InterContinental London – The O2

Eighteen Sky Bar is the sophisticated and glamorous cocktail bar on the 18th floor of the InterContinental London – The 02.

 

 

With its amazing vista over The O2, Thames Barrier, Canary Wharf and Docklands, this is where we met with Johan Rox, Executive Chef and Tim Reynolds, Director of Food & Beverage.

 

Teamwork must be an important factor in running an operation of this scale?

Johan:
Teamwork is the key to any business in the food service industry. We have several teams in the kitchen and trust is of the utmost importance!

It must present you with numerous challenges on a daily basis?

Johan:
We plan in advance, and communication between and within teams is key. If we meet a challenge during an event, we let it go, the guest has to come first! Afterwards, we will discuss how to change things to avoid such challenges in the future.

The views from the Meridian Lounge are spectacular. Is this why you chose a custom design for your tableware – to reflect the individuality of the setting?

Tim:
It is more about respect for the location. Greenwich is hugely important to the world, being the centre of time! It also has a history of trade and the design in the Meridian Lounge is us ‘tipping a hat’ of respect to its heritage.

Do guests get it?

Tim:
Sometimes, yes. Sometimes they have questions and we offer an explanation. Not everyone knows what the bright green line in the lobby is? It gives us a story – something to talk about, you know?

What provides your inspiration in the kitchen and how often do you change menus?

Johan:
Lots of things! Trends, food markets, the knowledge and creativity of my colleagues. I like to give them the ability to create, not just dictate what they do. Also, good relationships with our suppliers so they can tell us what is new, or good today.

In Peninsula Restaurant we use a lot of foraged products, so Tom and his team are constantly trying out new things. Menu changes are once a month for Afternoon Tea and the Market Brasserie.

In banqueting, whatever guests eat in the Peninsula Restaurant or Market Brasserie, I feel we should be able to produce for 3,000 people.

 

Brie croquettes from the InterContinental London - The O2
Blackberry delice from the InterContinental London - The O2

 

Food comes straight from local markets into the Market Brasserie, so seasonal and local produce must be an important part of your philosophy here?

Johan:
Yes, and it is what guests expect. They would not expect to see wild duck on the menu in Spring, for instance. We use locally sourced, seasonal products, which have less food miles than sourcing abroad.

We have heard that the Lady Penelope Afternoon Tea in the Meridian Lounge was amazing! Where did the idea come from?

Tim:
Ah, this tied in nicely with the locality. We were approached by ITV after Thunderbirds took over the Emirates Air Line for a new series launch. We went to the pastry team with the idea and Amit looked like a kid in a sweet shop! It has been really well received, winning the best Afternoon Tea from ‘The Resident’ in an online poll.

You can go anywhere for Afternoon Tea, but people want an ‘experience’, something to photograph and talk about.

What are the biggest challenges when catering for up to 3,000 people in the Arora ballroom?

Johan:
Dietary requirements! In an event for 3,000 people, 10% will be allergic to something: Gluten, dairy, nuts, vegetarian, religious considerations etc. We have to know where they are sitting. We plate up the dishes for the client several days in advance, so they can taste and see how it will look on the night.

Are there any new developments we can look forward to in 2018?

Tim:
Onwards and upwards! Peninsula Restaurant was recently awarded three AA Rosettes, so our eyes are firmly fixed on the Michelin Guide. We are currently looking at the AA Rosette programme for the Market Brasserie too. Banqueting is a constant reinvention. It is about the visual aspect and the experience. As for the hotel, we use every corner of this building, so expansion may be the answer. Watch this space!

Johan:
I have been working on a new banqueting menu, based on our experiences during the last 16 months. There will be more options every time. Live cooking stations, energy drinks, health conscious… Anything is possible!