Have you ever imagined what happens in the kitchen of a fine dining restaurant during service? Have you ever wondered whether professional kitchens are as frantic as those on the television? Well now you can find out.
Just before Christmas, we opened a new dining room at the restaurant, La Bécasse, here in Ludlow. It’s called The Vaults and it’s right beside the kitchen. We wanted to give our guests who choose to dine in The Vaults a unique experience, so we put windows and a door between the dining room and the kitchen. This means our guests can see into the ‘engine room’ of the restaurant.
I’ve been cooking at La Bécasse for six years and the restaurant has become enormously popular. We have built up a good business and got to the stage where we are having to turn away potential guests at weekends because we are fully booked. That upsets me because the last thing I want to do is let people down. Especially people who have potentially travelled a long distance in the hope of eating here. So, I managed to acquire a bit more of the building into our lease and opened The Vaults.
Designing The Vaults was a remarkable experience. I put my ideas of how I visualised it to the interior designer company and we created a space that has the look and feel of a kitchen but it is a restaurant dining room. We put imitation heat lights from the pass hanging along one wall, tiled walls, slate on the floor and lots of bare metal. There are butcher’s blocks as tables and big windows with views into the heart of the kitchen. I wanted to give diners the feeling that they are sat in our larder or pantry and peeping through into the kitchen.
Chef’s tables are all the rage these days – there are many fine dining restaurants in London that have them but locally, they are few and far between.
We create bespoke menus for each table that dines in The Vault. It’s in a surprise tasting menu format, so guests don’t know what they’ve got coming next.
I host the room, or leave it in the capable hands of my sous chef, James Walshaw. We actually serve the food ourselves, answer questions and talk guests through the dishes. It’s a lovely relaxed atmosphere.
It’s also great for me and the team too. Usually, the last we see of the food we have spent so much time over preparing is when it leaves the pass. But with The Vaults, we can take a look at the joy we bring to guests through the power of cooking!