Caterer What did the refurbishment programme entail?
Sue Williams It was a general update of the property and its public areas, such as the bathrooms. We also took the time to completely re-equip the kitchen. Our previous head chef, Chris Horridge, left in January [to join Von Essen's Cliveden hotel] and Michael Caines is taking over as executive head chef. The kitchen was 10 years old and somewhat tired, so it was a great opportunity to revamp it and involve Michael in its redesign. We've also started to refurbish the spa and, while this will be a 26â'week project, with the spa not reopening until the summer, the six-week closure has given us the opportunity to do the noisy and dusty bits of the redevelopment.
Caterer What has it been like working with Michael Caines?
SW Chefs are artists, and each is different, so it's always a challenge to migrate from one to another. But it's very exciting to have someone new, and the quality of Michael's cooking will be a great addition to Bath and the surrounding area.
Caterer Who will be the head chef?
SW James Sheridan, sous chef at [Caines's] two-Michelin-starred restaurant at Gidleigh Park, will be heading up the kitchen under Michael's guidance. It's his first head chef position. Also, former MasterChef winner James Nathan will be joining us as junior sous chef. He lives locally, in Bristol, and kept in touch with Michael after winning the competition last year.
Caterer Have you started discounting room rates?
SW We have seen an increase in UK visitors, as people are starting to take more short breaks rather than trips abroad, and I think this will be a real opportunity for the industry over the coming months. People are looking for value, but we're not offering blanket discounts and instead are trying to be creative by introducing package deals.
One of the packages we're offering is focused on a stay in a £15,000 Ammique bed. We're one of only two hotels in the UK to have such a bed, which doesn't have a mattress but instead is made up of rods that contour precisely to your body, providing the appropriate support for a great night's sleep.
Caterer What's it like being a female manager in a traditionally male-dominated market?
SW It's neither here nor there. I enjoy working with my male colleagues as much as I enjoy working with female ones. I think, as a female general manager, I may have a better eye for detail and I really enjoy getting involved in the design and interiors of the property.