Court Catering reflects on winning kitchen scheme

Court Catering Equipment won the overall Project of the Year Award for its work delivering new catering facilities at The Sign of the Don — a bistro and bar on the site of the original Sandeman Port and Sherry Cellar in the City of London.

The Don opened in 2000 but some £2m was spent last year adding a more informal offer to complement the Grade 1 listed, 140-seater fine dining restaurant. Expanding into next door, the new site covers 6,000 square feet and now has 220 seats.

The owners of the restaurant held a desire to have the most sustainable new scheme it could. On discovering the severe lack of ventilation capacity on site, it was a natural progression that Court recommended an all-electric kitchen based around induction and combination cooking, dramatically reducing the extract, and supply air requirement.

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“Getting adequate ducting out of a Grade 1 listed building is a major problem and a key issue for the site was ventilation,” said Court’s managing director Nick Howe about the £350,000 project.

Aside from the complicated ventilation, drainage was also a major issue with existing sumps having to be refurbished and redirected to accommodate the equipment. Structurally, the building was very difficult and it took a lot of creative thinking to incorporate the dumb waiter as there were limited choices as to where it could go due to structural concrete beams.

By keeping the electrical connections to the MKN cookline at low level and having them isolated on the adjacent wall, Court was able to keep the equipment tight to the wall.

In addition to efficient Precision refrigeration cabinets, two banks of two Adande drawers were installed in front of the cookline, allowing the chefs to change storage requirements as the regular menu changes occur.

“We proposed an open kitchen/pass, which successfully gained more space for the kitchen, while back-of-house coldroom, blast chiller and storage areas back up the kitchen,” said Howe.

Elsewhere, four three-metre wine towers from Williams were specified to house the venue’s extensive wine offering, including two in a new tasting room contained on the site.

From a washing perspective, a Meiko combined dishwasher and potwash machine with integral heat exchange unit was installed. Both Court and Meiko also provided a sophisticated food waste handling system for The Don and the bistro restaurants, which takes all food waste via an inlet for each to a 5,000-litre food waste storage tank.

Following the installation, food waste is now collected once a week, rather than twice a day, as it was before.

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