Yorkshire Life Luncheon - The Grand Hotel & Spa, York

PUBLISHED: 10:41 06 June 2016

90-day salt-aged beef sirloin and braised rib with celeriac cooked in malt, blewits, grains and leeks

90-day salt-aged beef sirloin and braised rib with celeriac cooked in malt, blewits, grains and leeks

not Archant

Guests join us for a five-star lunch in five-star company.

Head chef Craig Atchinson and his teamHead chef Craig Atchinson and his team

The Grand is about to get a whole lot grander, thanks to a £15 million expansion and refurbishment programme that will double its number of rooms and add 150 more restaurant covers.

As we chat over champagne and canapés before sitting down to a stunning lunch devised by head chef Craig Atchinson, general manager Maria Florou explains what’s happening at York’s only five-star hotel (over the sound of workmen doing what they do best outside on the terrace).

‘They started work out there about a month ago creating our fully-enclosed new restaurant, which should be open at the beginning of 2017,’ she said. ‘We’re also starting work on transforming Roman House next door into 106 bedrooms – doubling our capacity – which should be open by next summer.

‘Hudson’s (The Grand’s current 2 AA rosette restaurant) will be transformed into an exclusive lounge for our guests and HQ will revert to fine dining, while our new restaurant will be a relaxed, all-day experience.

The dining roomThe dining room

‘It will really give Craig a chance to put his stamp on the menu and to make a name for himself as the culinary star we already know he is.’

Craig joined the team 18 months ago from The Talbot in Malton, where he worked with Malton-born celebrity chef James Martin. Before that, his impressive CV included a Michelin ‘rising star’, three rosettes as senior sous chef at Cotswold House in Gloucestershire, and three AA rosettes at Swinton Park in North Yorkshire.

‘Craig didn’t know the expansion was about to happen when he joined us, but he’s got the passion and drive to see it through,’ said Maria. ‘Yes, it’s scary and a tremendous challenge, but that’s what gets us all out of bed in the morning. The Grand has given him a great opportunity and now he’s flying.’

If the menu he created for our guests is anything to go by, The Grand’s culinary cockpit is in very able hands indeed.

Lunch took off in fine style with perfectly poached ocean trout and piquant pickled miniature veg; the earthy crunch of the beets providing a delightful counterbalance to the butter-soft, silken flesh of the fish.

Next came salt-aged beef sirloin with the added bonus of braised rib so deeply savoury it bordered on ambrosial.

And finally, for pud, we were presented with a celebration of white chocolate and rhubarb that looked like a painting on a plate and tasted like a culinary work of art.

As we relaxed over coffee and wickedly moreish petit fours, Maria explained what phase two of The Grand’s grand plan involves.

‘We’re going to bring the two buildings together into one cohesive whole at ground floor level, so our clients’ five-star journey is flowing and continual,’ she said. ‘Then the bedrooms in this, the original half of the building will be refurbished and enhanced to underline their luxuriousness.

‘They’re luxurious now, but when we’ve spent several thousand more per room, the difference will be astonishing – another level entirely.

‘Finally, our spa, which has proved incredibly popular, will be made even bigger, with more relaxation and treatment rooms offering an enhanced visitor experience.’

As an outsider, it’s difficult to see where there’s much room for improvement at The Grand, but this is obviously a team that’s always aiming for the next level. Frankly, if there was such a thing as six stars, they’d be shooting for them right now.

So, what inspires this drive, ambition and day-to-day hard work?

‘This building inspires us every day,’ said Maria. ‘Everyone who works here feels proud and really wants to do their best for this wonderful place. It’s an important part of York’s heritage and we have the privilege of working here.

‘But a hotel is not just about the bricks and mortar. The first time guests stay with us, most are here to see and experience the building. When they come back, however, it’s for the service and the wonderful welcome they get from our staff. Our people are the most important part of this business. They’re the stars in our five-star hotel.’

To find out more about The Grand Hotel & Spa in Station Rise, York, call 01904 380038 or visit thegrandyork.co.uk

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