EAUX meets Sean Melville, the new Executive Head Chef at Bedford Lodge Hotel & Spa in Newmarket
What were your first impressions of the Bedford Lodge Hotel & Spa and Squires Restaurant?
When I turned into the drive at Bedford Lodge Hotel & Spa, I was struck by how elegant it looked and how beautifully it sat in the grounds. It felt like coming home, such was the warmth of the welcome. I was very impressed with the quality and presentation of the food, the knowledge and attentiveness of the service team.
Will you continue with the Squires Restaurant style of modern British cuisine or will you be changing up the menu?
‘Modern British’ is a lovely description, the menu concept will remain similar, it would be foolish to change when you have such an array of quality local suppliers and produce. When you start with that quality, you don’t need to ‘play’ with the food so much. I will be working with the team to maintain the current level and introduce some new techniques to raise and enhance the food we offer whatever it is, if it’s a beef burger – it will be the best beef burger we can make, or the finest items on the a la carte menu.
Did you feel that there was a pressure when taking over a 2 AA Rosette restaurant?
Yes, there is always an expectation when taking over in any role. The main thing is to learn about your customers, meet the regulars, and be proud to walk through the restaurant and see guests at the tables.
Squires Restaurant works with lots of local suppliers, which are you most looking forward to working with in the kitchen?
We have an amazing butcher, a real ‘old school’ butcher and a great character, we are working together to get the team out on ‘field to fork’ trips to raise their level of understanding, appreciation and skills.
You’ve worked at some top London restaurants including The Ritz and The Dorchester, what was the best piece advice that you learnt that you will be taking with you to the Bedford Lodge?
Both Dave Miller and Henry Brosi were both very insistent on knowing the background to the food, how it was raised or grown, the passion at the start of its journey has a profound effect on our end of the journey. ‘It’s about the sausage and the sizzle!’ this has always stuck with me.
What are your plans for the autumn menu?
We are working on the new menu now trialling dishes and working with the suppliers to ensure we can have a consistent supply, using seasonal local favourites. We are introducing a more ‘homely, family orientated’ Sunday lunch menu.
As we’re coming up for Christmas, what tips can you give to the readers on Christmas Dinner cooking?
Plan and prepare ahead, anything that can be done in advance to make the day easier. Choose a good quality turkey (Bronze is my favourite), roast and baste it well and early, so the meat can rest and relax, this also means the oven is free for everything else.
Where do you find your inspirations when you’re planning your new menu?
Inspiration can come from anywhere, there is a flood of food programmes on TV and magazines everywhere you look. I get regular updates from suppliers with ideas of what is coming in or unusual produce. I also get the team fully involved, they can experiment with ingredients and try ideas. This helps the team grow, learn and develop as chefs.
Do you have a favourite chef that influences you?
There are so many inspirational chefs out there, the fresh intense flavours of Francesco Mazzie, Thomas Zeller or Tom Kerridge.
What dish do you enjoy cooking the most on your menu?
I love cooking with seafood – scallops and mussels are a personal favourite. Seafood and fish require a delicate touch, skill and real quality in what you use. Only the freshest seafood will do.
And finally, when you get home from a long day at the kitchen, what do you cook for yourself to eat?
If I am home in the evening, a light grilled fish salad. Otherwise I like to cook with the family, barbecues with a hint of South American flavour, and make an evening of it – it is so important in this day and age to take precious time to talk as a family, and a family dinner is the perfect time.