It’s a very exciting time for the Hotel La Tour team as we approach our opening next month.
One of my main priorities for the new business has always been running a restaurant which was sustainable and where guests could be excited about visiting time and time again. We want to make Aalto Restaurant the place to be, not just for hotel guests, but also for people who are living, working and visiting Birmingham and the wider West Midlands region.
We count ourselves very fortunate that Jayson Ball from Salix introduced us to chef Marcus Wareing when we commissioned Salix to build our hotel kitchen. We approached Marcus who agreed to talk to us about our project and to help us with some real insight on creating a professional kitchen from scratch. Fortunately, Marcus was excited and energised by our plans and this was the start of our partnership.
Marcus very generously proposed that he and his team could help as we developed our kitchen and restaurant plus the food offering across the other areas of our hotel such as the Alvar Bar, our conference floor The Auden Rooms, and our street level coffee shop Café Ezra. Our focus has always been on achieving our business goals and building a business which was an asset to the Birmingham city centre area.
Marcus is quite simply an outstanding chef who puts huge discipline into his work to ensure his customers can be assured of food which is bursting with flavour and is also good value.
On a personal level, I have long been a fan of his work and Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley is my all-time favourite restaurant. Having said that, Aalto Restaurant at Hotel La Tour will be something very different to this amazing London dining experience, but there are a good many parallels to Marcus’s brasserie The Gilbert Scott.
It’s certainly been a very interesting time to work with Marcus, discussing at length and planning together what we will offer at Hotel La Tour. Marcus of course had the final say on our critical new hiring – our new Head Chef. We were extremely pleased to welcome Alex Penhaligon to our team and, at the moment, he’s busy working at the Gilbert Scott, learning everything he possibly can from Marcus and the team in the run-up to the long-awaited opening of Aalto.
Putting together our menu has been a very interesting experience. For me, a great restaurant is one where I am attracted by the choices on the menu, where the décor excites me and then I am drawn to return because of the flavours of the food and the atmosphere created by the staff.
It’s critical that people know what they are getting for their money, they want a good glass of wine at a fair price plus the option to spend more if they want to but not come away with the feeling that they have spent money on things they didn’t really want – such as water and side dishes which they felt they had to have to make their main course work properly.
Once you’ve achieved all these things you need to make it work for the long term, ensuring what you have is sustainable and where you are continually improving. This is key to ensure you earn the loyalty of your customers who repay your efforts by coming back time and again and in recommending you to others.
I’m the proud mum of two young sons so, in recent years at least, my eating out has often been confined to restaurants such as Pizza Express. One of my favourite places near home is a pub called the Plough and Flail. They’ve got a fantastic menu and I have never been disappointed. I also like restaurants which push the boat out on design and recently tried
Australasia in Manchester which is swanky and gorgeous with great food. I think it can be easy to be taken in by what’s trendy now and be distracted by the surroundings rather than the quality of the food – I’ll be ensuring we look very carefully at this as we open Aalto, the Alvar Bar and Café Ezra this March.