Named after Stonegate chairman Ian Payne’s favourite town in the US state of Montana, Missoula is an unashamedly American take on a restaurant-bar format. The most recently opened sites in York and Milton Keynes, both branded Montana Bar & Grill, are essentially updated versions of the original Missoula format that currently operates at 13 other venues.
The decor in York is riddled with US touches, from cowhide upholstery to antler wall mounts. The drinks offer includes a strong nod to the American craft beer movement – there are seven world beers on offer, including Shipyard American pale ale and Anchor Steam. The US influence is also evident in the cocktail range, which features 11 signature variants such as Huckleberry Lemon Drop and Ponderosa Pine alongside 14 classics.
The food menu is big on steaks, burgers, and ribs, including some premium options. Burgers start at around the £10 mark and the extensive steak range extends to £28.95 for an 8oz fillet USDA steak.
Montana Bar & Grill has a focus on all-day dining. The breakfast menu, again, has strong American influences, including the likes of American-style Waffles (£5.95) which are served with fried eggs and crispy bacon.
“The food is terrific, all individually sourced,” out-going chief executive Toby Smith told M&C Report. “We think we’ve come up with some really special things on the menu that are as good as anything you’ll get in the UK.”
With the layout, the idea is that the atmosphere calms somewhat as customers move back from the bar area towards the far end of the venue, where there’s more dedicated seating for diners.
It may be Stonegate’s most premium concept, but that doesn’t mean it’s overly formal, and Smith explains that the aim is for Missoula to have a less rigid feel than Living Room. A number of seats have been removed from the bar area so it feels less formal, more inviting
“The market has moved on a little bit, from having a bar and a formal restaurant into being a bit more laid back. It’s about being able to enjoy all the different zones, all the different parts.”
The wet:dry split is expected to vary from site to site. “What happens over a period of time is each site finds its place,” Smith explains. “Some might be 60:/40, some might be 65:/35. Realistically the minimum food level is probably going to be 35%.
“We try not to be constrained by numbers of sites and percentages. If the customer experience is great then the site will do well.”