This is something quite different for you...
Yes completely. It’s a good challenge and also a lovely place to work - it’s beautiful. I’ve always enjoyed things that take me out of my comfort zone (Groves is well-known on the competition circuit). I‘m overseeing the whole of the F&B side. It’s a big operation. There are three restaurants. Our most premium restaurant, Middle & Over Wallop, has 320 covers, while Mildmay has 200 covers and Nether Wallop has 150 covers. We're set to re-open later this month at 50% capacity.
What are your plans for them?
Clearly I want to push things forward but I’m not here to tear everything up and start again. The team in place are strong and have already achieved a lot. Middle & Over Wallop is now under the direction of the Galvin brothers but I’ll be overseeing it day-to-day. At Mildmay, I’m in the process of refining the offer a little and giving it a bit more of its own identity. I want to create something that’s very English and summery in feel and makes full use of all the great local produce around us. Nether Wallop isn’t opening this year but will be relaunched in 2022 with an all-new concept.
Glyndebourne is a seasonal business. Will you get downtime in the winter?
The main season is four months over the summer, but we have a smaller festival in September and a few bits through the winter. Then it’s planning for the following season so there is not as bigger break as you might expect. We have a small core team that are employed full time which we grow through the season.
Presumably the food at all the restaurants needs to be served quickly...
Yes. Food is served during the interval so we have one hour and thirty minutes to get guests in and out. With the volumes we do that might sound daunting, but the team here already have the systems in place to get it right. They know how to deliver good food in a timely manner. The menus need to be achievable. We want to serve brilliant food but there’s no point doing intricate dishes. With that in mind, the Galvin offering works really well for us because it’s simple, honest and classical food. There’s nothing on the plate that’s there for frivolous reasons.
Are guests required to pre-order?
At the moment, yes. But the new concept for Nether Wallop won’t require guests to pre-order. You can look at the numbers and the requirement to serve everyone at the same time as being restrictive, but you can also look at it as an opportunity to serve things that would be difficult in a normal restaurant environment. With this in mind, Nether Wallop will focus on items like big cuts of meat and beef Wellingtons, which are quite challenging in places where you have a staggered service.
Your last place had fewer than 50 covers, Glyndebourne has well over ten times that...
It’s a different beast for sure. But at the end of the day it’s still cooking and a lot of the skills are transferable. And at Roux at Parliament Square we did the hospitality for the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (which owns the building) so I do have some experience with larger numbers and multi-outlet sites. I want to be hands on. I'm looking forward to getting stuck in with the guys in the kitchen and passing on the skills I have. But - equally - I’m keen to learn from them as they have a lot of experience with big numbers. Ultimately the goal is exactly the same - cook the best possible food for the guests.