A day at the races

06 October 2004 by
A day at the races

After a dismal August, the sun finally came out in time to beat down on the Tarmac and hospitality tents at the Goodwood Revival vintage race meeting. Caterer Payne &

Gunter served a record number of visitors. What a joy to motor down the country roads of West Sussex, bombing through sun-dappled woodland and into the open, rolling vistas of the 12,000-acre Goodwood Estate. On arrival, the sheer scale of the Goodwood Revival is bewildering. Luckily, Amanda Hawley, Payne & Gunter's general manager, is here to show us around. This unique motor-racing weekend has a 1948-66 period theme, and all visitors are encouraged to dress the part. So I ask Hawley, who's dressed in a 1950s peach ensemble: does that mean the food keeps to the theme and we'll get our ration books soon? "At the beginning Goodwood tried to do it, but the actual paying punter doesn't want to eat Spam," she laughs. Yet it seems visitors do want to eat traditional Irish stew, roast dinners held in giant Yorkshire puddings, pork pies, pasties and Scotch eggs. Post-war staples Ovaltine and Bovril are also on sale, and Britain's favourite thirst quencher is sold from tiny tea huts where a souvenir mug plus five servings costs £5. There's a wealth of period detail throughout the 10 public catering areas and 36 concession units. One restaurant resembles a military hut - Goodwood was an RAF base during the Second World War - with a rope-matted floor and tablecloths printed with old Ordnance Survey maps. Serving staff wear RAF uniforms and a trio of Wrens circle the diners, singing wartime tunes in harmony. Bazza's Bar and Caf‚, a concession that's come all the way from Ireland, re-creates the interior of a 1950s greasers' bar complete with jukebox. Because of the attention to detail, catering for the Revival takes an enormous amount of preparation. Hawley is employed year-round to run just two events - the Revival and July's Festival of Speed - which, in total, last only six days. To physically set up the Revival, with its 16 temporary structures and kitchens, takes two weeks, and to take everything down again takes another two weeks. Hawley is in charge of 60 catering managers on site. When her briefing before the event isn't met with confused looks, she knows her preparation throughout the year has paid off. Each manager is armed with a walkie-talkie so they can contact Hawley. As we tour the site, Hawley's walkie-talkie doesn't crackle into action often, which is a good sign. Undoubtedly, the weather plays a huge part in the success of such an event. This year the kitchens get a bit hot, and some staff get sweaty under heavy worsted uniforms, but that's far preferable to a downpour. Payne & Gunter, a division of Compass's leisure arm All Leisure, has catered at every Goodwood Revival since 1997, and Bob Reeves, All Leisure's horse racing and motor sports managing director, remembers a very wet Revival three years ago: "The set-up becomes very hard. You have to double your labour, because the grass gets chewed up and there's a 5-10% drop-off in hospitality attendance. The work rate slows and it drains the staff emotionally." With the sun shining down this year, spirits are high, and the 850 staff - most of them university students - clearly enjoy and respond to the theme of the event. Head chef Leon Smith looks remarkably chirpy given that he started work at 4am and probably won't finish till 10pm. The dramatic change in the weather has meant some last-minute fine-tuning of supplies, which arrive during the night. He's ordered in more salad for Sunday. Another, more fundamental, menu change is on the horizon. In April 3,000 acres of grazing farmland on the Goodwood Estate gained organic accreditation, and at next year's Revival organic beef, pork and lamb reared a stone's throw away will find its way on to Smith's menus, which change every year. For Payne & Gunter, home-reared organic meat will be yet another selling point to promote Goodwood's calendar of events. n Payne & Gunter at the Goodwood Revival Payne & Gunter has been the caterer at Goodwood's horse racing and motor sports meetings for 17 years, working to five-year contracts. The three-day Goodwood Revival is in its seventh year. A total of 101,000 people attended this year compared with 94,000 in 2003. Entrance is by advance ticket purchase only. Basic entrance costs £15-£40. Payne & Gunter runs four main hospitality areas. Daily packages range from £225 to £340 in the SuperShell Pavilion, a former garage just yards from a hair-raising bend in the track. There are 10 food tents run by Payne & Gunter and 36 concessions, including Minghella's ice-cream, Veuve Cliquot Champagne, and Penfold's wine. Green's of St James's, London, is the only independent restaurant franchise. Payne & Gunter finances the kitchen equipment, crockery, cutlery, uniforms, staff, and some of the period details and furniture. Goodwood pays for the general infrastructure: tent hire - one tent costs £14,500 - gas, electricity and plasma television screens. There are 16 hospitality tents, including kitchens, on site. Total food and beverage sales this year were £1.6m (£1.45m in 2003). Goodwood receives an undisclosed percentage of sales. Payne & Gunter's overall profit margin is about 8%. SuperShell Pavilion hospitality menu Morning refreshments - Coffee, assorted savoury pastries and muffins Reception - Champagne and canapés Lunch - Saffron and orange-brushed fillet of red mullet over a salad of Oriental vegetables and cucumber with a sweet Thai chilli dressing - Contre-fillet of British beef, marinated with thyme and garlic, roasted chÆ'teau potatoes, buttered broccoli and cauliflower florets with seared cherry tomatoes and a port and shallot jus - Paupiettes of sole, glazed with paprika butter, wilted spinach and rocket, new potatoes and chorizo, with a Chablis beurre blanc - Confit aubergine filled with a spiced ratatouille, red pepper cream, served with chÆ'teau potatoes, buttered cauliflower and broccoli florets - Selection of country breads - Warm soft-centred chocolate fondant - Coffee créme brÁ»lée with caramel crust and biscuit royale - Coffee Afternoon tea - Sandwiches - Fruit scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream - Mini cakes and fruit tartlets - Indian tea
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