The kitchen is often the heartbeat of a hotel operation. But it was only when the owners of Northover Manor decided a refurb was needed and brought in the latest kit from Falcon Foodservice Equipment that they realised just how powerful it can be.
Northover Manor is a historic 16th and 17th century country house in Somerset. Now a popular hotel and wedding venue, owners Mark and Mel Haddigan (main image) have refurbished it to combine traditional elements with modern comforts.
Their work has brought considerable success — with a 40-seater restaurant, a busy bar and room for 120 guests at events, they can be looking after 200 people at once.
That might sound like a winning formula, but it certainly hasn’t been easy given that their old kitchen just wasn’t up to the job.
“When we were full on, it was incredibly stressful and we had no room for error — there was no Plan B,” says Mark. “I remember our head chef, Stuart Turner, putting his head in his hands a few months before Christmas and saying, ‘what the f*** are we going to do if something breaks down?’ We had to make a change,” he says.
Mark decided a whole new kitchen was the answer — and he wanted it installed fast, before the Christmas rush took hold.
After getting some advice, he chose to go with a Falcon cookline and Lainox combi ovens. “The ‘before and after’ difference is incredible,” he says. “We have flexibility and the option of plenty of Plan Bs!”
The kitchen was installed by Exeter-based kitchen house Bartlett’s. “Their advice was brilliant, it made a real difference and they did the job on time,” says Mark.
One aspect of the project was dealing with a room that was several hundred years old. “It did cause a few unexpected problems, but Falcon and Bartlett’s managed to overcome them so that now it all works really well,” he reflects.
“We chose Falcon because we wanted equipment that was fast, robust and absolutely reliable. Our cuisine is contemporary English and we change our menu regularly, with Stuart and his team creating seasonal dishes, so the equipment also had to be able to adapt to different types of food and cooking processes.”
The new kitchen has meant we can streamline our operation, speed up the process and be better organised”
Northover Manor’s cookline features Falcon’s Dominator Plus appliances, including a gas chargrill, a six-burner boiling top, a fryer with integral filtration, and a four-ring induction oven range. There is also a Falcon E600 rise and fall grill and a Lainox Naboo 10-grid combi oven.
Being something of a traditional head chef, Turner still uses the standard oven for his roast meats, though Mark expects him to switch to the combi in time, because they have seen what it can do.
“Take roast potatoes. They’ve given us grief over the years. But in the combi they are done so quickly and so perfectly. We cook lots of things in the Lainox and we wouldn’t want to be without it now. To be fair, we wouldn’t want to be without any of the other appliances, either!”
Sustainability is important at Northover Manor. The hotel sources local produce wherever it can, it grows and uses ingredients from the garden, and it has even switched its heating from oil to biomass, so now it runs on wood pellets.
I remember our head chef putting his head in his hands a few months before Christmas and saying, ‘what the f*** are we going to do if something breaks down?’ We had to make a change”
The kitchen upgrade had to fit the hotel’s green aspirations, too. Not surprisingly, one of the products Mark is especially keen on is the induction range.
“When I saw it I thought, ‘oh happy days, we have to have that!’ For sure, it’s made a difference and saved us energy and money. “In summer, the kitchen can get pretty hot, so the fact that induction produces so little waste heat is a huge bonus, too.”
Source of pride
Another feature of the Falcon cookline is that it’s easy to clean. “It’s so different from what we had before. It looks impressive and cleaning it is a cinch. It’s encouraged a real source of pride in the kitchen brigade,” he comments.
Mark’s grateful for the training that Falcon has provided — and will provide in the future. “We needed to get the kitchen turned round fast and we needed the kitchen brigade working on it quickly — and able to cope with Christmas. Falcon managed all of that, and have offered to come back to give us advanced training when we’re ready.
“The new kitchen has meant we can streamline our operation, speed up the process and be better organised. Over Christmas we served three courses to 160 people in under two hours — they were all very happy and the kitchen was stress-free.
At Northover Manor, every day is different. But with the equipment it now has in the kitchen, there’s no excuse for not providing top quality food. And as the proprietors will admit, life is much easier.