Developing and outfitting upscale kitchens in the City of London landmarks has become rather a habit for Hallmark Kitchens. Having worked on kitchens in the Shard, the Gherkin, the Walkie Talkie, and the Lloyd’s building, the Kent-based kitchen design house’s latest extravaganza is in the Leadenhall building – popularly known as the ‘Cheesegrater’.
It’s a particularly ‘fromagey’ type of cheese which the skyscraper is now home to, after Hallmark designed and outfitted luxury French restaurant, Bob Bob Cité onsite. The distributor had previously worked with owner Leonid Shutov on a refurbishment of sister restaurant Bob Bob Ricard in Soho, and so was integral to Shutov’s considerations when he started thinking about expanding his restaurant empire more than 2 years ago.
Hallmark MD Kevin Jennings recalled the exacting ideas that Shutov presented him with: “He wanted the kitchen to be accessible, not necessarily on view, but it wasn’t to be behind doors, so that he could welcome customers in there. He wanted to push the boundaries of how things were made and questioned why he had to accept all of the standards of quality, style and design that are used throughout the catering industry. Why couldn’t he have a different solution for his kitchen?”
With a brief stipulating a high quality restaurant “unlike any other”, and the front of house designed to simulate a luxury train or megayacht, the kitchen needed to follow suit. “If Leonid was going to provide the best restaurant in London then the back of house had to be the best too,” said Jennings.
Subsequent to the initial 10-week design process, Shutov decided to switch the double Michelin star chef Eric Chavot from Bob Bob Ricard to the new site, with Chavot keen to input into the layout. While the cooking suite was already specified from Ambach, Chavot requested that the cook group was divided into different work stations, as well as fitting three Hatco Quick-therm salamanders which benefit from multi heating zones that can be operated individually. Hallmark and Shutov were more than happy to refine the specification to suit Chavot’s operation.
Even the original decision to plump for Ambach was subject to Shutov’s exacting eye, as Jennings detailed: “He was very proactive, he visited a lot of cooking suite manufacturers’ factories and other restaurant sites. After a lot of careful consideration he chose to work with Ambach.” The manufacturer even personalised the suite for Bob Bob Cité with a yellow fascia behind the operational controls.
The cooking equipment roster also includes nine Unox combi ovens for the various workstations, two Rational VarioCookingCenters, a Josper charcoal oven and Valera microwaves. The warewashing provision is entirely by Winterhalter, while there was a diverse approach to refrigeration. Precision provided cabinet refrigeration, Adande supplied multi-temperature refrigerated drawers and Irinox contributed three blast chillers, with Foster Coldstores chosen for the walk-in coldrooms thanks to its similar work at Bob Bob Ricard.
There was also a couple of large True Refrigeration feature refrigerators, again decked out in the restaurant’s distinct powder ‘melon yellow’ pantone, in the front of house bar. There, Hallmark carried out the fabrication on the staff side of the bar, working alongside the project’s building contractor WFC, which focused on the bar’s public-facing element.
Fabrications throughout were supplied by Select Catering Fabrications, which workshopped ideas with Shutov and Hallmark to meet the detailed requirements. Jennings explained: “The fabrication was a very specific design – he wanted a single piece thin sheet top so that the worktops appeared to be floating. Therefore they sit on support cupboards and legs to ensure structural stability. Plus the restaurant required raceways centrally underneath the worktops in which all the electric sockets are located so there is the flexibility to move appliances.
“Leonid visited Select’s factory too and if anything wasn’t how he’d envisaged it then it was modified to suit.”
Halton provided the ventilation canopies with built in fire suppression systems, but if visitors to the kitchen look up further above that, they will find no suspended ceilings. According to Jennings: “WFC created rafts above the work surfaces so that nothing would fall onto the preparation areas, as Leonid challenged whether suspended ceilings were required.”
Smaller equipment included Clifton water baths for a sous vide provision, Retigo Holdomat hot holding cabinets, a Carpigiani ice cream machine, EAIS racking and Metcalfe Catering Equipment mixers and slicers.
The fit-out began with two separate 3-week phases of ventilation canopy installation, as well as a 3-week coldroom installation in February. Then the main installation for fabrication and proprietary equipment started around March/April 2019 over a 6-8-week period, ready for the restaurant’s opening in June.
Jennings is happy with how Bob Bob Cité has turned out, saying: “We are proud of what we have achieved and we have already brought visitors to the restaurant to demonstrate our capabilities. We fully understand that not everyone can afford this type of project, but there is no reason why we can’t bring those same skills to any other project that we do, and work within the client’s budget.”
He concluded: “It’s one of the best projects that Hallmark has done and it was a real pleasure to work with a client who knows what he wants.”
Double Michelin-starred chef Eric Chavot is very satisfied with the catering area Hallmark Kitchens has created for him to work in at Bob Bob Cité. “Hallmark was fantastic, I am more than happy. The equipment ticks all of the boxes.”
He enthused: “I especially love the bespoke slanted workstation that Hallmark created for us. They and Leonid never said no to any of my suggestions.
“I helped to choose the smaller equipment, but the heavy equipment was almost all specified as I came in halfway through the design project. But I helped to shuffle the logistics of the kitchen so that each of my chefs can work independently in their own sections. Each one is a mini kitchen in itself.”
He summarised: “Hallmark and Kevin Jennings are as OCD with the details as I am with the food. I have an amazing boss in Leonid who is not scared to take risks, and everything was calculated to be the best. This kitchen is a little boy’s dream.”