Chef Ernst Van Zyl will no longer head the food offering at Signature Living's Cunard House venture in Liverpool.
In October 2017 it was announced chef Van Zyl, formerly chef-patron of the Hanging Gate Inn in Cheshire, was joining the company as executive chef of the venture and would head up a brasserie, restaurant, bar and banqueting at the site.
In November 2017, Signature Living signed a 15-year lease for the ground floor of the Grade II-listed Cunard building, owned by Liverpool City Council, with plans to transform it into a fine-dining restaurant, bar, wedding and events venue.
However, the company announced today Van Zyl had come to the end of his initial three-month contract, "and this will not be renewed".
A spokesman for Signature Living said: "When Signature Living took over Cunard House at the Cunard Building in November it was always on the basis that we would stage a series of pop-up restaurant experiences as part of our development plan to formulate our fine dining menu and offering… Based on this feedback we didn't feel the offering in its current format would expand into the Cunard. A review was undertaken and as a result various changes have been made both creatively and operationally."
Van Zyl tweeted yesterday: "Well. That was unexpected. My contact has been ended & ive been let go by Signature this morning. Cunard is being shelved until further notice and there's no need for me anymore."
That was unexpected
My contact has been ended & ive been let go by Signature this morning
Cunard is being shelved until further notice and there's no need for me anymore
— Ernst van Zyl (@Erniechef)
Signature Living said that as a result of the public feedback during the development period and an internal review of operations, a number of changes have also been made internally, with managing director David Hughes offering his resignation. Operations director Mike Mounfield has also resigned from his full-time role, but will continue to work with Cunard House on a contract basis.
Lawrence Kenwright, chairman of Signature Living, said: "In developing any restaurant or hospitality offering it is also vital to listen to feedback and as such we felt the necessary tweaks and changes needed to be made ahead of our full launch in February."
The venture will instead launch with a new fine dining experience and menu in February.
Originally from South Africa, Van Zyl came to the UK in October 1998 to join the Hilton Group in Manchester, and later became senior banqueting chef at the London Hilton Park Lane hotel. He was also chef-patron at the Lord Clyde in Kerridge just outside Macclesfield, where he achieved three AA rosettes.
Signature Living owns the Shankly hotel in the city and the Courthouse hotel in Cardiff. The company also plans to open three hotels this year: the Dixie Dean in Liverpool; the Harris hotel in Preston, Lancashire; and the George Best hotel in Belfast.
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