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March Update: Tudor Farmhouse Hotel

30 March 2009
March Update: Tudor Farmhouse Hotel

The building is Grade II listed so owners Hari and Colin Fell are limited as to what they can do internally. However, when they took over they spent on back of house systems, new wiring and boilers, so the building is in pretty good condition.

Hari explains: "It's full of character but being listed does make doing things like installing Wi-Fi incredibly difficult - we've ended up with routers everywhere.

"Retro-fitting such an old building with very thick walls causes problems, and you know, as soon as you do some work, it's going to throw up something else and take longer and cost more than you expected."

The couple previously engaged three architects to look at the layout of the ground floor, but none has been able to come up with a better solution than the existing permutation.

On the rooms, Hari adds: "It's just fine tweaking and trying to improve as we go. We have a few electric showers left, which we are getting rid of, but there are no really horrific rooms."

Mentor Robin Hutson says: "They've just spent quite a lot of money on the main ground floor, putting in a more contemporary look which is pretty successful."

Referring to the bedrooms, which are mainly in the annexe barn conversion, Hutson says: "It is unusual and slightly the tail wagging the dog, but none the worse for that. In fact, I rather like its randomness."

The Fells do have an issue with the breakfast room/bistro and dining room layout, which are "a bit disjointed," according to Hutson, being separated by a seating area that also gets footfall.

"We spent a fair amount of time talking about how to capture more business for the restaurant and it's worthy of more investigation," Hutson says.

"[The bedrooms] are nice but they look a little dated in some areas. Colin and Hari are aware of this and there may be some tweaks we can do that can make a difference."

The Fells have taken Hutson's advice and introduced a strategy to reduce over-liberal use of the corporate rate. Hutson has also put in a simple food cost system, which will give head chef Blaine Reed an instant daily look at costings. He's also arranged for Reed to visit neighbouring chef Shaun Hill at the Walnut Tree this month for a mini-stage.

"It's arguably the most famous restaurant in Wales and its not doing super-fine dining," Hutson points out.

March Update

The Tudor Farmhouse's forager, Raoul Van Den Broucke, was included in an article in Food and Travel magazine this month, taking guests out looking for mushrooms, samphire and wild chives.

The coverage has resulted in four confirmed bookings for the foraging package, which includes the spoils being cooked by the chef for the guest's lunch.

There has also been a considerable increase in the use of the search term "foraging" - which owners Colin and Hari Fell have capitalised on by adding it to their list of Google ad words.

Business-wise, the hotel had the second-best ever February, taking £37,700, just shy of their break-even point at £40,000.

Hari says: "If it wasn't for the snow, we'd have had the best ever. We didn't expect to quite break even, so we're pretty pleased, especially considering the economic conditions."

Meanwhile Colin has been busy working on a new wine list to go in by the end of March.

Hari says: "He's really getting into it and enjoying it. We were already looking at changing the wine list but [mentor] Robin's advice spurred us on and we're going to get everyone trained up and add some more top wines."

Finally, the new sous chef, Stuart Cornell, started on 25 February and is settling in well. He was previously the sous chef in charge of fine dining at Holme Lacy House in Hereford.

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