2019 winner: Glenapp Castle, Ballantrae, Girvan
Sponsored by CGA
A five-AA-red-star hotel located in the southwest of Scotland, Glenapp Castle has 17 suites and a restaurant that can seat up to 70 guests across two dining rooms. When the castle is operating as a hotel, the restaurant team serves breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and a choice of dining options in the evening, including a three-course gourmet dinner and a six-course tasting dinner.
In recent years the castle has undergone a major expansion, hosting weddings for 70 and corporate events for 140. Meanwhile, the team has worked hard to secure new business. It is flexible on different room set-ups, sometimes having three changes in a day.
Most impressively, this year the hotel has launched a Hebridean sea safari, with the restaurant providing five-star service on a remote Scottish island. It has been taking guests to the Isle of Jura for the highest standards of luxury glamping.
Hours of planning and logistics go into each trip to ensure guests are served dinner and wine in luxury and safety far beyond the castle's walls. Two days before the guests arrive, a ground crew sets up the glamping tents, a catering tent and hot showers.
Then, during the guests' island stay, the restaurant team offer the same level of service as guests can expect at the hotel, from offering a selection of wines to a range of whiskies after dinner. The appeal of the experience is clear and Glenapp has taken bookings from around the world for it.
This hard-working restaurant team hasgone from servicing a single dining space to multiple spaces, including a tea room in the walled garden and dining in the Victorian glasshouse. Despite this growth, the team has maintained its five-star standards, as its AA and Relais & Châteaux inspections – and its TripAdvisor and Google reviews – confirm.
Their efforts have been recognised on the balance sheet too, with a revenue target well within sight of the team. New partnerships with two key local businesses – the Hendrick's gin and Bladnoch whisky distilleries – have equipped team members with expert knowledge of the products so they can more easily upsell to guests.
The team is also taught about the history of the dishes served, where the ingredients are sourced and their seasonality. All colleagues are sent a copy of the menu every morning so they can familiarise themselves with it before service. They are also encouraged to experience for themselves some of the activities that are available to castle guests, such as the falconry display, boat trips to Ailsa Craig, and dining in the glasshouse, so that they can speak about them with authority.
The old-fashioned art of hospitality is very much alive and well among the restaurant team at Glenapp Castle.
WHAT THE JUDGES SAID
"A team with real passion, commitment and flexibility. I love the glamping idea, which was surely a challenge to execute."
Stuart Geddes, hotel manager, the Lanesborough
"There is a real culture of belonging here, with old-school hospitality. Training seems to be at the heart of everything that is special about the food and beverage experiences they offer."
Simon Girling, director of F&B, the Ritz London
- Chino Latino Park Plaza London Riverbank
- Gillray's Steakhouse & Bar Marriott County Hall, London
- Glenapp Castle Ballantrae, Girvan
- 2018 Holborn Dining Room, Rosewood London
- 2017 Ham Yard hotel, London
- 2016 the Balmoral, Edinburgh
- 2015 Charlotte Street hotel, London
- 2014 Northcote, Langho, Lancashire
- 2013 the Montague on the Gardens, London
- 2012 the Dining Room at the Goring, London
- 2011 Chino Latino, Park Plaza London Riverbank
- 2010 Brasserie Max, Covent Garden Hotel, London
- 2009 the Ritz London
- 2008 Granary Beefeater, Peterborough (Ferry Meadows) Premier Inn
- 2007 Galvin at Windows, London Hilton on Park Lane
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