Andy Cook, former head chef at the Savoy Grill, has been appointed executive chef at Soho Farmhouse, the new country outpost in Oxfordshire from the Soho House & Co (formerly branded Soho House Group), which is set to launch in July.
He is working with former Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens, who is involved on a collaborative basis in creating the food offer across a variety of eating-out venues, extensive banqueting, and room service to a seven-bedroom farmhouse, four-bedroom cottage and 40 cabins (ranging in size from one to three bedrooms). The focus will be on serving fresh, seasonal produce, much of which will be grown on the estate or sourced from the local area.
Located within a 100-acre estate between the villages of Great Tew and Enstone, Soho Farmhouse will feature a spa, swimming pool, boating lakes, tennis courts, five-a-side football pitch and outdoor ice-rink in the winter. The food outlets will include:
- Main Barn, serving the likes of pizzas, roast suckling pig, ham hock and chicken pie, salads and traditional desserts. The ground floor, which has a large open plan kitchen, will be able to accommodate up to 50 covers, while there will be space for a further 100 guests on two mezzanine levels.
- Boat House is to provide a more casual food offer, including grilled meat and fish dishes from a wood-fired oven. During the winter the 40 seats will overlook the outdoor ice rink which, in the summer, will convert to a space for up to 200 guests under a permanent pagoda.
- Farm Deli will provide complete dishes, such as pies and lasagnes, for guests to enjoy in their cabins, as well as have seating for up to 14 guests and a further six al fresco tables. A selection of cheeses and charcuterie will be available here.
- Farm Shack, with 25 seats, will serve hearty stews, alongside slow roasted lamb and racks of ribs cooked in an outdoor wood oven.
- Mill Room will be a pub serving a reduced menu of dishes from the Main Barn, as well as pork scratching, Scotch eggs and other pub nibbles.
- Barwell Barn will open in the winter when the outdoor area at the Boat House is not in use. It will serve rustic winter food from an open spit and grill to up to 80 guests at long tables.
- Banqueting for up to 250 guests will operate within a marquee.
Cook worked for Gordon Ramsay for 13 years, most recently as head chef for four and a half years at the Savoy Grill. He has also worked at Ramsay's restaurants in Tokyo, New York and West Hollywood, and is now excited by his new role.
"There will be some challenges of operating across the estate, but we have some fantastic new facilities, including a space for curing meat and making cheese," explained Cook.
"There are some lovely fun touches. Alongside room service delivering dishes to the cabins from the various restaurants, there will be two 1950s-style milk floats converted into ‘greasy spoon floats', which will cook the likes of egg and bacon sandwiches and grilled kippers to order."
The milk floats will also be used as a pop-up food offering around the farm, serving fish and chips by the football pitch or burgers by the tennis courts. Meanwhile, two mobile milk float bars will serve cocktails around the estate
Cook is currently in the process of recruiting for the 40-strong kitchen brigade. "This is going to be a great location for young chefs to gain experience across a variety of different outlets."
Nick Caton, who has worked at Soho House for 16 years, having joined as a waiter at Café Boheme, is the director of Soho Farmhouse. His most recent role was as director of roll-outs and pop-ups, looking after the expansion of Dirty Burger, Chicken Shop and Pizza East.
The Soho House Group was launched by Nick Jones in 1995 in London and has since grown into a renowned group of private members' clubs, hotels and restaurants in city centres worldwide. Soho Farmhouse will be the company's 14th hotel.
Babington House, which opened in 1998 near Frome, Somerset, is currently the group's only rural property. It has been credited as leading the way in creating a trend for country house hotels with a relaxed, contemporary vibe.