Lancashire Life Luncheon - The Fyr Grill, North Lakes Hotel
PUBLISHED: 00:00 04 July 2019 | UPDATED: 09:29 04 July 2019
Jenny Woolgar Photography
Open kitchens are appearing in restaurants across the country, but the North Lakes Hotel has taken the concept a step further.
When the restaurant filled with fumes and the carbon monoxide alarm wouldn't stop beeping, some might have though that the money the North Lakes Hotel had spent on installing a bespoke indoor grill had gone up in smoke. Chefs at the Penrith hotel had just two weeks to learn how to cook on the grill and it didn't all go smoothly at first, but a year on, the £1m they spent on remodelling the restaurant and installing the grill seems like a sound investment.
In that time executive chef Doug Hargreaves and his team have served more than 80,000 diners and have cooked almost 10,000 steaks and more than 550 lobsters over over about 200 tons of sustainably sourced logs. The most remarkable statistic though is that no members of the team have been burned.
'We wanted to create something a bit different and to break down the barriers,' said Doug. 'It's great not being stuck within the four walls of the kitchen and the chefs love cooking in front of everyone. None of us would want to go back to being in the kitchen all the time now.'
The Fyr grill - it's Scandinavian and is pronounced more like 'fear' than 'fire' - adds a touch of spectacular theatre to the experience of eating at the hotel.
This isn't just an open kitchen, this is cooking over flames in the restaurant, just feet away from tables. Diners can feel the heat of the fire as they watch their meal being prepared. And they can chat to the chefs and some even take selfies with them as they work.
And while those diners might be initially attracted by the novelty of watching chefs in action up close, they return for the food.
Burnley-born Doug has been in a kitchen since he started at the Oaks Hotel as a 15-year-old in 1994. He's worked around the country and been executive chef in four hotels but had to re-learn how to cook when the grill was installed as part of a major refurbishment of the restaurant just over a year ago.
'There is nothing like this in this region and we had two weeks to learn to how to use it,' he said. 'We fed the hotel staff for two weeks with burgers, steaks and sausages and we had three open nights for us to practice with people in the restaurant.
'On the first night the restaurant filled with smoke and the carbon monoxide alarm wouldn't stop beeping, but we discovered the fan in the chimney had been fitted back to front so we had that turned round and we've not had that problem since.'
Some of the more delicate work is done in the kitchen and the teams communicate using radio headsets and Doug added: 'We have no control over the heat on the grill, we've all had to learn how to cook again and had to change our recipes to fit what we can do on the grill. It sounds odd, but cooking on gas is quite wet and with the grill it's a very dry heat, so steaks cook differently and more quickly.'
On the menu
North Lakes Hotel Luncheon
Executive head chef Doug Hargreaves with the FYR Grill
Lobster, prawn and avacado cocktail served at FYR Grill Restaurant, in association with Lancashire Life Magazine at the North Lakes Hotel, Penrith
White chocolate and elderflower panncacotta, poached rhubarb and ginger crumb
FYR grilled lamb cutlet with slow braised shoulder, gratin potatoes, pea puree, baby carrots, red wine reduction
Doug Banks, Eden District Council, and Lancashire Life editor Paul Mackenzie
Rebecca Waterfield, Funky Sunflower Events, and Helen Evans, Barnardos
Maria Ramsdale, FW Capital, Mandy Pearson, Cumberland Business, Linda Slinger, Cumberland Building Society, and Jenny Strong, Borderway Finance
From left: Kayleigh Hunter, Nicola Steadman, both of THW Legal, Jason Harbour, Guide Security and Tracy Chandler, Emirates
Executive chef Doug Hargreaves (back left) with the kitchen team at FYR Grill Restaurant, at the North Lakes Hotel, Penrith
FYR Grill Restaurant
Sally Gillespie, Gretna Green Ltd, and Eleanor Mounsey, Ghyllmount Dental
Paul Enguita, of Elis, and Brenda Halligan
Julie Graham, Gail Gravett, both of Penrith Golf Club, and Mark Taylor, of Jelf
John Coughlan, TSB Engineering, and Angela Halligan, of Lancashire Life
Alan Hinkes, mountain guide, and Mark Jones, Brewin Dolphin
Sharon Brook, Sophie Heron, Sarah Jenkins, and Sue Gardham, all of the sales team, from North Lakes Hotel
Kathryn Monks, artist and astrologer, and Christine Hallas of Saytwo Productions Ltd
Starter: Lobster, prawn and avocado cocktail, FYR grilled vegetables, Marie Rose sauce and toasted treacle bread or Grilled asparagus, sourdough crostini, pea purée, poached egg and hollandaise sauce
Main: FYR grilled lamb cutlet with slow braised shoulder, gratin potatoes, pea puree, baby carrots, red wine reduction or Sweet potato and chickpea falafel, tahini sauce, curried vegetables, and grilled naan bread
Dessert: White chocolate and elderflower panncacotta, poached rhubarb and ginger crumb