LEEDS-born celebrity chef Marco Pierre White is set to return home with a new restaurant in a booming part of the city centre.
The Yorkshire Evening Post can exclusively reveal that the world-famous kitchen maestro plans to open his first ever Leeds restaurant next year.
Marco’s New York Italian will open at The Merrion Centre in December 2016.
The Hell’s Kitchen star said: “It’s great to be coming home to Leeds, what more is there to say?”
The news is the latest in a string of high-profile additions to the area around the Merrion Centre, which has enjoyed a major renaissance since the opening of the First Direct Arena in 2013.
It will take up part of the ground floor of the new 134-room Ibis Styles hotel development at the site of the former Merrion Hotel, which closed in 2013.
Planning permission has been submitted to Leeds City Council today for Marco’s New York Italian, which will serve Italian and American dishes.
Edward Ziff, chief executive and chairman at Town Centre Securities, which owns the Merrion Centre, said: “It was actually my daughter’s idea.
“She spends a lot of time in London and looked at one of his restaurants.
“Plus Marco Pierre White is an ex-Leeds boy and was keen to get one of his restaurants in the city. It’s fantastic.”
Top chef Marco previously planned to open a restaurant at the Queen’s Hotel back in 1999.
However the project was postponed indefinitely, with a spokesman at the time citing ‘complications’.
But the success of the Arena Quarter has been enough to encourage the chef to try again in Leeds.
Mr Ziff added: “The Merrion Centre is in the heart of the Arena Quarter, which is rapidly becoming a popular destination with restaurants, bars and the First Direct Arena.
“We are very excited to welcome a top restaurant and hotel to the offering.”
Councillor Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive member for regeneration, transport and planning, said: “Since the arena became a reality, the area around the Merrion Centre has flourished, developing into a thriving and vibrant ‘quarter’ in the city centre.
“We can continue making the Arena Quarter a massive success story for our city.”
The Merrion Centre has undergone a £50m facelift and the £34m Hilton Leeds Arena Hotel is currently under construction nearby at Portland Crescent.
The YEP can also reveal that the Merrion Centre has experienced almost a 20 per cent rise in visitor numbers since the arena opened.
Work on transforming Merrion House is also under way and the centre’s car park has had around £10m of investment.
Speaking about the future of the Merrion Centre, Mr Ziff added: “We are talking to a couple of other major restaurant brands about other sites on the front-facing side of the arena.
“We would also like to see fashion retailers joining us who appeal to the mass market.”
Marco Pierre owns 19 restaurants across the UK.
There are plans to expand this to 50 restaurants by the end of 2017.
Speaking during a visit to his restaurant in Sheffield last week, Marco Pierre said: “If I think of the world I came from, a humble world, we never went to restaurants.
“Going to the pub in the summer for an orange juice was a treat.
“But the working man is aspirational now and he wants more out of life. He wants to buy a house, he wants to buy a car, he wants to go abroad for his holidays.
“He wants to dine in restaurants. What’s important is to make things affordable.”
Nick Taplin, chief executive at Black and White Hospitality, which owns the Marco’s New York Italian brand, said: “We have been eager to make our move into the city for some time but it was crucial that we found the right partner.
“Returning home to Leeds will be a special moment for Marco and we hope our guests will feel it was worth the wait.”