Charity-led Teesside restaurant, The Fork in the Road, is celebrating hitting Tripadvisor’s number one spot among Middlesbrough eateries just six months after opening.
Thanks to hugely positive ratings and reviews by customers, the Linthorpe Road restaurant has topped the online review website’s list of 279 Middlesbrough restaurants and food outlets – with 96% rating The Fork in the Road as either “excellent” or “very good”.
Backed by Middlesbrough-based national charity CEO Sleepout, the restaurant is run by experienced catering professionals who mentor trainees including ex-offenders, those in recovery from addiction and the long-term unemployed.
The unique restaurant also helps to fund Bar Zero, a dry bar situated upstairs that provides an important social facility for Teesside’s recovery community.
Andy Preston, who is the driving force behind the restaurant as chairman of CEO Sleepout, said that being rated number one on Tripadvisor felt “fantastic”.
He said: “There’s been an incredible effort by everyone behind the scenes in terms of marketing, creating a place that looks great, creating a fantastic atmosphere and serving great food in a friendly but professional manner. This accolade is a credit to all of them.
“We’re incredibly proud to be changing lives whilst serving awesome food. We set out to be the best restaurant on Teesside and serving fantastic food is naturally a big part of that.
“But I think our positive reviews reflect the overall impact of the restaurant, not just the great food. It’s about the service, the atmosphere, décor and, of course, our USP that we are creating training and employment opportunities that are giving people a chance to change their lives.
“For Tripadvisor’s system to take into account all the reviews of 279 restaurants and food outlets across the town and rank us highest just feels fantastic. It’s all about opinions, of course, but we couldn’t be prouder that our customers have gone out of their way to give us such fantastic reviews and ratings.
“People are going home having had such a good time at The Fork in the Road that they want to tell others just how good it is.
“We’ve quickly become part of the fabric of the town. People like what we do and what we stand for – and they travel from miles around to visit us, from places such as Darlington and Hartlepool.
“We’re attracting people into the centre of Middlesbrough in a way that’s helping the town to compete for the first time with Teesside’s recent night-time hot spot of Yarm High Street.”
Andy, who is also chair of charity Teesside Philanthropic Foundation, added: “When you’re setting up any kind of new business, you have to seek to win some business from others – and to do that you have to do things better than they do.
“Without being disrespectful to others, I think we’re doing that. The food is always our primary concern, of course, but we’re constantly striving to be the very best at all aspects of running a restaurant.
“We’ve also set out to meet the budget of any food lovers – whether they’re looking to have brunch for a fiver or enjoy a sumptuous meal and the world’s best wines for £100.”
Staff at the restaurant, which is based in a building that was once home to popular toy store Romer Parrish, have also worked hard to retain a local feel whenever possible.
Music from Cattle and Cane was played throughout the weekend when the popular local band launched their new album, while The Fork in the Road recently played host to guests taking part in World Knitting Day.
Along with money from CEO Sleepout, The Fork in the Road and upstairs Bar Zero project gained funding from Public Health England, input charity Recovery Connections and Middlesbrough Council’s Public Health Department.
Here are some of the reviews that have helped to make The Fork in the Road Middlesbrough’s number one restaurant on Tripadvisor:
“If you haven’t eaten at The Fork in the Road yet then you’re missing a treat. The food is just fantastic. Although I’d enjoyed excellent lunches at The Fork previously, this was my first visit for dinner – and they again went beyond my high expectations.” – Dave A
“Fabulous meal. I had the sea bass. I didn’t want it to end. Service excellent. Will definitely be back!” – AnnieSHeath
“Well who knew Middlesbrough had such a gem in its city centre? Good service, wonderful food and value for money. The burger went down well with the children and the puddings were simply superb. I shall be back.” – RHC09, Sheffield
“The best restaurants succeed because they have a clear concept or reason for existing, and The Fork in the Road has come up with an absolute corker that also has a conscience too. Pricing was bang on and what was really good, in my opinion, was that the restaurant explain on their material upfront that their policy is not to take any tips but you can purchase a dish from the menu (A Sharing Dish – c£3.50) which is the diner’s contribution to the homeless cause championed by the restaurant. A concept with a conscience and brilliantly executed.” – DSNM2014, Manchester
“Lives up to the reviews. This is a brilliant idea and it could be replicated across the country. First and foremost, it’s a very good restaurant. For people who are socially conscious and love good food, this is the place.” – Carolyndawson, Suffolk
“I decided that my Mum, sister and I should visit for lunch. My sister works with people who deserve a second chance and thought this was a great idea. She was expecting a coffee and sandwich in a church hall, so when we arrived she was amazed! The food was exquisite, real 5 star quality! The manager took time out of her busy day to explain how the restaurant support the community and the great work they do in giving people who deserve a second chance work experience and opportunity. It was a world away from what we were expecting, a real asset to the area.” – sharonbQ824
“I have eaten dinner here on a few occasions while in Middlesbrough and every time it has been wonderful. The methodology behind the restaurant is also fantastic. It also has a no tipping policy, with customers instead being charged a slight premium on food to allow the restaurant to pay staff a higher wage. Put that methodology together with great food and excellent service you can see why it is always busy and people like me keep going back.” – Bob_the_Aussie, Sydney
“Fantastic experience, top class food. I had the crayfish and chorizo risotto to start with which was so tasty, sirloin for main which was a great cut and perfectly cooked (I loved how you didn’t ask me how I wanted it cooked…..it was arguably the best steak I’ve had, my sister said the same), topped off with the Amaretto bread and butter pudding which is the best I have ever tasted! I will be heading back for sure next time I’m back in Boro.” – Rosie H