Crawford said: “We found a lot of places in Europe were so much more relaxed and informal than anywhere we’d experienced in the UK.

“The best food was found in bars where you could drink all night too, and shout and hang, and with none of that three course stiffness.

“In the UK if you want top food, you often think you’ve got to go to a proper sit down restaurant. If you want the best wine, then it’s a wine bar, and for a buzzy drinking place with great beer and cocktails you’d go to a bar.

“We love that European and Mediterranean vision for doing all that in one place – where the food’s every bit as good as the drink but just with no beginning, middle or end. Burton Road seemed perfect for that social, neighbourhood vibe.”

Volta’s head chef, Alex Shaw, has previously worked at Michelin starred The Old Vicarage, The Wig and Pen in Sheffield and the Royal Box at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

“We were always blown away by his food at Sheffield’s Wig and Pen,” said Cowdrey. “We’d talked and one day said we would do something together…suddenly 2013 arrived and it happened.”

With Volta being the newest in a long line of ventures from Cowdrey and Crawford, they are remaining tight lipped on where their next project.

Cowdrey said: “This next step is a big one for us, rather like our Croatian yearly festival ‘Electric Elephant’, which took six years of nurturing and developing to make it right.

“We don’t really fast track or roll things out. We’ve always been more comfortable doing things slowly and under the radar, so we have a few more ideas but god knows when they might happen and we’re certainly not looking too far ahead at the moment, its one day at a time.”

With regards to keeping up the early success, Cowdrey said: “It’s about listening to people and relentless hard work.  We’ve already had four specials on in the first week, all have sold out. So we’re going to develop this aspect of the menu even further – it’s a great way of showcasing what we do.” 

Volta is situated on Burton Road, West Didsbury M20 2LN and will be open for drinks and food 7 days a week. There is also a 50% off offer for the rest of January.

All pictures courtesy of Volta, with thanks.

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