REWIND the clock a couple of decades and Martin Wolstencroft was pulling pints at The Skyrack in Headingley.
Now the entrepreneur is calling the shots with his own multi-million pound bar and restaurant empire Arc Inspirations, which has a turnover of £20m a year.
The company includes The Pit, Manahatta and Trio – as well as several more in his old stomping ground in the heart of studentland.
And today he unveils his latest venture – a £1.4m site slap bang in the heart of the city centre.
Banyan Bar and Kitchen takes over a prime 8,000sq ft site within the old Post Office building on City Square.
“I’m very, very proud to be opening a flagship site in such a beautiful, prestigious building in Leeds city centre,” Martin says.
“We are putting our stamp on the heart of Leeds.
“It’s like we are putting down a stake in the ground and saying we have arrived.”
It’s no wonder that with such a stunning building and key location, there were several big names vying for the sought-after spot when it became available last year. But Arc Inspirations fought off the competition.
Martin adds: “With so many others going for it, I think it’s superb that we managed to acquire this building as a local Leeds company and we have made it our own.”
Formerly home to Loch Fyne, it has been given a big-money makeover and created 60 jobs.
The outside terrace can cater for up 120 people, with space for hundreds more drinkers and diners in the private dining room and two bar areas.
General manager Adam Smith has been with the company for 10 years.
As he proudly shows us round, he says: “The location is unbelievable and the way the sun hits the outside terrace it is unreal.”
The drinks menu has been carefully crafted by bar development manager Mark Austin.
Mark has travelled the world as part of his research, visiting distilleries and bars in New York, Venezuela and France to find the best ingredients.
Talking us through the menu, he explains: “They are fresh, clean cocktails with a big gin and vodka element, with home-made syrups to help us stand out from the crowd.
“The outside terrace and the food and drink menu is designed to allow customers to sit and watch the world go by, with a classy drink in your hand too, no matter what time of day.”
As well as the traditional cocktails, there are quirky new concoctions, such as the pea and mint bellini – made with sugar snap pea syrup – and the pistachio espresso martini.
It also has a separate gin section with different botanicals and tonics to choose from.
The new site is the fourth Banyan to open, following on from venues in Manchester, Harrogate and York.
When asked about potential plans to expand the business further, Martin adds: “We are looking at different opportunities in Ilkley and Sheffield.”
Just watch this space, as we’re certain this won’t be the last time you hear about Arc Inspirations.