Michael Croft has left his position as executive chef director of Calcot Manor in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, after 17 years at the four-AA-red-star hotel. Calcot Hotels chairman Richard Ball confirmed that Croft had left for the hotel "for personal reasons", saying that he did not believe he had yet moved on to a new position.
As well as looking after the food and beverage operation at Calcot Manor, which offers the Conservatory restaurant and the Gumstool Inn, Croft also oversaw the other businesses in the Calcot Hotels group including Barnsley House and the Village Pub, near Cirencester; the Lord Crewe Arms in Blanchard, near Durham; and the event catering business William's Kitchen at Calcot.
Croft's departure has coincided with the hotel's re-launch today of its Conservatory fine-dining restaurant as a more flexible and informal eating space. The new-look 70-seat restaurant, complimented by a further 37 covers in the bar area, is intended to appeal to today's guests who are demanding someone stylish and relaxed to eat.
Ball explained that guests staying at the 35-bedroom hotel would often prefer to eat at the Gumstool Inn, which was also very popular with local residents. "We want to move away from the fine-dining element of the Conservatory and bring it and the Gumstool closer together. The Conservatory will still be a bit more special and sophisticated than the pub, but it will be equally relaxed."
Designed by Wiltshire-based consultancy Sims Hilditch, the Conservatory is now offering an all-day dining menu, created by the restaurant's head chef, Michael Benjamin, who has been in the role for nearly three years. Dishes include potted shrimps on toast, Upton smoke duck Caesar salad with asparagus and artichoke and Calcot organic beef hot pot with root vegetables and horseradish mash.
"The Conservatory's décor may be smart and elegant, but it's exciting, light, homely, warm and inviting at the same time," said Ball. The design certainly doesn't dictate the occasion but adapts to it instead. This is a concept that is gaining popularity in the capital cities but is largely unexplored in the country house hotel scene."
By Janet Harmer
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