INSIDE TRACK: How Northcote turned hotel kitchens on their head

Nestled away in a quiet Lancashire valley lies one of the UK’s iconic luxury hotel and restaurants.

Proud holder of a Michelin star for 22 years, and a conveyor belt of talented UK chefs, Northcote has been one of the driving forces in the British fine dining scene for over 30 years.

“I think the style of cooking we’ve evolved at Northcote is definitely modern British. But, having said that, we’re not frightened of using eclectic ingredients. If we want something we can’t get, or the quality isn’t good enough locally, then we’ll go farther afield to get that,” explains Nigel Haworth, whose role recently changed from chef patron and joint managing director to ambassador.

What immediately strikes you when you enter Northcote’s kitchen is the space. Rather than being cramped away or squeezed into a tiny footprint as is so often the case with hotel kitchens, Haworth and Goodwin-Allen have created a spacious, open-plan cooking arena from which to showcase the finest produce the Ribble Valley and surrounding area has to offer.

When the company underwent its last major kitchen redesign, it decided that the best course of action was to knock down the structure and the walls and build an open plan kitchen where all the brigade could see each other and communicate well. The choice of equipment was central to its vision of creating a harmonious working environment.

“Having worked in a kitchen that was very industrial and hot, I wanted to move to planchas as I’d seen planchas work in Switzerland and Sweden. I wanted to get rid of the excess of pans, and in service for it to be very quick and direct, and planchas give you that,” says Haworth.

After numerous consultations with kitchen designers C&C Catering Equipment, it commissioned a bespoke cooking suite from Electrolux Professional’s thermaline made-to-measure (M2M) range, comprising a bespoke island featuring two planchas, each with four independently-controlled zones, two induction hobs, a bain marie and a rise and fall salamander grill.

The suite is supported by two tilting ProThermetic braising pans, creating an ideal ‘multipurpose system’ to boil, braise, griddle, steam or pressure cook, as well as create stocks and broths, all in the same appliance. An air-o-steam Touchline combi oven from Electrolux Professional with an accompanying blast chiller in stacked formation completes the installation.

Having worked in a kitchen that was very industrial and hot, I wanted to move to planchas as I’d seen planchas work in Switzerland and Sweden”

Haworth continues: “The thermaline has been perfect for us, because we can work from our ovens, our convection steam ovens, through to either our induction or straight on to the plancha. You’ve got four zones on the main plancha, so you’ve got control of your garnish and of your main ingredient, and also if you so choose you can have your pan simmering away at the back. It was that control, and that cleanliness of control, that the plancha gave to me.

“Then we’ve got the warming drawers, which really are very very good, as we can control the temperature. I can hold a partridge or a grouse in our warming drawers at 55˚C and we know it’s going to be perfect. We can just finish it on the plancha, and away it goes. That quickness and speed of efficiency, when you’re doing a volume business at the high level that we are, is absolutely paramount.”

Looking to the future, Haworth is confident the kitchen will continue to evolve and better itself. “We would like two stars, and we’ve said that now for a long time, and I think this team — in particular under Lisa’s guidance — they can achieve that without any question. So we need to keep focused, keep delivering, but most of all keep our customers happy, and that, to be fair, has always been our focus.”

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