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Northover Manor is a beautiful 16th and 17th century country house in Somerset. Now a popular hotel and wedding venue, owners Mark and Mel Haddigan have refurbished it to combine traditional elements with modern comforts. Their work brought considerable success – with a 40-seater restaurant, a busy bar and room for 120 guests at events, they can be looking after 200 guests at once. Which was an issue, given that their old kitchen just wasn’t up to the job. “When we were full on it was incredibly stressful and we had no room for error – there was no ‘plan b’,” says Mark. “I remember our head chef, Stuart Turner, putting his head in his hands a few months before Christmas and saying ‘what the #x!@ are we going to do if something breaks down?’ We had to make a change.”
Mark decided a whole new kitchen was the answer – and he wanted it installed fast, before the Christmas rush. After getting some advice, he chose to go with a Falcon cookline and Lainox combi ovens. “The ‘before and after’ difference is incredible,” he says. “We have flexibility and the option of plenty of ‘plan b’s!”
The kitchen was installed by Bartlett’s, “Their advice was brilliant, it made a real difference, and they did the job on time,” says Mark. One aspect of the project was dealing with a room that was several hundred years old. “It did cause a few unexpected problems, but Falcon and Bartlett’s managed to overcome them so that now it all works really well."
“We chose Falcon because we wanted equipment that was fast, robust and absolutely reliable,” says Mark. “Our cuisine is contemporary English and we change our menu regularly, with Stuart and his team creating seasonal dishes, so the equipment also had to be able to adapt to different types of food and cooking processes.”
Northover Manor’s cookline features Falcon’s Dominator Plus appliances, including a gas chargrill, a six-burner boiling top, a fryer with integral filtration, and a four-ring induction oven range. There’s also a Falcon E600 rise and fall grill and a Lainox Naboo ten-grid combi oven.
Being something of a traditional head chef, Stuart still uses the standard oven for his roast meats, though Mark expects him to switch to the combi in time, because they have seen what it can do. “Take roast potatoes,” says Mark. “They’ve given us grief over the years. But in the combi they are done so quickly and so perfectly. We cook lots of things in the Lainox and we wouldn’t want to be without it now. To be fair, we wouldn’t want to be without any of the other appliances, either!”
Sustainability is important at Northover Manor. “It’s part of everything we do,” says Mark. “We source local produce wherever we can, we grow and use ingredients from the garden, we switched our heating from oil to biomass, so now it runs on wood pellets. Wherever we can, we make it sustainable.”
The kitchen upgrade had to fit the hotel’s green aspirations. Not surprisingly, one of the products Mark is especially keen on is the induction range. “When I saw it I thought, ‘oh happy day, we have to have that!’ For sure it’s made a difference and saved us energy and money,” he says. “In summer the kitchen can get pretty hot, so fact that induction produces so little waste heat is a huge bonus, too.”
Another feature of the Falcon cookline is that it’s easy to clean. “It’s so different from what we had before. It looks impressive and cleaning it’s a cinch. It’s encouraged a real source of pride in the kitchen brigade.”
Mark’s grateful for the training that Falcon has provided – and will provide in the future. “We needed to get the kitchen turned round fast and we needed the kitchen brigade working on it quickly – and able to cope with Christmas! Falcon managed all of that, and have offered to come back to give us advanced training when we’re ready.
“The new kitchen has meant we can streamline our operation, speed up the process and be better organised,” says Mark. “Over Christmas we served three courses to 160 people in under two hours – they were all very happy and the kitchen was stress-free.
“At Northover Manor, every day is different. With the equipment we now have in the kitchen, there’s no excuse for not providing top quality food – and life is much easier!”
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