The Great Fosters hotel in Surrey is set to complete a major relaunch of its restaurants when The Estate Grill and The Tudor Room open in March 2013 offering what the general manager hopes will become Michelin-star quality destination dining.
The former royal hunting lodge in Egham is currently embarking on the third stage of a four-part plan to transform the hotel which began in 2000 when separate entrances were created to split up function and hotel guests.
More recently a coach house has been renovated to create new meeting spaces and after the restaurant relaunch a new gym and 12 extra bedrooms will be next on the agenda with further growth also on the horizon.
The Grade I-listed hotel currently has 44 bedrooms but has planning permission for around 90. Part of the reason behind the F&B refresh was to identify how the hotel could support that number of guests.
The Oak Room restaurant, which was created in 2002 from some disused spaces in the venue, will become The Estate Grill with a simpler design and less formal menu focusing on seasonal produce, salads and grilled meats and fish cooked on a Josper grill.
Richard Young, general manager of Great Fosters, told BigHospitality the relaunch was born out of a desire to update the F&B offering and bring it in line with what a modern, independent hotel should feature rather than to replace something that wasn't already working.
"In the last ten years it has done incredibly well - we have got three rosettes, it is very popular and successful and we are doing between 500-600 covers a month - but trends have changed. The old days of doing a la carte are long passed."
"You can get wrapped up in your own self-importance chasing accolades and because of that food becomes fussed and pretentious. This is an effort to draw that back a bit," he argued.
However Young said Great Fosters would not totally drop the push for awards as a new, second restaurant will open at the same time as the less formal relaunch of the main 65-cover eating space.
The former main dining room, which was too small when the Great Fosters team decided to expand the hotel restaurant, will become The Tudor Room - a 24-cover fine dining space which will satisfy diners still looking for a formal experience.
"The idea is to do a small number but do it incredibly well and if accolades come our way then brilliant," the GM said.
"We have employed a number of consultants to help us push the food onwards and upwards and executive chef Simon Bolsover has had feedback from them about how we may be pitching ourselves against one Michelin star and above restaurants. Most of the food is coming into that category at the moment so I am hopeful."
As part of the restaurant changes, a separate entrance for The Estate Grill will be created through a new courtyard containing a salad garden and vegetable beds.
The courtyard represents the changes the team at Great Fosters are looking to make across the property - to refresh the independent venue by highlighting its Elizabethan country house past with cattle and bees on the land rather than going down the spa hotel route.
"The property has needed a huge amount of work and a huge amount of investment and when you do that out of a small bank loan and profitability it takes a long time. It has taken us up until now to get to the point where we think we are ready to start shouting a little bit more about it," Young concluded.