As far as prime city centre locations go, Harry’s Bar & Brasserie in Newcastle is up there with the best of them — and doesn’t CaterQuip (GB) Limited just know it!
The recently-opened venue, which the Northumberland distributor designed and fitted, is situated right opposite the Theatre Royal in Grainger Town, the historic heart of the city linked by a network of streets containing some of the finest Georgian and Victorian buildings in the region.
CaterQuip has spent the best part of a year at the site, answering a brief to convert a series of independent retail units into a 200-seat upmarket restaurant with adjoining nightclub facilities.
The company employs nine people in total and six of those were permanently on the job until it concluded, while various service personnel were brought in on a sub-contract basis, giving some indication of the resource required to handle the demands of the project as it unfolded.
“It was a privately-financed operation and a very large job in the scheme of things in Newcastle at the moment when people aren’t spending vast amounts of money,” says Howard Kell, managing director of CaterQuip.
“It is one of the biggest projects, certainly recently, that we have done and it is one that has taken a lot of our time up. It has been 12 months in the making and there was a lot of time spent on it in the early days. Plus we are involved in an off-spin of two nightclubs which the same customer owns — one below this particular venue and one that is being developed elsewhere in Newcastle, so the whole project has been quite a large one.”
As you would expect, the location of the site presented a logistical obstacle for CaterQuip to navigate from the outset. “The place is based on different levels — if you are coming off Grey Street, the building is on a different level to when you come around the corner from the other side. Logistically that presented a bit of a problem, but we got around it,” comments Kell.
To put the lay-out into some kind of perspective, diners entering the building via Grey Street have to walk up some steps inside the venue to reach the main bar and foyer area, but those entering via the adjacent street essentially arrive in the same area at ground floor level.
The main kitchen area, meanwhile, primarily lies on the ground floor, while there are two separate prep areas above that, along with a dishwash zone within the second prep area.
Additionally, while CaterQuip was given the ‘luxury’ of designing it from scratch because there was no legacy catering operation, it faced a considerable extraction and ventilation challenge for the very same reason.
Kell explains: “There is no flat roof to this building — the kitchen is on the ground floor level and there are six floors of offices above. One of the challenges was getting service ducts in.”
Subsequently, ventilation became a significant aspect of the job, with Hertfordshire-based Chapman Ventilation given the task of designing and supplying the bespoke canopies as it was also involved with the ductwork through a service area to the outside.
“It was quite a difficult ventilation job and they needed somebody who could basically throw a lot of muscle at it,” says Kell. “It was a crucial part of the project, with it being a tempered system and all controlled electronically. Everything is run on computer screens and programmable, so it switches itself on and off, and when the whole place goes down to 22°C you get warm air coming in.”
There was a downside to that set-up initially, though. The original design contained an ice room with two large machines producing ice, but this was compromised when it emerged that hot air would be pumped into the room in the early hours of the morning. CaterQuip therefore disconnected it and put a small cellar cooling unit in to regulate the temperature.
CaterQuip designed the kitchen, the prep areas, back-of-house areas, wine cellars and ice storage rooms, as well as the bars. It provided CAD drawings of the kitchens following a brief from the client’s executive chef, which Kell says underwent about a dozen revisions before the final lay-out was decided.
“We had structural constraints but the job was really a blank canvass,” he says. “Working with the chef, we identified where the cookline was going to go, where the prep areas were going to go and where the dishwashing area was going to go, and together with the mechanical services people and the builder we came up with the design which was incorporated into their scheme of things.”
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A key feature of the kitchen area is a giant eight-and-a-half metre hot pass built specifically to the operator’s requirements by Lancashire-based CED. It arrived in three sections and was fitted onsite by CaterQuip’s install team. “It is technically an open kitchen but it does have a screen in front of it,” says Kell. “They felt that it was too open, so they blanked off about 50% of it with a glass screen.”
As far as the equipment goes, the chef wanted a main cookline with two separate cook areas so that chefs could work independently.
He plumped for a Falcon Dominator range having used the brand before, with gas tops and convection ovens providing the cooking power required.
In between the ranges sits a Josper charcoal oven, while two Rational combis have also been deployed: a 10 grid and 20 grid. Training sessions were subsequently set up with Josper and Rational development chefs to ensure the kitchen brigade knew how to optimise each item of equipment before officially opening for business.
Elsewhere, bench and upright cabinets were supplied by Foster, coldrooms came from Celltherm, and Maidaid provided all the warewashing equipment, including glasswashers in the bar areas, and ice machines. IMC, meanwhile, supplied glass frosters and waste disposal units.
Given the French-themed menu, the restaurant naturally offers a range of breads, so a Victor hot cupboard has been incorporated to meet demand for items such as baguettes and hot sandwiches. The restaurant has also extended its opening hours since it launched, allowing it to cater to the passing breakfast trade as well.
Considering the complexities and scale of the project — valued at around £260,000 — Kell insists it actually went relatively smoothly, with the company able to call on its knowledge and experience of the industry to navigate any hurdles it encountered and ensure the specification was met. He admits that the most pleasing aspect of completing the project came from “getting it right virtually first time”.
He elaborates: “The builder had, I think, 14 pages of snags and we had half a page, so to be perfectly honest we were quite pleased. The satisfaction was knowing that we had done a good job within budget and on time, and delivered it how the client wanted.”
With the restaurant anchored in a prime location at the heart of Newcastle’s historic theatre scene, the fruits of CaterQuip’s work are set to be enjoyed by Newcastle diners for many years to come.
View pictures of the project in our exclusive online gallery here.
Equipment from a variety of manufacturers was used during the fit-out, including:
– Celltherm Coldroom
– Falcon Cooking ranges
– Foster Refrigeration
– Josper Charocal fired grill
– IMC Glassfrosters; waste disposal units
– Maidaid Warewashers; ice machines
– Rational Combination ovens
– Victor Hot cupboards
Name: CaterQuip (GB) Limited
Address: Unit 1, Burt Street, Blyth, Northumberland, NE24 1NE
Tel: 01670 546 363
Focus: Commercial catering and refrigeration equipment to a wide range of clients in Newcastle, Sunderland, Gateshead, North, South Tyneside, Northumberland and across the North East