At Mal Liverpool, Malmaison has taken the unusual step of opening a purpose-built hotel rather than converting a historic building - which gave Executive Chef Keith Shearer and Vision the opportunity to design a kitchen from scratch.
"Being a new build, we didn't have to build around structural elements or squeeze equipment into spaces that weren't designed for kitchens," Keith explains, "so we essentially started with a blank piece of paper. We could design the whole kitchen in a rectangle - which for Malmaison made a refreshing change!" Keith compares this with the Oxford Mal where he and Vision had to shoehorn a commercial kitchen into the basement of a converted castle with its six-foot thick walls and narrow doors.
Keith and Vision work together on the design of every kitchen in the Malmaison Group: "Every chef has their own design ideas, but for me it's about creating a kitchen that's suited to a restaurant, even though we are a restaurant kitchen within a hotel. It's all about flow, from goods receiving to food production to the actual service. Vision and I will sit down and discuss the aspects of the kitchen, all the elements that are important to me. Vision are very open and it's good to work with professionals who take it all on board even though they're going to have their own preferences. Our kitchens are professional, heavy-duty kitchens but we try and make the environment as good a place to work as possible. This helps retain staff and lifts the mood. For example, we invest in the top-of-the range extraction and air flow system to help with the temperature - you can't buy a better one. At Liverpool the equipment is up to the same standard as in all our kitchens except we've added a wood-burning pizza oven which adds another option to room service and the brasserie menu."
Keith has also installed a chef's table in the kitchen for guests who want to get in on the action. "People are more interested than ever in what goes on behind the swing doors and this table is for people who really want to experience the atmosphere of the busy kitchen. The hotel also features a number of private dining rooms for up to ten people.
"We have created a private dining 'in the kitchen' room for the more technological diners. Via a live 'chef-cam' diners can witness their meals being created in a vibrant and lively kitchen environment. This is shown on a large plasma screen in the dining room, screening all aspects of the kitchen and how it all works, it's even wired for sound so the chefs will have to mind their language. It's a unique concept and having the kitchen on view to customers meant that the design of the kitchen was crucial."