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Stir it up magazine NovDec 2017

Let the festivities begin! A luxury five-star hotel in Belfast has got Christmas 2017 all wrapped up. Standing high on the slopes of the Holywood Hills, the magnificent Culloden Estate and Spa is one of the most prestigious hotels in Northern Ireland and a recent refurbishment has been rewarded with a host of accolades, including being named Luxury Hotel of the Year at this year’s Irish Hotel Awards. Originally built as an official Palace for the Bishops of Down, the Culloden stands in 12 acres of beautiful secluded gardens and woodland, and attracts visitors all year round. Whilst every stay is special, the hotel goes all out during the festive season and the catering operation pulls out all of the stops to ensure guests enjoy a visit to remember. Executive chef Paul McKnight has worked for the family-owned hotel group for 40 years. “I started as a commis chef and worked my way up,” he explains. “It was a lot of hard work and perseverance, plus a lot of support from the owners. The beauty of working at this hotel is that no one day is the same. We cater for lots of events and weddings, and we also get a lot of celebrities who stay here too.” U2, Adele and Lionel Richie are among the big names Paul and his team have cooked for, but everyone is treated like superstars regardless of their celebrity status. The hotel’s main restaurant is the Mitre, where Paul describes the cuisine as “modern Irish” with plenty of delicious fish dishes on the menu. Hand-dived scallops with local black pudding, peas and pancetta are a particular favourite. Afternoon tea is an increasingly popular event at the hotel. “It’s quite traditional with cucumber and cream cheese, egg and cress and smoked salmon sandwiches followed by tartlets and pastries which are “It seems to fly in, then before you know it, it’s New Year’s McKnight Eve! We have a well-earned rest after that though.” all made in-house,” says Paul. “It’s a big thing for hen parties who come to enjoy the pink Champagne and fancies.” A festive afternoon tea features Yuletide delights such as turkey and cranberry sandwiches (made using Country Range Cranberry Sauce), mini mince pies and red velvet cupcakes. Paul is a big fan of the Country Range Mini Mince Pies which he uses for the volume side of his operation. “The pastry is really good and the mincemeat great quality. I like to serve them warm and they hold really well which is obviously important,” he says. Over the three-week Christmas period, Paul and his team will serve around 5,000 meals, with Christmas Day being the busiest day of all. “We host a grand banquet in our ballroom for 350 people plus another 140 in the restaurant,” he says. “It’s really special with lots of luxurious produce and ice carvings. Our central display features a rowing boat displaying every type of seafood imaginable, from lobsters and langoustines to oysters and crabs. It looks truly amazing.” Paul and his team work from 8am until 6pm on Christmas Day, plus lots of mis en place is done in advance, then they’re back in work on Boxing Day for more of the same. New Year’s Eve is an equally show-stopping event with a huge banquet at which Paul is piped in to the ballroom with a haggis to the delight of the revellers. CUSTOMER PROFILE NOV/DEC 2017 5 Paul


Stir it up magazine NovDec 2017
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