THERE are two words uppermost in Roger Evans's mind when creating menus for the catering facilities at one of London's most prestigious concert venues - simple and quick.
Since operations at the Royal Albert Hall revolve around the shows, time is of the essence. "Most guests have their meal before a show, so the dishes we serve have to be simple and quick to produce."
As Letheby & Christopher's regional head chef for the City of London, Evans divides his time between the Royal Albert Hall in Kensington and the Institute of Directors Club in Pall Mall.
At the former, his best-selling dish for concert-goers at present is a pan-fried calves' liver served on a bed of mashed potato with crispy smoked bacon, deep-fried sage and a red wine sauce. Although most of the menus are changed three times a year, this dish has been on the hall's Victoria restaurant menu for six months because of its popularity.
"The main advantage is that it is so quick to produce," says Evans. "The potatoes can be done in advance and we pan-fry the calves' liver to order, so it takes only about three minutes."
About 14 portions of the dish are served each night and, according to Evans, it is particularly popular with the older generation.
The Victoria restaurant is one of three catering for the 1.5 million visitors to the Albert Hall each year. In addition, under the 10-year contract awarded in 1996, Evans is responsible for three function rooms, an individual buffet service for the venue's 130 guest boxes and providing the sandwiches served at all nine bars whenever there is a show at the venue - on average, 320 days per year with two shows a day at the weekends. There is no need to cater for the artists since their food is produced off-site by their own caterers.
higher average spend
Up to 80 pre-show dinners are served in the 60-seat Victoria restaurant per show. Diners choose two or three courses, priced at £17 and £21.50 respectively, from a selection of five starters, five main courses and five or six desserts. The restaurant attracts a higher average spend than the other two restaurants at £18-25 per head including drinks.
The busiest restaurant is the 90-seat Prince Consort Room where an average of 150 covers are served per show. In addition to the five starters, four main courses and five desserts, there is a selection of sandwiches and platters, many of which are served as snacks during the interval. The average spend here is £10-12 including drinks.
The trio is completed by the 70-seat Elgar restaurant, a self-serve operation which generally serves about 90 covers per show with an average spend of £12-15. The restaurants open one-and-a-half hours before each show and again during the interval, which usually lasts about 20 minutes. They vary in style because of the need to cater equally well for Tori Amos fans and opera lovers.
Having the main kitchen situated in the basement is a problem since the restaurants are on the first and third floors, although there is a satellite kitchen for each restaurant. In addition to Evans, the kitchen is staffed by an eight-strong kitchen brigade comprising head chef Andy Grimwood, two sous chefs and five chefs de partie.
All three restaurants have their own full-time restaurant manager, but waiting staff are employed on a temporary basis and the number varies. n