Pub kitchens, as we all know, have a tendency to be on the poky side - and the older the pub and the more urban the location, the more space is likely to be an issue.
So, it will come as no surprise to learn that anyone looking for somewhere to swing a cat would be well advised to steer clear of the Grapes in London's Limehouse.
Built in 1720, the riverside pub has a chequered history, reflecting the changing fortunes of the area. Legend has it that Charles Dickens was made to stand on a table and sing to customers in the pub as a child, and he later wrote it into his novel Our Mutual Friend as the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters. But the once-notorious docks of Limehouse Basin have now been replaced by sought-after apartments.
Licensee Barbara Haigh, originally the manager and now lessee with Punch Taverns, has developed the pub's reputation further by operating a renowned seafood restaurant upstairs, with a bar menu for drinkers attracted by the pub's cask beers downstairs. The Grapes also has a busy Sunday lunch trade. All this food is produced from a space on the first floor smaller than many domestic kitchens.
Last summer, Barbara bit the bullet and accepted that a kitchen refurb was needed.
Having been let down by several companies who either promised quotes which never materialised or failed to keep appointments, Barbara contacted The Publican.
"The refurb will only be done once while I'm at the pub, so it needs to be done right," she said. "I don't mind paying for good quality kit, but I don't want to be ripped off either."
We put Barbara in touch with equipment manufacturer Hobart, and after site visits and due negotiation, terms were agreed. As the photos show, the project was far from straightforward, with some of the equipmHobartent having to be hoisted through the first floor window of the pub.
The working layout of the kitchen has been changed, with a z-shaped flow which maximises the availability of work surfaces. The contract installation team from fit-out specialist Salix, led by Dean Rees, has had to think laterally to resolve some issues. For example, with storage space lost to new kit, adding stainless steel shelves higher on the kitchen walls than previously has helped to compensate.
Steve Wallace, projects director at Hobart UK, said: "For such a small, awkward-sized kitchen it would have been so easy to simply replicate the existing layout and just refresh it with new equipment.
"We spent a lot of time designing something more practical, which made better use of the limited space available. In this case, we really
did have to think outside of the 'box', limit the inevitable compromises and find a three-dimensional solution."
And Barbara's verdict? "I liked the fact that Hobart was enthusiastic about the project from the word go," she says. "The team were excited by the challenge. I'm pleased with the new kitchen. My plan is to get used to it, learn what it can do, and expand the menu slowly."
- The Grapes is a finalist in the Seafood Pub of the Year category of the Seafood Awards 2009, in association with The Publican. For more details see Seafish