Stevie McLaughlin, head chef at Restaurant Andrew Fairlie, spoke to me about what’s on the menu for reopening during an interview for Scran, our food and drink podcast.
"It started quite quickly and to be honest I got into being at home quickly too, it was almost like a strange holiday,” says Stevie McLaughlin, commenting on the onset of the lockdown.
“We were very aware of getting the staff safe and making sure they were where they wanted and needed to be. The restaurant was safely closed and so we had to wait and listen for the next instruction.”
That instruction came in late June when Nicola Sturgeon announced further dates for reopening the hospitality sector in Scotland, which were dependent on the continued suppression of the coronavirus – including the opening of beer gardens and indoor hospitality.
Also in June, Gleneagles, the home of Restaurant Andrew Fairlie, announced it would reopen on 15 July – the same date as Restaurant Andrew Fairlie.
Speaking of plans to welcome guests back, Stevie said: “We brought the team back a week early to retrain and get a risk assessment done.
"It’s really important that staff safety and welfare is high on the agenda, and customer welfare as well.
"What diners are going to get is undoubtedly a Restaurant Andrew Fairlie experience despite the changes we’ve had to put in place.”
Stevie insists that the wow factor will still be there for those dining in the prestigious restaurant as the quality of service and food won’t have changed – there will just be fewer covers as some tables have been taken out to ensure social distancing.
“We’ve gone from a 50 cover restaurant to, depending on the table configuration, just over 40 covers, which is very good,” Stevie explains.
“As with everything, we are very positive about our approach and in taking these steps it is to our and our customers benefit. Although tables are two metres apart, customers won’t feel like they’re dining in a half-full restaurant.”
In the kitchen staff will stick to their stations, which are two metres apart, and follow a one in, one out system with regards to fridges and freezers.
They’ll also stop working every hour to sanitise work stations and wash hands. There will also be hand sanitiser in the kitchen.
It is the food that has been the draw to the restaurant, and Stevie talks us through what’s on the menu for reopening, saying: “Our signature dish is smoked Scottish lobster with warm lime and herb butter, and we’ve got some beautiful secret garden produce – summer beetroot herbs and wild strawberries – as well as wild roe deer.
"When I say we buy the best we can, so much of it is Scottish. At this time of year, normally, about 95 per cent of our vegetables and herbs would be coming from our secret garden.”
The garden is one of many legacies left behind by Andrew Fairlie, who passed away in January 2019, and his memory is something that Stevie is keen to keep alive, especially as they worked together for so long. “What is the shining light [of the restaurant] is Andrew’s legacy.
"I worked with Andrew for 26 years and Dale, the restaurant general manager, worked with Andrew for 20 years – so what Restaurant
Andrew Fairlie is, is ingrained in both of us and we are leading our teams and showing them the Andrew Fairlie way.
"It’s our job to continue his legacy. The quality and consistency will remain and what we want to do is, year on year, become a better restaurant.
"If that means introducing a new, brilliant product or if it is changing the music or introducing a different uniform or a couple of new main course plates – that’s how we evolve and develop. We are not running at this, it’s a very natural, very organic, very Andrew Fairlie way."
Restaurant Andrew Fairlie is now open for bookings. Hear this interview in full by searching for Scran wherever you get your podcasts.