Five star service

As part of the Exclusive brand, the three AA Rosette Avenue Restaurant at Lainston Country House Hotel maintains the group’s fundamental values to deliver high quality food that is both creative and progressive

Placed elegantly in 63 acres of beautiful Hampshire parkland, just two miles from the ancient city of Winchester, the Grade II listed Lainston Country House allows guests to enter a world of historic charm that is seamlessly mixed with contemporary elegance. Currently operating as a five star luxury hotel, this enchanting 17th century William and Mary house endeavours to deliver optimum quality to guests by following the five star standard of service that is provided at all other hotels under the Exclusive umbrella, as James Mearing, Sous Chef at Lainston Country House Hotel’s restaurant The Avenue begins: “Exclusive has a few properties that are five star hotels, such as Pennyhill Park and the Manor House, so we aim to deliver the same level of luxury as other hotels within the group by maintaining the same fundamental values and traits. Examples of these traits would include the fact we have lavish rooms that offer real luxury to guests, as well as the fact we have a very strong food offering.

“Here at Lainston we have Olly Rouse as our Head Chef; he has worked at the vineyard with John Campbell for a long time, has cooked at two Michelin star restaurants and has earned a Michelin Star in his own right. Working with Ollie, we in the kitchen are progressive and creative when it comes to the food we offer to customers. For example we create our own home made pro-biotic beverages which are packed with vitamins and digestive enzymes. We also grow our own food and herbs in our fantastic kitchen garden which is open for guests to come and view, and also see our birds of prey, whilst there,” he adds.

Proud to challenge themselves when it comes to creating dishes that delight the senses, chefs at The Avenue undertake a thorough and open approach when developing the menu in line with changing seasons, as James comments: “It is an open forum for all chefs in the kitchen to input ideas, which we believe creates a more productive atmosphere as everyone feels like they are a part of the dish development process. Whoever then comes up with a dish will present it to myself, Olly and Joe, the senior chefs, who will then taste and discuss whether any changes need to be made to the food. Once this part of the process is complete we will then do a tasting for all members of the kitchen; we will then take photographs and type up each recipe before it is sent through our recipe database where it is made easily available on iPads for all departments of the hotel, to utilise the information for their particular requirements.

“Following this development we then have a tasting for the restaurant team so everyone is aware of changes we have made and provided knowledge on how the dishes are constructed as well as what the ingredients are so they have answers for any questions from guests. Once all of these parts of the process are complete, the dish is ready to go live.”

Buffalo burger
To make the most of its harvest from the kitchen garden and its suppliers’ best ingredients, the menus at The Avenue are often changed to ensure guests receive optimum quality foods at their most fresh. Those seeking the highest quality ingredients that are skillfully prepared and artfully presented, the restaurant’s award-winning a la carte dining menu includes starters such as crab tortellini, with cauliflower, pomegranate and peanuts and main courses such as pork with smoked pork rib, sweet potato and apple.

Discussing recent innovations on the menu, James says: “Our tasting menu has just been changed and our Sous Chef Joe worked very hard on this; one example of the high quality within this menu is the new star of the show: pressa iberica, which he sourced himself and built a great dish around. Sourcing and traceable provenance is a key part of Lainston; everything we use is analysed and sourced and tested to make sure it is the very best we can offer. For those wanting food at the bar, we offer dishes such as burgers that have been sourced from our local buffalo farm that is based just a few minutes down the road. We are always progressing and improving to ensure all dishes are the very best we can offer.”

Alongside this commitment to sustainability and quality, Lainston, in line with the Exclusively Green programme set up by its parent company, has continued with a number of initiatives to reach the group’s overall aim of being ‘zero direct to landfill’. One example of this is the group’s trial for a sophisticated boiler management system at Lainston House in 2008, which stops the boiler from running when it is not needed; in a two week trial the system saves 27 per cent energy consumption. Lainston House also now works with Yates Disposables, a company that provides it with 100 per cent recycled toilet paper, kitchen roll and bio-degradeable tissue paper. “We won the Green Award in 2015, which shows the levels we go to and what we strive for. We try to ensure we are the best we can be in every area of the business, whether that is food we are offering or the property that the guest is staying in,” says James.

Fun and relaxed
One way Lainston House and its chefs will continue this level of quality is through its Exclusive Academy, which is breeding chefs for the future, as James explains: “As a group we have an academy that takes on 12 chefs each year; these chefs go through a two year programme, which includes cookery classes, day trips to visit suppliers and working with some great chefs in our group. The chefs will then be filtered into the group’s kitchens for work experience.” This kitchen is also home to Season, an Exclusive cookery school that offers a diverse range of classes to customers, as James continues: “The cookery school was introduced just over a year ago and was a £1 million pound development that enabled us to open our kitchen for cookery lessons to the public.”

With the cookery school increasing in demand and the five star Lainston House undergoing renovation over the next 12 months to become more modernised and informal, James has a positive outlook for the future of the hotel and the level of service it will provide guests. “We will be continuing with the luxury element of what we offer, while also making the hotel more relaxed; we want to make the dining room a bit more interactive and fun rather than formal. There isn’t any real change in direction, it is more about progressing and improving on what we already offer,” he concludes.