Sopwell House Hotel
KCCJ AT SOPWELL HOUSE
The earliest reference to Sopwell House in Hertfordshire is found in a deed from 1603 and, while its kitchen didn’t date back quite that far, it was certainly in need of refurbishment to bring it up-to-date and in keeping with what is now one of the UK’s finest luxury spa hotels. Enter KCCJ…
After visiting KCCJ’s website and reading about similar projects the company had undertaken, Nicholas Smith, Group Purchasing Manager for the hotel, which is part of the AB Hotel Group, sought an initial consultation, where it soon became apparent that this would be no ordinary job. After 400 years of additions and modifications the fabric of the building ranged from lightweight brick to walls that were two feet thick and, just for good measure, there were multiple floor level changes. In addition to this there were wall and ceiling tiles missing, poor lighting levels, a ventilation system that was no longer fit for purpose, and 25-year-old catering equipment prone to regular failure. As a result of these factors, and in order to deliver the sort of food required by both the bistro room service and the fine dining restaurant, the hotel agreed that simply modifying the existing design would be pointless and that what was really needed was a fundamental redesign of the kitchen space in order to provide the correct work flow. This, in turn, meant that walls would have to come down, services re-routed and substantial rebuilding work undertaken.
KCCJ’s brief was to design a new kitchen that met the hotels operational requirement, and then develop the design to include a new infrastructure. With a view to Sopwell House putting the job out to tender. However, with so many detailed elements to the job, a very short window for completing the project (five weeks between Christmas and Valentine’s Day), and having been impressed by KCCJ’s approach, the hotel took the decision to entrust the multi-disciplined with the supply and installation of the kitchen too.
After developing the design and taking the relevant advice from structural and drainage engineers KCCJ began the process of demolishing the interior fabric and removing walls before rebuilding the kitchen from the ground up including new floors, walls, ceilings and water, waste and electrical services. Only then could they set about installing the new kitchen…
As with any fine dining restaurant what matters most is the food on the plate, and so the key to the kitchen design at Sopwell House was making it as easy as possible for the chefs to deliver. This meant designing dedicated areas for prep, pastry, cooking and wash-up that were not only cutting edge, but wherever possible flexible enough to not need updating for five, 10, maybe even 15 years. For example, a link was made between the front of house area and the patisserie section, which never existed before, and KCCJ even created an area that didn’t require any staff to enter the body of the kitchen unless they were actually producing hot food.
Sustainability was also a key requirement so out went the gas-guzzling ranges and in came modern, energy efficient induction units, planchas and multi-function cooking appliances. Other improvements included a new ventilation system with modified fans for both extract and make-up air, new coldrooms, refrigeration, blast chillers, combi ovens and cooking equipment from leading manufacturers such as Valentine, Lincat, Falcon and Frima.
Despite the discovery of a hidden structural steel during demolition - something not picked up by the structural engineer - the project, worth close to £500,000, was completed in just over four weeks. The end result is a modern , 21st century kitchen that has built-in longevity and is worthy of its location.