After nearly three-and-a-half years away from the London restaurant scene, Mark Sargeant has announced he is returning to the capital to head up the restaurant at the Great Northern hotel, the luxury Victorian property in King's Cross, Caterer and Hotelkeeper can reveal.
Sargeant, who owns and operates Rocksalt in Folkestone and consults to foodservice powerhouse Sodexo and ISS UK, will be overseeing the dining at Plum + Spilt Milk, the 90-seat restaurant and 15-cover bar at the recently renovated hotel, which is due to open next month. The Great Northern hotel, owned by Jeremy Robson of asset management company Ram, has recently undergone a £40m renovation, converting it into a 91-bedroom hotel.
Sargeant worked alongside Gordon Ramsay for 13 years, and headed up GRH's hugely successful Claridge's restaurant for eight years where he earned the restaurant a Michelin star in 2002. The move will see the 39-year-old chef competing directly with former Gordon Ramsay Holdings (GRH) colleague Marcus Wareing, who operates the Gilbert Scott brasserie and bar at the nearby St Pancras Renaissance hotel.
"It's an amazing opportunity, and to be back in London, in particular that part of town, is incredible," he told Caterer and Hotelkeeper. "After leaving London, my focus has been on Rocksalt, which is absolutely my baby, it's my restaurant. But obviously I've always wanted to get back into London, and this is so perfect. It's at the end of the train line for me, just 50 minutes door-to-door from Folkestone, and the hotel is stunning. I was blown away by the room and the décor. I feel as excited about this opening as I did when we opened Claridge's for Gordon. But it will be a very different style of food to Claridge's," he said.
Sargeant's menus, which will be available from breakfast through to dinner, will be "simple, produce-led with a particular emphasis on seasonal British ingredients and sourced where possible from small independent suppliers on the Great Northern line".
His responsibility will include the Kiosk concept, an outlet on the concourse of King's Cross Station which will serve hot roasted pulled pork sandwiches. Robson is hoping to roll out Kiosk to other locations throughout London.
Sargeant, the 2006 Craft Guild of Chef's National Chef of the Year, who is about to launch The Mark Sargeant Experience, which will see him welcome ISS UK chefs and front of house personnel to Rocksalt to develop their skills, confirmed that he is in the process of recruiting a head chef as well as further staff for the brigade at the hotel. Head chef Ray Patterson was brought in to launch the project only.
The hotel will be run by director of hotel rooms, Anthony Thwaites, who spent nearly 15 years with Malmaison before becoming general manager of the Puma Hotels Collection's Lygon Arms in Broadway at the end of last year, while the director of restaurants and bars will be New Yorker Scott Sapot.
Originally designed by architect Lewis Cubitt, the Great Northern hotel first opened in 1854 for patrons of the Great Northern Railway. The ground floor of the hotel, which is taken up almost entirely by the GNH bar, opens directly on to the western concourse of King's Cross station and is just 18m from the Eurostar terminal in St Pancras International. The hotel was redesigned by London-based architects David Archer and Julie Ann Humphryes of Archer Humphryes Architects.
Robson said the reopening of the Great Northern hotel had been a dream of his for many years. "I saw the quality in the original architecture and realised what a careful renovation could contribute to the major regeneration being undertaken at King's Cross. I wanted to re-create something of real and lasting value; a London landmark that would serve visitors and Londoners alike."