Chilgrove's White Horse Inn has been transformed, at a cost of £4m, into the Fish House hotel, restaurant and bar, with the kitchen growing by 30%. Refrigeration was a key element in the design, finds Diane Lane
Besides its name, there are several clues to the leaning of the menu at David Barnard's new restaurant housed in the former White Horse 18th Century coaching house in Chilgrove near Chichester in the West Sussex countryside.
First, there are the lobster pots either side of the entrance. Then, walking into the bar, it's hard not to notice the glass-fronted crustacean counter displaying oysters on a bed of flaked ice, topped off with a slab of Irish marble with an ice well and a Guinness tap. Finally, built into the dining room wall, are a series of aquaria through which the mechanics of the kitchen are visible to diners who can be in no doubt that the Fish House is aptly named.
"I discovered the place on a trip to Goodwood about four years ago and some time later when I had the Crab at Chieveley valued, the agent said it was up for sale," says Barnard. "The original plan was for a sister restaurant to the Crab but I received an offer on it that was too good to miss so I sold it."
And so a deal was struck in February 2008 and 15 months later the Fish House hotel, restaurant and bar was born. The building has been transformed by a £4m refurbishment which included a new kitchen and bar, plus outbuildings housing 15 individually-designed guest rooms. Six outdoor hot tubs are in the process of installation and a 1968 Citroen van is parked outside awaiting a fit-out to turn it into an outdoor bar, just like the one Barnard had at the Crab.
There are two distinct dining areas, the restaurant seating 40 covers for fine dining, and a 60-seat more informal fish bar area. "I always wanted to have a bar and restaurant providing fine dining and a simpler offering," says Barnard.
He recruited two managers, Laurence Dollard and Paul Higginson, to look after the day-to-day running of the business; restaurant manager Barbara Larsen to oversee the front-of-house operation; and head chef Alan Gleeson to preside over the kitchen.
The bar and kitchen installations, responsible for £200,000 of the total refurbishment cost, are the work of Space Catering Equipment for whom Steve Fear led the project, in close consultation with Barnard and Gleeson.
"The kitchen was extended and is now a third bigger than it was and the flow and configuration have been changed," says Fear who had worked with Barnard on the installation of the Crab's kitchen.
For Gleeson, aided in the kitchen by a brigade of 16 including sous chef Scott Eggleton and senior chef de partie Tom Beioley, the opportunity to design his own kitchen from scratch was a dream. "With the volume of trade we were looking at I wanted to put in the best kit," he says. "I visited Hotelympia and compiled a wish list."
Refrigeration was a major element in the design. Bulk chilled storage is by way of three external coldrooms - for meat and fish, veg, and dairy - accessed from either end of the kitchen via a covered walkway which also houses a dry store and an ice cuber and ice flaker both by Manitowoc. Consequently the brigade needed localised refrigeration in the kitchen offering large capacity within a relatively small footprint and the flexibility to adapt to the changing menu.
The answer lay in 10 Adande refrigeration units, each consisting of an insulated and individually temperature-controlled drawer, double stacked in appropriate places within the kitchen and fitted with stainless steel worktops. Chefs can vary the temperature of the drawers, fine-tuning it to the produce being stored.
The kitchen's firepower is provided by a 4m-long Bonnet Optimum 700 modular island suite above which hangs a Trivent ventilation canopy, one of three in the kitchen. The width of the kitchen was an issue so the 700mm-deep Bonnet units were chosen instead of the 900mm to allow the island configuration.
The suite is gas-powered apart from two fryers, a twin basket and a single, which mark the start of the garnish and starters section. This side of the suite consists of a twin solid top, four open burners, another twin solid top and a salamander.
The salamander, twin solid top and four burners are mirrored on the other side, which makes up the sauce, with refrigerated units and worktops opposite. A mirror chrome griddle provides a flat surface for direct or pan cooking, while a 50-litre tilting bratt pan provides bulk cooking capacity. Interspersed between the cooking elements on both sides is a series of ambient worktops, providing prep space, with cupboards underneath.
While traditional cooking methods are employed in the main, steaks are cooked with precision at 53ºC in a Clifton Food Range water bath before being seared on the stove.
Off to one end of the suite is a 60-litre Bonnet jacketed boiling kettle providing controlled heat for large quantities of stocks, sauces and soups and a stacked pair of Rational combi ovens. A 3.5m-long hot pass sits at the suite's other end, close to the pastry pass.
The pastry area beyond is about two-thirds the size of the hot kitchen. In the kitchen's previous incarnation, pastry was located elsewhere and its location didn't work in terms of the flow for waiting staff. Now, in its new position and having its own pass, access is much easier.
Built into the pass, which has a two-tiered gantry, is another pair of Adande refrigeration units providing two drawers for use as localised fridges or freezers making the area fully self-contained.
A 5ft granite worktop, chosen by pastry chef Dom Barker from various samples, extends along one wall with space for mobile flour bins underneath and a 40-litre ChefQuip floor-standing mixer positioned to one side.
A proving oven and a two-tier convection oven, both by Blue Seal, take care of bread and pastries and a twin induction hob by Induced Energy is readily available for pan work.
Further cold storage comes in the form of an upright freezer and refrigerator by Gram chosen for their energy-efficient properties and there's a Lincat hot cupboard for keeping bread and pastries warm. Barker is also lucky enough to have use of two Pacojet machines for ice cream.
DISH AND POT WASH
Next door is dishwashing kitted out with a pass-through machine with heat recovery unit and glasswasher, both by Winterhalter, and a GreasePak biological drain maintenance system. The pot wash, at the other end of the kitchen next to a wet prep area, is furnished with a sink and pre-rinse spray for descaling fish. A vac-packing machine by Henkelman Vacuum Systems works in tandem with the water bath for sous vide cooking.
A Gram two-door refrigerated counter provides additional chilled storage for the adjacent larder section which consists of two Adande units fitted with a worktop and a two-tier gantry by suppliers of all the kitchen's fabrication, CED Fabrications.
Barnard is very contented with his new venture. "I'm so happy here," he says. "I won't rest until I've made it into a national treasure."
David Barnard wants to make the Fish House a "national treasure" with the help of head chef Alan Gleeson
1. In addition to performing as another solid top for pan work, the chrome griddle on the sauce side of the Bonnet suite is used as a plancha for items such as squid, scallops and rostis, providing even heat distribution right to the edges. The bratt pan is used for braising shoulders of lamb and for reducing stocks once cooked, a task made all the quicker by its large surface area.
2. With the exception of the fryers, the suite is powered by gas, Gleeson's preferred heat source. Since there was no room for any workspace behind the garnish and starters side of the suite as it backs on to the aquarium wall, refrigeration units have been built into the suite to keep ingredients close at hand.
3. The Adande refrigeration units are stacked in pairs providing two drawers whose temperatures can be set individually. One of the units can be used as a blast chiller, saving the space that would be taken up if a regular blast chiller was purchased.
4. Besides the safety element of eliminating the need to move heavy stockpots, the Bonnet boiling kettle provides good temperature control by way of its water jacket and can be left all night without burning. Of the two Rational combis, one is set on steam and the other on 50% dry heat and 50% moisture for roasting whole fish which are then finished under the grill.
5. A self-contained pastry area with a stove top plus mixing, proving, baking and refrigeration equipment all close at hand and with its own pass was a prerequisite of the kitchen design.
6. A stunning feature in the bar is the ice well set into the marble above the crustacean counter which provides an attractive display of Carlingford Irish oysters on flaked ice produced in a Manitowoc ice machine.
7. Looking through the wall inset by aquaria, diners can see how their meal is progressing
EQUIPMENT PROVIDED BY
Adande, 01502 537135
Blue Seal, 0121-327 5575
Bonnet, 0844 888 7777
CED Fabrications, 01254 238282
ChefQuip, 01299 871856
Clifton Food Range, 01934 626691
Gram, 01322 616900
GreasePak/Mechline, 01908 261511
Henkelman Vacuum Systems, 0031 07362 13671
Induced Energy, 01280 705900
Lincat, 01522 875500
Manitowoc/Classeq, 0870 224 7288
Pacojet/CTC, 01543 375311
Rational, 0800 389 2944
Space Catering Equipment, 01452 383000
Trivent, 0113 276 0611
Winterhalter, 01908 359000