DEFIANT Ben Franco will continue to serve customers after his restaurant was partially gutted by flames.

Nosh on Northgate in Almondbury was badly damaged by a fire on Friday night.

Ben explained: “The chefs were cooking some duck under the grill at about 6.30pm. It’s a very fatty dish and once the flames started it quickly got out of hand.

“The chefs tried to use a fire blanket but it couldn’t contain the flames so they decided to evacuate.”

Six staff and 15 diners spilled out on to the street.

Ben, who arrived at the scene 20 minutes after the fire started, said: “When I saw the fire my main concern was that everyone had got out all right and that no-one was still inside. Thankfully the staff dealt with it really, really well.

“But when I saw the flames I was deeply upset. I had just spent £15,000 refurbishing the restaurant.”

Firefighters arrived at the restaurant at around 6.45pm. They had to smash through part of the roof during their three-hour battle with the blaze.

Ben, 38, said: “The fire brigade was absolutely spot on, I couldn’t praise them enough. Some of them had eaten in the restaurant and they were trying to cheer me up by saying they would visit again once we were back on our feet.”

The damage to Nosh is substantial.

Ben said: “The kitchen has been gutted - there’ll be no food cooked in there for a while.”

He believes the restaurant will be out of action for six to eight weeks - but he’s determined to carry on.

Ben said: “I’m the co-owner of Cafe Espressoh next door so we’re going to set up a mini version of Nosh in there.

“Cafe Espressoh can hold 45 people compared with 100 in Nosh but hopefully we’ll still be able to look after our customers, which is what it’s all about.”

Ben and wife Sarah are joint owners of Nosh, which they opened in June 1998.

But the Thurstonland father-of-two is concerned about the restaurant’s future.

He said: “We were already struggling because of the mini-recession. This could bankrupt us.”

However, Ben is trying to look on the bright side.

He said: “If I don’t laugh, I’ll cry.

“I would encourage people to come along, we’re still the hottest place in town. And yes, duck is still on the menu.”

To book a table call 01484 43 00 04.