With catering coming back in-house, a whole world of possibilities is opening up for the food and drink we will be able to offer members. Resident Manager Warren Miller takes Overseas through some of the plans that will give you more choice, higher quality, and better service at the clubhouse
After 16 years using an external caterer, the past 12 months of Covid-related restrictions has given ROSL the opportunity and time to reassess what it can offer members when they visit the clubhouse; central to this is the food and drink on offer.
In December, Director-General Annette Prandzioch and Resident Manager Warren Miller, along with the support of Central Council and the Senior Leadership Team, assessed internal and external bids to take over the catering at Over-Seas House.
“In the end, we had one outside catering company, as well as the internal bid, which both had to provide a five-year plan with detailed financials ” explains Warren, who led the internal bid. “It ended up being a very long day, starting at 8am, with the recently refreshed Central Council, who were fantastic. They made sure each bid was scrutinised; the right questions were asked.”
The unanimous decision was taken to bring catering back in-house, with Warren leading the transition from Graysons, who have provided catering at the clubhouse for the past 16 years. The first step is to hire a new Food and Beverage Manager, and Executive Chef, who will be in place ready for when government restrictions are lifted and the clubhouse is allowed to reopen. This is just the start of what will be a long process, which aims to restore ROSL’s dining experience to its former glory. “I want to get it done right, but it’s going to be a bit of a ‘slowly, slowly’ approach.”
The reason for this approach is two-fold. Firstly, you can’t put the cart before the horse. With the clubhouse in lockdown for large parts of 2020 as the UK battled the coronavirus pandemic, a vital source of income was lost for ROSL, so many of the plans for food and drink can only be realised as the world recovers and our global membership starts to return to Over-Seas House.
Secondly, Warren and the whole ROSL team are keen to bring members along on the journey. You are the reason we are all here, after all. Making sure that you get the food and drink you want is crucial. That has not stopped Warren for making plans that should get everyone excited, whether you work locally in London and pop in for a drink after work, visit every couple of months for dinner before the theatre, or travel from overseas once a year to enjoy our hospitality for weeks at a time.
My initial focus is on the garden and how we can make it even more attractive than it already is, in terms of food and drink
“My initial focus is on the garden and how we can make it even more attractive than it already is, in terms of food and drink,” explains Warren. “Of course, it is beautiful already, but we need to make it more weatherproof with better parasols and heaters in place, to make it usable in the cooler months of the Spring and Autumn. The plans are still awaiting approval, however, I am looking at improving the way we can provide food and drinks to the garden, which will make life much easier for the chefs and servers, and ultimately provide a much better service to members and more variety when it comes to the food we can offer. It will make it much more varied and exciting.”
There are also small gains to made elsewhere in the clubhouse that members will benefit from immediately. For example, the acoustics will be improved in the Brabourne Room, making it easier to chat over your lunch. The bigger plans will start to be seen as more members start to return to the clubhouse later this year and into 2022.
“Afternoon Tea in the Willingdon Drawing Room is something I’d like to explore. I want to go back to basics, offer a traditional afternoon tea with a nice glass of bubbly, and then possibly create nice packages so members and their friends can enjoy it. Longer term, I would like to partner with tea companies to take our members on a journey, exploring the customs and history of tea. Maybe a six-month tour of India?
You could come in once a month, hear from the producer, and get to know more about where your tea comes from.” The recent refurbishments, including all-new furniture make the Drawing Room perfect for this.
The biggest plans are reserved for the dining room downstairs in the Westminster Wing. But as they are the most ambitious, they will also take the most time to realise. The return of formal dining, which is something members have been asking for, is a key part of ROSL’s identity.
“We need to bring that back” agrees Warren. “When it happens though, all depends on the other projects going on around the clubhouse. I’ve already had designs through, which include the refurbishment of the dining room in a classic timeless art deco style, the inclusion of a bar in the room, a private dining room, and also the refurbishment of the toilets. We want to pay homage to the history and heritage of the Westminster Wing.
“I think a bar is essential, for times when the Duke of York Bar gets too busy. We would love members to come for pre- and post-theatre drinks and dinner.
It would also give members more choice in their clubhouse. A classic cosy members bar upstairs and a more of a cocktail bar downstairs. This all comes with time, as members start to come back to the club. It’s going to be a journey, it’s going to take time, but it’ll be worth it.”
We hope you’ll come along on this journey with us. Keep an eye out in future issues, eNewsletter and on the ROSL website for news as new members of the catering team come on board, menus are devised and updates are made to the dining areas around the club. Cheers to that!