Grande Cuisine at The Oyster Club

The Oyster Club is Grande Cuisine’s second collaboration with Michelin starred chef Adam Stokes. We caught up with Adam and asked him to share some pearls of wisdom about opening a fish and seafood restaurant 80 miles from the nearest beach!

I love fish and seafood and really wanted to bring a seafood style restaurant to Birmingham – and I had noticed a bit of a gap in the market! The links that we have with our suppliers through The Oyster Club’s Michelin starred sister restaurant, Adam’s, mean that we get beautiful seafood all the time – prime Dover Sole, prime roasted Turbot on the bone, lobsters, caviar, they can all be found on the menu at The Oyster Club. I wanted the new restaurant to be close to Adam’s and, given its location and knowing the clientele that would frequent it, I also very much wanted it to have a Mayfair-esque style.

At The Oyster Club we wanted to put in a unique cook suite, something special, something that was a bit new and a bit different. So, looking at the market, and in discussion with the team at Grande Cuisine, we were introduced to IChef from MARENO. This was almost a new way of cooking to us, using new technology, but one that would help us to produce fabulous food on a clever system that almost thinks for itself. Initially I was a bit nervous as I knew we would be the first restaurant in the UK to have an IChef suite installed but I think it’s indicative of the relationship I have with Grande Cuisine that I knew they were going to deliver every single step of the way, and they have.

The Oyster Club is busy all day and the kitchen has got to cope with this, which it does, thanks in no small part to the cook suite. As well as IChef the suite also incorporates MARENO’s Power Guardian™ system which automatically saves energy whilst the suite is in use. Power Guardian™ automatically reduces power usage if consumption nears the maximum load, this is essential for us as we have limited power coming into the site, and no gas. Service goes on for 10, 11, 12 hours of the day but obviously we have busy points at lunch and dinner, so our electrical consumption does fluctuate and that’s where the Power Guardian™ really does help us.

I would have loved to have had an island suite but due to the constraints of the kitchen we had to have a wall suite. On the right-hand side of the suite are the service elements, whilst the left-hand side is more for preparation, but it can obviously still be used for service. The right-hand side is also a great space that we can use for pots and pans, and we’ve got a water bath there too at present.

Obviously, trends and cooking methods change over time so the way the suite is designed means that we will always have space for other equipment. We use the induction units for finishing sauces and little bits and pieces of pan work – we need immediate heat for these which induction gives us. There’s also a massive plaque/plancha with four zones which we use as required: in the morning we use it for large pans and then in the evening we turn the rear zones down for simmering sauces whilst the front stays nice and hot for roasting. For finishing we’ve got a salamander grill and there’s also an oven underneath the ambient worktop on which the salamander is mounted, so we’ve got everything we need just where we need it. Again, underneath the grill, there is a nice space for pans, resting fish, etc. Moving across the suite we have a selection of different sized fryers: a larger one for batch work in the morning and then a smaller twin fryer which we keep nice and hot for finishing. Like the one at Adam’s, the suite at The Oyster Club is really flexible so if necessary we can develop it, and change it, so that we have areas with different equipment. And it’s also very efficient – we can have two or three people working at it with the hot pass directly behind ready to send plates to the restaurant.

I was really excited about using induction for the first time in a bespoke suite. Some people talk about the flavour you get from gas cooking with a naked flame but nowadays you get that same flavour from barbecues, you get it from roasting and blowtorching. At the end of the day it’s just a heat source and we very quickly found that induction delivered what we needed, when we needed it. It is also more powerful and more precise than gas – not to mention all the energy saving benefits derived from the fact that it only uses power when there is a pan on it. Gas is very dirty, it’s very slow, it’s not an energy that we want to associate with anymore and so when it came to the installation at The Oyster Club gas just wasn’t an option. Electric (induction) is safer, and it’s easier to clean because there’s no carbon build up. And the costs associated with gas, such as the cleaning of the extraction and the replacement of thermocouples are important when you have to pay for them out of your own pocket. For me, gas is gone.

What we have also experienced is a dramatic temperature reduction in the kitchen. I come from old school kitchens with gas everywhere: these places are hot, they are sweaty, tensions are running high with the pressures of service, and gas just adds to this. Induction keeps the kitchen environment cooler and which takes a lot of the stress out of cooking and that obviously keeps staff happier.