At Hotelympia '96, fantasy buyer Philip Corrick spent an imaginary £2m on his kitchen at the Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall, London. Last September his dream came true when a new £1.7m kitchen was installed at the clubhouse.
It is a state-of-the-art kitchen with an illuminated glass ceiling, sparkling stainless steel and glass partitions around every section and hi-tech ventilation. And there are no less than two bespoke ranges.
"Our old kitchen was originally designed for guéridon and silver service and although we had brought the catering forward, we couldn't do more without a new kitchen," says Corrick, who aims to put the club's food on a par with London's best restaurants.
A major difficulty was that the original kitchen was on the lower ground floor, while the two main restaurants - the Great Gallery and the Members' Dining Room - are on the ground floor. With contemporary plated service, the journey made it hard to keep hot food in peak condition.
The solution was to create a new kitchen on the same floor as the restaurants, using what was originally a small satellite kitchen and an extension built on to a terrace outside it. Designer of the project was Ken Winch of Winch & Associates and the equipment was supplied and installed by Berkeley Projects.
Separate hot sections
There are separate hot kitchen sections for the Members' Dining Room and Great Gallery, divided by a larder section which they share. "Originally we thought of having one range to cater for both dining rooms, but it wasn't practical because of the numbers we do," says Corrick.
Both hot sections have a Bonnet bespoke range supplied by the HMI Group. The smaller of the two is in the Members' Dining Room section, which is used for breakfast and lunch every day and also for dinner at weekends. This has an oven at each side, two solid tops, two open burners, a griddle for breakfast items, a salamander at the end nearest to the pass, and two lava rock grills.
The Great Gallery hot kitchen, used for lunch and dinner on weekdays, has an even bigger Bonnet range with four ovens, above which are four solid tops, two double open hobs, a pair of lava rock grills, two Franke fryers, an electric rod grill for fish and a pasta boiler used for rechauffing vegetables.
Features that Corrick particularly likes on the ranges include off-centre bulls on the solid tops. "They give you a bigger range of temperatures and better control," he says.
Corrick also likes the insulation around the range, which means it does not get too hot and could even be used for plating up. He also praises the hygiene benefits of having all the equipment under a single top, without any nooks and crannies.
Ventilation from KVS is a sophisticated water-flushed system that uses a mist of water to keep down grease levels in the ducting. It runs on a detergent cycle every few hours, which is designed to eliminate the need for deep cleaning. Also installed is an Ansul automatic fire protection system.
The larder shared by the two hot sections has a full range of prep equipment, including a Pacojet frozen food processor. Corrick says this is effective for making small quantities of food items like soups.
Other equipment includes a Berkel slicer for Parma and Spanish Jabuga hams, and a Robot Coupe R201 Ultra.
Cooking equipment includes a Franke salamander which is mainly used for making toast and a Bonnet induction hob for warm salads. There is also a Franke FriFri Frita tabletop fryer.
In the Members' Dining Room, main courses include gratin of lemon sole and crab thermidor, roast rib-eye of Buccleuch beef from the trolley, and grilled supràme of chicken with Provence vegetables and balsamic jus.
Typical main courses in the Great Gallery include rosette of wild boar with a compôte of quince and mandarin sauce, breast of Lunesdale duckling with liquorice sauce, vegetable stir-fry and foie gras samosa; and seared john dory with a Jura wine sauce and spinach charlotte.
So what is Corrick's verdict? "It's starting to pay off - the members are seeing a much more consistent product." n