STEEPED IN history, the renovated King's Arms pub in Abergavenny, Wales, aims to recapture the pub's traditional place at the heart of the town.
Owner Ben Jones has set his sights on developing more than just a pub with a restored history. The business will include bedrooms, live entertainment, supper clubs and touring acts as well as functions such as weddings and corporate events.
Diners in the 120-cover à la carte restaurant will also be able to view the pub's micro-brewery, which produces cask beers exclusive to the King's Arms.
Food is central to the project, so it was important to update the kitchen in phase one of the project. General manager and executive chef Paul Tulip had a long list of requirements and his plan was to lay the equipment in a modular system. However, after consulting Bonnet at Hobart - a brand that is synonymous with French catering - Paul opted for a hand-made Bonnet Maestro cooking suite which has been specifically designed to meet his requirements.
"It's an absolute pleasure to work on; it's so multi-functional," says head chef Carl Ling. "It really makes the most of the limited space we have and cuts down on staffing."
Chris Soffe, Bonnet business manager, says: "Thanks to the optimised design, fewer components can be used to create a better end result. By creating the suite for the King's Arms we've reduced Paul's original wishlist of 13 items down to seven, which not only creates a more comfortable working environment in terms of space, but reduces the power use by 35 per cent."
Two electric radiants at the end of the suite heat within seconds for pan work and Paul also uses them to create bain-maries from gastronom pans. The flush surface provides extra preparation space when the radiants aren't being used.
The French-style plancha is the most innovative piece of equipment within the suite and is used for cooking the meat and fish dishes, which Paul uses for his steaks, tenderloins and racks of lamb. The 350º hotspot in the centre is used for searing, then the item is moved towards the edge of the plancha, which is 30º cooler, to finish the cooking.
"We developed the plancha 10 years ago; direct cooking takes the panic factor out, not to mention reducing the pot-wash. The fat and residue can simply be scraped into the surrounding channel and then drained at the end of service," explains Chris.
Bonnet has also developed a Spanish plancha, which is at a constant temperature throughout, making it ideal for large-scale catering and banqueting.
A single burner was installed into the suite at the King's Arms. "Thanks to the plancha and solid top, we only needed one burner which we predominantly use for stir-fries, stocks and gravy," says Carl. "We can get up to 40 pans on the solid top at a time, so we really don't need any additional burners, as they're not multi-functional.
"As with the plancha, the solid top has a hotspot in the centre at 550º which gradually decreases in heat towards the outside, allowing us to move the pans according to their cooking time. The heat gets cooler towards the end of the suite, ready for plating at the pass," adds Carl.
Communication is crucial to the smooth-running of a kitchen and usually the Maestro suites are open to allow visibility between the chefs. However, the King's Arms' suite has been designed with an over-shelf to house pots and pans in what is a limited space.
"The Maestro suite gives us room to move around and it's much easier to communicate with each other than if we were working on a modular system. Two of us work either side of the suite and then we have a third member of the team on the pass. It allows us to run a really smooth kitchen operation," says Paul.
"Clean-down at the end of service is also a lot quicker. The suite has been specifically designed with flush surfaces, the roasting oven has a cast-iron plate with no dirt traps and the burner has a waterbath underneath which is simply drained at the end of the night," said Carl.
Paul and Ben were keen to make a long-lasting investment in the kitchen of a venture they hope will become the core of the town. The Maestro suite has a life expectancy of over 25 years.
"The whole layout of the kitchen is so much more logical than our original plan and I'm really looking forward to making the most of it," says Paul.