As I got on the train from Guildford, I realised I hadn’t been to London for 18 months and wondered what the big smoke was going to be like coming out of lockdown.
The reason for going to London was to have lunch at The Berkeley Hotel and catch up with Knut Wylde the GM of one of the most prestigious hotels in the country.
I had hired Knut as the Director of Hospitality when I was at Loch Lomond. At his interview he told me that his goal was to manage a top London Hotel and I believe the experience he gained at Loch Lomond over the 4 years helped him achieve that goal.
Knut will be taking on the Niall’s blog challenge at Coombe Hill on 11th June and I wanted to get a low down on some of the great community work he and his team had provided to some of the working heroes throughout the pandemic.
Knut explained that when the hotel was forced to close due to COVID 19, the team looked at how we could support the London emergency services, our neighbours, and how to best look after our staff and subsequently The Berkeley 999 Drive Thru was born. Throughout the first lockdown we were serving 500 meals each and every day to the fire brigade, police, ambulance teams, and local street cleaners – anyone who was doing their bit in keeping London safe our amazing team, most of whom were furloughed, volunteered to play their part and man the entrance serving food.
As news spread, they began receiving incredible donations from local food halls, neighbours and businesses within The Belgravia community.250 meals were also made and delivered daily to the vulnerable and elderly in the local community, in partnership with Westminster Council.
We continued to run the Drive Thru daily throughout lockdowns 2 and 3. Although as cafes and coffee shops began to open more, and quick food pickups were made so much easier for the emergency service teams, we altered our offering in lockdowns 2 and 3 slightly to hot soups at lunch and snacks and hot drinks throughout the day.
In total 80,000 hot meals were produced by The Berkeley team throughout the lockdowns for the emergency services and vulnerable neighbours’.The hotel has now committed to run The Berkeley 999 Drive-Thru on the first Wednesday of every month forever more.
I have to say this was an amazing effort by Knut and his team and they should be commended for their efforts
Arranging a meeting with Knut was also a great excuse to a have a wonderful lunch in one of their pop-up beaches huts that had been built in the turning circle to accommodate dinners before The Berkeley could allow guests inside the hotel.
On Monday 12th April, residents of Belgravia were able to enjoy The Berkeley Beach Huts at The Berkeley on Wilton Place. Following last summer’s sell out success of The Garden, the hotel’s culinary terrace hotspot returned, this time inspired by Britain’s most iconic and foodie seafronts including Whitstable, Southwold and Padstow. Celebrating the Great British staycation, five rainbow coloured beach huts sit proudly centre stage, whilst countertop and terrace dining allow for as many seafood-loving folk as possible. Diners feast on seaside fare and joyful retro classics.
The Berkeley Beach Huts menu embraces warm, family-style dining and the art of fun, alfresco service which is a very welcome antidote to lockdown eating bursting with fresh produce, with seafood front and centre. The menu includes crab on sourdough, baked scallops and grilled langoustine. Platters of seafood abundant with dressed crab, lobster, king prawns, mussels and clams are the show stopping orders, whilst delicious oysters are freshly shucked. Britain’s much-loved fish and chips has been given a 5-star twist, as large plates of grilled sea trout, sea bass and lobster are accompanied by fries.
A breakfast menu features a ‘Seaside benedict’ and smoked salmon and caviar flatbread for a sunny and decadent start to the day. Plaice butties, asparagus and Tunworth toasties, brioche lobster rolls and more are served at lunchtime.
Diners are dazzled by playful desserts transporting them to the coastline, from ice cream sandwiches to ‘make your own’ Eton Mess. The piece de resistance is The Berkeley Beach Huts ‘Gourmet 99’ – traditional soft serve vanilla ice cream cones, accompanied by an array of indulgent flakes and toppings.
Drinks include carefully sourced British wines as well as an array of cocktails and mocktails guaranteed to deliver joy. Shandies are showcased in both cherry and orange, and concoctions dubbed ‘The Diver’, ‘Mermaid Shell’, ‘Sailor Sour’ and ‘Pink Pearl’ all in all a great concept that turned a turning circle into a very profitable restaurant. I was just pleased I wasn’t paying !!
Having been in the hospitality industry I was keen to see behind the scenes and I got a grand tour of the refurbished kitchen, a project started and completed during lockdown. In addition, I got to see behind the scenes of Marcus Waring’s kitchen where chefs were just getting used to the service and the new layout, after nearly 5 months, as this was the 2nd day after guests were allowed to eat inside restaurants, very cool.
Knut highlighted how important all their staff are and how they had kept most of their staff working or on furlough unlike a number of other hotels who made their staff redundant and are now finding it hard to recruit staff as restrictions are lifted.
My first experience back to the big city was very enjoyable and made me feel that life was getting back to normal. It was refreshing to see a company not only investing in their product but also their staff and maybe even more importantly into their community.
Until next time.