It isn’t often easy to find time between service to chat with Rufflets’ head chef and food and beverage manager especially together! The hotel’s annual closure is an opportunity for the whole team to catch a breath and take stock after a busy festive period, but also a chance for us to sit down with the team and find out what exciting plans are underfoot for 2020.
Q – It’s been a very busy Christmas and New Year period at Rufflets. Marc you literally had to hit the ground running with your arrival in November. What were the highlights?
As always at this time of year we sit down as a team to review the festive period just passed and look at where we could make improvements in what we offer to our guests. Planning gets underway for December 2020 and it is clear that our Party Nights were again a huge success this year appealing to a predominantly local audience. We love to see lots of familiar faces and it gives us all a real sense of pride when we can see how much fun and laughter our party nights provide. One of the highlights was our Chef’s taster dinner that we served on the 1st of January. This is the evening when Gavin and I (head chef) work together to create a bespoke dining experience. Fabulous dishes are matched with some unusual wines, that guests might not normally find on our wine list. We couldn’t have been more pleased with the feedback.
Q – Are you planning a Hogmanay House Party for 2020/2021?
We are looking at our Hogmanay celebrations throughout the hotel to ensure that we keep it relevant to our changing customers and their feedback and expectations. Every year we look at the range of options that we can make available for our clients, and a formula that will work. The end of February is about the time we finalise our New Year celebrations, so we should have a better idea of how this will look shortly. Keep an eye on our website for more details coming soon!
Q – Marc, you have now been at Rufflets for around 2 months. Have you started to make changes to the menus at the hotel?
Until now I have been working with the pre-planned menus that were already in place for the festive period, but now that the dust has settled, I am working on developing a range of new menus for the hotel using a little bit more of my own style, and of course using ingredients that are available to us locally. I would like to create a more flexible approach to dining. One thing that has become clear within the restaurant scene is that there is a greater need for flexibility in the way a diner choses to eat out. More traditional meal-times are becoming blurred and we need to recognise this and adapt. Our new menus will be up and running in early February so I would encourage you to come and try them.
Q – Gavin, is this also a busy time for you in terms of re-stocking the wine cellar at Rufflets. How do you find out about new wines and what helps you in making your selections?
This is the time of year when many of our suppliers arrange special tastings of the new wines that are coming into the country, and it presents a good opportunity for me to take a bit of time away from the hotel to identify some new additions for our list. We work hard to create a list that some might describe as ‘eclectic’ but one of the advantages of being an independent family-owned hotel is that we are not restricted to a limited number of suppliers. For ten years we have been awarded a special commendation from the AA for our list as we have wines priced from around £25.00 upwards, with some unusual countries of origin, a good range of half bottles as well as a number of different wines that we serve by the glass.
Q – We are in the middle of Winter, does this mean there is less produce coming from the kitchen garden? What is the main focus for the menus over the coming weeks until Spring arrives?
At this time of year there isn’t too much fresh produce coming out of the kitchen garden. My team in the kitchen need to work harder to source fresh ingredients that will appear on the menus in Seasons. It is hard for so many of the small producers to be able to get out and about when the weather can be so unpredictable.
The key focus for us in the garden at the moment is preparing the raised beds and vegetable plots for planting out the various vegetables that Phil has been brining on in the glass houses and poly-tunnels. This should happen in around 4 weeks-time. In the meantime there is a lot of heavy work going on with digging in the (local) manure, so that once the soil starts warming up we are ready.