Smoking Gun

Smoking Gun
Highly useful kitchen gadget

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Something from 1995.

Most chefs can only dream of running their own restaurant because of the huge capital investment needed. But Paul Walker, head chef of the Mariner's Cavern restaurant at the Wirral's Yew Tree Hotel, has found a way of realising his ambitions.
Walker has taken on the contract to run the restaurant, leaving owners Ray and Dilly Arnold free to market their 23-bedroom hotel.
The Arnolds had been running the Yew Tree Hotel for 16 years when, in 1993, they opened the Mariner's Cavern in the basement. Walker was later appointed as head chef.
A year on, the Arnolds offered a three-year restaurant lease with an option to renew to Walker's parents - newcomers to the restaurant business. "It was an ideal opportunity," says Paul Walker's father David, now joint-proprietor with wife Carol. "Paul had been here for some time, so he knew the market."
The lease agreement states the Mariner's Cavern is responsible for serving breakfast, and about 60 are served each week from 7am to 9am. Walker says hotel guests make up about 20% of covers, an average of 45 a day (15 for lunch, 30 for dinner).
The 40-seat bistro-style restaurant offers: à la carte; table d'hôte (£13.50 for three courses); daily specials; business lunches (£5 for two courses including tea or coffee); and traditional Sunday lunch (three courses for £7.50 including a glass of wine).
The à la carte menu changes about three times a year, with the most recent introduced in March.
Although Walker has been at the Mariner's Cavern for two years, he says he now works harder to reduce food costs. "The new menu has been designed with that in mind," he explains.
So chicken, guinea fowl and duck breast, which feature separately, are combined into a terrine garnished with broccoli and cauliflower florets marinated in a tarragon vinaigrette (£4.50).
The confit of duck leg with a red wine sauce and creamed shallots (£4.35) was introduced to allow Walker to buy whole ducks. Roast breast of duck with honey and sherry vinegar sauce (£11.50) uses the breast, while the carcass is used for stock.
Walker gets inspiration from books and admits the duck, rack of lamb and red mullet main courses are adaptations from John Burton-Race's Recipes from an English Master Chef (Headline, £19.99).
Stir-fried king prawns, garlic, ginger and bacon, garnished with a timbale of Basmati rice (£5.30) is one of the most popular dishes." My customers particularly like food with Oriental influences," he says.
Last month Walker introduced the first in a series of monthly gourmet evenings. The opening menu (five courses for £19) took a Japanese theme.
Dishes were designed to be acceptable to western palates. Sashimi (finely sliced fillets of fish marinated in Sake, soy sauce and wasabi), was westernised with celery, red pepper and spring onions in a lemon dressing.
Back of house, Walker is assisted by second chef Jon Bentley, who spent seven years in the Army Catering Corps. As Bentley's work experience has spanned countries including Bahrain, Kenya, Iceland and Canada, and Walker's includes Bermuda, the duo should not be short of ideas for their next gourmet evenings.

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