The latest project for Bristol based independent kitchen specialist QCM Equipment was familiar ground for the distributor. It was a refurbishment for Kaleidoscope Hotels at the newly-acquired Homewood Park Hotel in Freshford, near Bath.
Ian and Christa Taylor’s Kaleidoscope Hotels own 15 Great Pulteney Street in Bath and in early 2018 added The County Hotel to their collection. Shortly after acquiring The County, QCM was appointed to carry out an upgrade of its kitchens which was successfully completed in conjunction with design consultant Derek White of SHW and executive chef Marc Hardiman – formerly of Great Fosters in Surrey.
The County Hotel project was completed against a tight timescale and budget, and when Kaleidoscope then acquired Homewood Park, its third property, QCM were again asked to work with Derek White to redevelop the kitchen there.
In one of those strange quirks of the industry, Gerry Oakley of QCM had designed and fitted the kitchen at Homewood Park some 25 years ago – installing a Garland Master Series gas suite comprising solid and open top ranges, fryer and griddle. With the passage of time this suite was in poor condition and in need of replacement – being increasingly difficult to maintain. With the kitchen being housed in a series of small spaces – typical of a heritage building not originally designed for a commercial hotel operation, the old equipment was very energy inefficient and produced huge amounts of waste heat, making the working environment very uncomfortable for staff.
In addition, years of under-investment had left the kitchen at Homewood very disjointed and in need of rationalisation – to improve workflow and productivity, as well as addressing hygiene issues with the fabric of the building and workspaces.
Initially White and Oakley carried out a review of the existing kitchen layout with Kaleidoscope and quickly determined the need to upgrade the cooking capabilities to meet the current and anticipated demands of the business.
A new cooking suite was required and, with advances in technology, the best solution was to change to induction. Oakley revealed: “We have worked closely with Control Induction on several high profile independent restaurant projects in recent years and they were the ideal choice in this case, with the capability to combine their expertise into a purpose-made high quality suite in a tight space.”
The new cooking suite combines two plancha plates, rapid induction hobs, an induction stock pot plate with water tap, drop-in high efficiency FriFri twin fryer and elevated rise and fall salamander. A Rational SC61 electric combi is located at the end of the suite with small Blue Seal convection oven for back-up.
The new suite was delivered to site in one piece, requiring very careful planning and consideration to allow it to be turned onto its side to pass through narrow doorways and the service corridor, despite its weight.
Alongside the new central suite, White was able to make several small but effective changes to the remainder of the kitchen spaces – relocating the potwash into an office, to allow a new larder to be created adjacent to the coldroom and kitchen. New Precision Refrigeration counters with drawers were added below the perimeter worktops to give the kitchen staff chilled storage immediately to hand and reduce the need for movement. Additional sinks and hand wash basins were incorporated into the workbenches – with Franke hands-free taps on the wash basins for hygiene.
The original kitchen ventilation system has been upgraded, with the original canopy altered by adding ‘comfort cooling;’ from a fresh air system which, combined with the reduced heat output of eliminating the gas cooking equipment, should make the kitchen a more comfortable environment to work in.
Furthermore, a remote still room was repurposed for crockery and glassware storage, and the beverage making and breakfast area repositioned to the central service corridor to reduce travel for front of house staff. The wash-up area – whilst remaining in its current location, was upgraded in the second phase with new bespoke fabricated scrapping and sorting stations and drop-off areas, to improve hygiene and efficiency, and new Hobart hood dishwasher and glass washer aimed at improving wash quality.
Throughout the kitchen space the existing walls have been stripped back and redundant pipework removed, with new hygienic wall cladding and suspended ceilings installed throughout. Stainless steel work-surfaces were replaced with new bespoke fabrication, undertaken by TCCS, which involved welding on site to minimise the due to the awkward shape of original walls and adjustable height, removable wall shelves fitted.
New kitchen passes have been created in the main kitchen and larder with a pass through hot cupboard, to simplify the return of clean crockery – designed to save staff time and limit movement, as well as larger plating areas with rise and fall heat-lamps which should greatly improve and speed up service.
QCM’s Oakley summarised: “The changes combine to not only provide the kitchen staff with a more comfortable and safer working environment, but a workspace which allows greater productivity to meet the expected increase in demand as the hotel grows in popularity.
“The kitchen is now much easier to clean, saving valuable time, and offers enhanced storage for equipment and ingredients immediately to hand. Alongside this is the huge long term saving in energy costs, brought about by the elimination of gas fuelled equipment, which will continue to pay back over the life of the new cooking suite.”
Work on the refurbishment was carefully planned in late 2018 and started in early January 2019. To allow the hotel to continue to trade throughout the upgrade, the work was divided into three phases with the main kitchen closed for only 4 weeks. During this time the hotel offered a slightly reduced service and worked from the pastry kitchen, with the main kitchen and larder handed back at the end of January. Phase 2, including the pastry kitchen and potwash, and Phase 3 with the breakfast/beverage area and wash-up, continued into February.
However, one small reminder of the original old kitchen remains: an engraved, but very tarnished brass plaque was rescued by QCM from the Garland suite and was cleaned up then refitted to the new induction suite.