Kevin Waterson is not exaggerating when he describes the kitchen refurbishment that ABDA has just completed at The Arts Club in London as “one of a kind”.
Having worked in the industry for more than 30 years, ABDA’s sales director has overseen food service projects involving all sorts of operators, but he readily admits that its sheer scale and complexity surpasses anything he has ever done before.
The project also represents the largest contract that Northampton-based ABDA has ever delivered, taking more than a year to complete from the initial concept to final sign-off in October 2011, and featuring equipment from no fewer than a dozen equipment suppliers.
As well as reconstructing the private members’ club’s main kitchen, which at peak times has more than 20 staff working in it, the brief involved furnishing an upstairs pastry kitchen and developing a comprehensive warewashing strategy for both the basement and first floor. It also handled all the stainless steel fabrication for the main kitchens, dishwashing areas and waiter stations, and supplied the main cold storage rooms at the site.
When ABDA first began working on the kitchen design, the mandate only extended to the core kitchen and surrounding areas, but following a change of direction at The Arts Club the project was massively scaled up within a matter of weeks.
One of the biggest challenges for the ABDA contracts team was carrying out the project at the same time as the rest of the venue was undergoing drastic refurbishment. As well as requiring close and constant consultation with the main contractors, this led to an “exceptional” number of individual equipment deliveries taking place as the company brought in kit as and when areas of the site were completed.
“Normally what happens is the site would be finished and then we would come in and install the kitchens. In this case we were actually installing while there was still effectively a building site in the outer areas,” explains Waterson. “But doing this meant the kitchen staff could get trained and the chef could get all the menus, timings and ingredients right and test all the equipment for any faults or niggles before the club opened.”
Following input from La Petite Maison’s Raphael Duntoye — appointed as chef patron to bring his expertise to the project — ABDA set about conceiving a catering operation that would meet the club’s high-end specifications.
The main objective, says Waterson, was to find equipment that would perform in a way that matched the club’s high-end offering and style of cooking: “It was all about getting the right kit to support the menu. The equipment obviously had to be capable of working 24/7, so its reliability was critical, and then there were also energy-saving factors to consider.”
Such is the extent of the redesign that only a UV canopy running through the centre of the kitchen remains from the original lay-out. Capable of extracting close to 98% of grease, the Gaylord canopy provides the perfect foil for the pièce de résistance of the new design: a giant bespoke CDI cooking suite sourced from France.
The CDI unit was specifically designed to fit around the canopy and serves as the hub of the kitchen. It includes a powerful combination of induction and gas solid tops, three turbo fryers, a pasta cooker, plancha and two grills with hot cupboards and undercounter refrigeration.
Flanking the CDI unit on either side of the room are Rational combination ovens and Josper solid fuel ovens, as well as Friginox counter refrigeration units and bags of storage space. [[page-break]]
Situated on the first floor of the club — which was founded in 1863 by, amongst others, Charles Dickens, Antony Trollope and Lord Leighton — is a pastry kitchen that also supplies other restaurants within the group.
The pastry kitchen contains a state-of-the-art Koma patisserie freezer and Pavailler equipment in the form of a three-deck Rubis oven with a Topaz single convection oven and a single prover with two large mixers, which Duntoye settled on after accompanying members of the ABDA team to the Sirha trade show in Lyon.
“Initially the biggest issue was finding the right equipment in certain cases, hence the trip to Sirha,” says Waterson. “After sourcing those, it was then about pulling the design of the kitchen together to make sure it was functional, free flowing and had its separate little areas, as well as the right level of equipment to support the menus going forward.”
The Koma unit is one of the most critical pieces of kit in the pastry kitchen and is linked by phone line to the manufacturer’s Dutch HQ. “If the temperature started to move a bit — if they suspect any kind of breakdown or there is any deviation — then they are immediately alerted in Holland and they would alert the engineer in the UK and he would come in,” says Waterson.
“Sometimes — not that it has happened yet — Koma in Holland would know there is a problem before the site does, which is fantastic.”
All of The Arts Club’s dishwashing needs, meanwhile, have been met by Winterhalter, which supplied multi-tank, pass-through and undercounter dish and glass washers during the refit. An MTR high volume rack conveyor system in the basement looks after the main restaurant, while a GS500 pass-through located on the first floor handles the private members’ restaurant.
ABDA turned to Precision to fulfil the refrigeration aspect of the project, with four six-drawer units and a pair of double-door units for salad and fish-based delicacies situated in the oyster bar alone. The units are all remotely controlled, meaning the compressors that drive them are housed on a service platform on the building’s exterior, where they are more effective at holding the temperature.
As most of the fridges are positioned in front-of-house areas, they have all been covered in a black Rimex finish to blend in with the granite bar tops and meet the design critique of the club’s lavish interior. The Rimex finishing is also evident in the main kitchen area, where it has been used on the primary cooking suite and charcoal ovens.
So, having delivered everything from refrigeration units coated in Rimex cladding to a purpose-built cooking suite sourced from abroad, what aspect of the project does Waterson look upon most fondly? “I wouldn’t say there is one specific thing — we are proud of everything,” he answers. “Everything about this kitchen is built for speed and quality. And every single square inch of the space has been maximised.”
1. Main Cooking Suite
The giant cooking suite that dominates The Arts Club’s kitchen is one of only two in the UK (the other being at the Park Plaza Hotel in Westminster) and was made to order. The suite has everything a chef could ask for when it comes to high performance cooking, including induction and gas hobs, plancha plates, fryers, a pasta cooker and two grills.
The unit was so large that it had to be lifted into the premises by crane and constructed in individual sections. “The unit is hand-built, so CDI can only manufacture a limited number every year,” says ABDA’s Kevin Waterson. “With this particular model there were three design proposals before the final design was reached.”
2. Triple-deck Pastry Oven
With a remit to bake products for other restaurants within the group that are in walking distance of the club, such as Aurelia and La Petite Maison, it is fair to say that The Arts Club’s pastry kitchen is running almost 24 hours a day. The Pavailler Rubis three-deck oven and Topaz convection oven serve as the workhorses of the kitchen, providing an endless supply of delicious breads and pastries.
“The Pavailler ovens have some serious capacity on the basis that they are baking for more than one restaurant,” comments ABDA’s Kevin Waterson. “The three-deck oven is so large that everything had to be brought up in bite-sized chunks like Lego and assembled on site,” he adds.
3. Warewashing Ops
The Winterhalter glasswashers installed at The Arts Club feature RoMatik reverse osmosis systems, which purify the water to such an extent that glasses come out perfectly clean. “We need warewashers that can reliably deal with the high volume of items,” explains the club’s managing director, Brian Clivaz. “However, it’s also essential that the equipment is able to cope with top quality fine bone china and crystal glassware.”
Energy-saving features were also a factor in the choice of model. The large MTR warewasher is fitted with a heat pump and four-stage filtration system, while the GS500 Energy+ dishwasher alone is tipped to save the club £1,000 a year in running costs.
Equipment from a variety of manufacturers was used during the refurbishment of The Arts Club’s kitchen and food preparation areas.
Ambach – Bratt pan
CDI – Main cooking suite
Friginox – Counter refrigeration
Josper – Solid fuel ovens
Koma – Patisserie freezer/ cold store
Hoshizaki – Ice machines (2 x cube, 1 x flake)
Manitowac – Blast chill/freezer
Pavailler – Three-deck oven/convection oven/ mixers and prover
Precision – Bespoke counter refrigeration units/ wine storage units
Rational – Combination ovens
Winterhalter – Warewashers