Macdonald Hotels & Resorts has always been passionate about serving only the finest quality food, as Alan Swinson highlights
2007 marked an exciting year for Macdonald Hotels & Resorts, following the completion of a number of exciting development and refurbishment projects across the UK. The extensive investment programme was all part of a grand plan for the company to ensure it is on course to secure its position as one of the UK’s top leisure and conference venue destinations.
Operating 40 well-located hotels across the UK and ten resorts throughout the UK and Spain, Macdonald Hotels & Resorts employs over 4400 staff and boasts in excess of 3900 bedrooms. With a focus on developing its strong portfolio of four- and five-star hotels, the Group is also passionate about the quality and provenance of its food from breakfast through to dinner, as well as its wide range of speciality selected wines.
With a strong focus and passion for seasonality, each of its hotels offers a unique menu using the finest seasonal ingredients meaning each dish is served to customers the way good food should be. From fresh fish, shellfish and scallops to the best beef reared on natural Scottish pastures, crisp vegetables, freshly baked bread, pastries and exquisite desserts, all dishes are created with flair by teams of award winning chefs.
A man who is very passionate about the finest quality of food, Alan Swinson, the catering director for Macdonald Hotels & Resorts, explains the company’s most recent development: “In certain locations, we have long believed that we have the opportunities to further boost the standings of our restaurants in the local area, which led us to make the decision to link up with some restaurant specialists to enhance the overall proposition of the hotel. Forming a close relationship with the London Fine Dining Group, we were delighted to launch ‘Aubergine at the Compleat Angler’ at the Macdonald Compleat Angler Hotel at Marlow Bridge in Buckinghamshire on 1st October 2008. The vision is for ‘Aubergine at the Compleat Angler’ to become the country outpost of the internationally acclaimed Aubergine, which opened in 1993 in Chelsea, London and has held a Michelin star since 1995.”
Head chef, William Drabble, has been in charge of the kitchen at the Aubergine since 1998, taking over from the acclaimed chef, Gordon Ramsay who started his career at the Aubergine and made a name for himself. William’s combination of French training, and love and understanding of British produce has enabled him to create a delicious and captivating menu that truly understands the seasonality of gastronomy.
The Macdonald Compleat Angler is the perfect location for an idyllic relaxing break in the heart of the English countryside. ‘Aubergine at the Compleat Angler’ is an intimate 36-cover restaurant whose stunning aspect overlooks the River Thames and Marlow Weir. A striking décor in rich colour of intense purple, with aubergine door handles as well as salt and pepper pots complementing the Aubergine stamp. Furniture, attractive as it is comfortable, and tableware, are stylish and hint at the contemporary, whilst luxurious fabrics and opulent brocades combine to present a chic and sophisticated ambience that is cosy and welcoming. “William is now the executive chef at ‘Aubergine at the Compleat Angler’ and oversees both the Chelsea and Marlow operations,” states Alan. “I believe that Aubergine is a very good example where we have brought in fine dining expertise to not only help drive the business forward, but also really improve the quality of the offering at the Compleat Angler.”
Alan was not only keen to describe the exciting and successful relationship to enhance the restaurant proposition, but he was also excited to highlight some other significant developments: “Times are tough at the moment and food costs are continuously rising, requiring everyone to be a lot more competitive in the market. This has led a number of other hoteliers and restaurants to move to Argentinean beef, for example, to save on costs. We also believe on saving on costs, but never in replacement of quality – this is an area we will never compromise on. Our beef is, and will always be, Scottish reared and 21 days matured, while all our pork is outdoor-reared on the farms in East Anglia. However, tough times such as this inspired me to be even more creative and introduce a number of development workshops across the country to work on what are known as the ‘forgotten cuts’ like beef cheeks, and pork collars. If you take one of the more famous cuts like a fillet, because of where it is on the cow, it’s very lean and tender but it doesn’t have a lot of flavour because it’s an underworked muscle. However, beef cheeks are a very worked piece of meat, which is why the flavour profile is far superior. These cuts aren’t commonly found on menus because a chef has got to be equipped with a high level of skill to be able to work with these products.”
Moving on, Alan discusses the tough market conditions and stresses that Macdonald Hotels & Resorts strongly believes in focusing on quality, giving customers a reason to remain loyal. “We are aware that we will not be experiencing the same growth we’ve had in the last few years, but we also believe that at some point trading conditions will improve, the economy will change and demands will grow again. What we’re working on is ensuring that when this happens we are in a strong position, having retained all our loyal customers through the difficult period – our ambition is to be the people’s first choice when the economy turns.”