It’s certainly a step up from what was there before. “We limped into 2019 with the last kitchen, in fact we barely made it. Christmas was tough,” Keating recalls. “It was as if the kitchen could sense the end was close and started to give up. Everything was breaking down. At one point we had 17 chefs trying to cook with just one oven.”
The Cotswolds hotel has a curious back-of-house setup. There are two kitchens servicing three different restaurants: the main kitchen does Keating’s flagship 'The Dining Room' and the main courses for 'The Grey’s Brasserie', while a smaller, fully open kitchen services the small plates focused 'The Green Room' and is where the starters and salads for The Grey’s Brasserie are prepared (it was refitted soon after Keating joined the hotel). The pastry section in the main kitchen does the desserts for all three restaurants.
While it might sound like a logistical nightmare, Keating says it works. “The Green Room kitchen keeps a lot of traffic out of the main kitchen, which is helpful when we need to concentrate on The Dining Room. I’ve no idea how the arrangement came about, space reasons I guess.”
Keating oversees a brigade of 17 chefs and four kitchen porters. The Dining Room is open four evenings a week. On Fridays and Saturdays, the whole team works but, in the week, – which can be quiet – it varies.
While there’s no chef’s table in the main kitchen, all The Dining Room guests are given the option of having their snacks there.
The prospect of a steady flow of guests into the space meant Keating had to think carefully about both the layout and the equipment (no areas of the kitchen are off-limits to guests).
Standing around a pair of high bar tables opposite the pass, diners have a theatre-style view into the kitchen with nearly every single section and member of staff on show.
An excessively hot environment wasn’t workable, so the new kitchen is gas-free. Keating has also sought to reduce noise levels where possible.
Eschewing gas means a quieter stove and more hushed ventilation because there’s less heat to take out of the kitchen.
The kitchen has an L-shaped pass; one side serves The Dining Room and the other is for The Grey’s Brasserie. Dishes are generally plated within each kitchen section and brought to the pass for inspection by Keating and his senior team by front-of-house staff. Both of the passes back on to a French made bespoke Athanor cooking suite finished in white enamel, which is unquestionably the kitchen’s most head turning bit of kit.
The single biggest benefit of the new space is the instant boost in staff morale. “It’s undoubtedly changed the way we cook and allowed us to work at a much higher and more professional level. Refitting the kitchen has been a crucial part of developing our food outlets and has allowed us to increase efficiency and create a more memorable guest experience.”