Last week, H&C News was delighted to meet Julian Clarke, the new Director of Ascot Hospitality, sample the fine dining – and it is truly ‘fine’ – that will feature at Royal Ascot this year, and learn about the changes and innovations that will ensure that Ascot continues to reign supreme at the top of the elite sporting events and venues of the world.
Great venue, great cuisine
Royal Ascot is famed for style, champagne and high quality cuisine, and has the challenge every year of surpassing its previous accomplishments for a race going public that constantly becomes more sophisticated and demanding.
To service that public, there are over 40 different kitchens, 30 to 40 menus in any one day, around 140 chefs and an army of support vital to prepare and serve food to the highest standards – an enormous challenge for Executive Chef Steve Golding who admits:
‘The racing at Royal Ascot is the best in the world, so I have to step up to the mark with my food to match the level of excellence.’
Mark Sargeant brings his culinary signature
Working closely with Steve Golding, Mark Sargeant – whose Rocksalt Restaurant in Folkestone has been attracting high praise since opening in 2011 – is bringing a series of five signature dishes to the Parade Ring, Windsor Forest, Panoramic and Trackside Restaurants in the Grandstand.
Using only the best and most flavoursome produce the British Isles has to offer, highlights of Sargeant’s dishes include ‘Hot Shells’ (Roasted Crevettes, Razor Clams, Mussels, Queen Scallops, and Marsh Samphire in a Cream Fish Reduction); Poached Lobster, crushed Jersey Royal Potato Salad, Pink Grapefruit and Peeled English Asparagus; and Valrhona Chocolate Fondant with a Sea Buckthorn Centre.
Says Mark Sargeant:
‘I’m so excited to be bringing my dishes to such a prestigious event. I’m passionate about using the incredible produce that’s available here in the UK and we will be using best in season ingredients to create something really special.’
Change is not confined to the Grandstand Restaurants, and Steve Golding and his team lavish time and attention on achieving the highest standards across all the dining venues at Ascot, sourcing locally and using best in season products.
A highlight will be the Afternoon Tea in the Parade Ring – this year featuring an intriguing Japanese style offering served in a Bento Box with all the traditional elements included but with an Eastern spin.
But for many, the range of immaculately presented ‘Picnics in a Box’ will delight those who prefer to dine outdoors in the beautiful surroundings of the racecourse. New this year, the range includes a ‘decadent’ seafood picnic box from Caviar House using their famous Balik smoked salmon; a Diamond Jubilee Party Picnic Box; and the Afternoon Tea for Two, described as ‘sweet, sumptuous and perfect for sharing’!
The challenge for the new Director of Hospitality
Julian Clarke was part of the Ascot Hospitality Team from 2007 to 2010: he knows, understands and relishes the challenges of delivering successful Royal Ascots, whatever the weather.
He leads a team of 52 full time members of Ascot Hospitality: the talented brigade of chefs, experienced operational team, and creative sales and marketing staff. This team has to manage in excess of 3,000 hospitality staff in order to operate the 16 restaurants, 6 private clubs, 257 private boxes and over 100 public bars and food outlets.
That’s 300,000 customers in the five days of Royal Ascot, and a further 200,000 on other racedays, and Julian is determined that all customers are treated as individuals and have an equally enjoyable experience.
In Julian’s words:
‘The standard of racing at Royal Ascot is sublime and we aim to match that quality in all our food offerings in order to ensure each racegoer’s experience is first class…It’s just a wonderful day out.’
Looks like Ascot will continue to generate the ‘wow’ factor that makes it so special!
Not forgetting the Dress Code changes for 2012
As we all know, and our TV screens demonstrate every June, dressing for Royal Ascot is a vital component of the event – and is governed by a different dress code for each enclosure.
For 2012, the dress code has been carefully reviewed and clarified: there will be no excuse for skirts of the wrong length, hats of incorrect dimensions, men wearing the wrong colour of shoes, and more.
The Dress Code can be found at www.ascot.co.uk
For more information Visit www.royalascothospitality.co.uk to find out about the extensive range of fine dining packages
As always H&C News will be at Royal Ascot this year , so probably like us you are looking forward to seeing the changes first hand. We wish Julian and his team every success.