Ruth Watson, former star of Channel Five's The Hotel Inspector and co-owner of the Crown and Castle in Orford, Suffolk, is to take legal action against the local council's decision to award a one out of five rating following a food hygiene inspection of the hotel's kitchen.
Suffolk Coastal District Council carried out its inspection at the three-star hotel on 26 November, after which certain dishes were removed by the business from the menu. It is believed that the low rating relates to the cooking method of certain dishes, rather than any issue of cleanliness.
Watson said that she strongly disagreed with the council's score, which removed the hotel's previous maximum score of five out of five and, as a result has taken independent advice from one of the UK's leading food safety experts to validate her views.
"He has carried out his own assessment of the EHO's report and firmly believes that it neither follows, nor accurately reflects, Food Standard Agency guidelines," she explained.
"As someone who has worked in the hospitality industry for nearly 30 years, I fully accept there is always room for minor improvements. However part of the problem appears to be that the boundary between taking food safety very seriously, as we always do, and being allowed to cook top quality local ingredients in the way our customers want, is being irrevocably blurred.
"We have made every effort to resolve our dispute with the Food Safety Team as swiftly and amicably as possible, but remain unable to agree with their approach, and so we have commenced the first stage of a judicial review action to allow a court to determine the fairness of the inspection and the rating."
In response, a spokesperson for Suffolk Coastal District Council said that despite fully considering the hotel's appeal against the rating and the independent advice it had taken, the council believes that its original decision is correct after taking its own independent advice. He added that the council will defend its decision strongly, if legally challenged.
"After our inspection the hotel did immediately make alterations to its menu, as well as important changes in the layout of the kitchen and the ways in which food was handled. These changes are bringing them in line with how food safety laws, and significantly, their customers, would expect them to operate. We are not considering taking enforcement action against the premises, as a result", he said.
The Trinity restaurant at the Crown and Castle has two AA rosettes and a score of 4/10 in the Good Food Guide.
By Janet Harmer
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