Top Isle of Wight chef Robert Thompson has returned to the George hotel in Yarmouth to team up with entrepreneur Howard Spooner.
Thompson, who was the youngest British chef to be awarded a Michelin star back in 2007, has been appointed executive chef at the hotel.
He will recruit and train staff, design and plan menus, and divide his time between the hotel and his own successful restaurant, Thompson’s, in Newport.
Thompson previously spent a few months at the George in 2014 when it was bought by ex-Camelot Group chief executive, Dame Dianne Thompson (no relation), but they parted ways acrimoniously.
“If anything it will make Thompson’s stronger,” said Thompson, who has also agreed a package with Spooner that will see guests at the hotel shuttling between the two restaurants.
The extra revenue from both operations means more funds for new staff at his Newport restaurant. “I couldn’t afford it before, thanks to our traditionally slow winter season here, but it’s all part of my grand plan to make the Isle of Wight an all year round destination,” he grinned.
The George hotel, now re-branded as the George Hotel and Beach Club, offers a 100-seat brasserie, with a further 150 seats outside. The new menu includes sections such as Tasty Morsels, offering cuttlefish crackers and taramasalata, and Smaller Plates, with dishes such as smoked haddock carpaccio, plus other sections entitled From the Farm and Freshwater & Sea.
The new menu will be available from noon until last orders at 9.30pm every day, marking a dramatic departure (and a first for the island) from its more traditional opening hours.
“Yes, you will be able to come in and eat mussels and chips, or crab linguini at 4pm if you want to. Hotel guests are checking in all day long so we want everything to be available to them, and to everybody else. That’s how it should be,” confirmed Thompson, who revealed that there is a new breakfast menu, too. “It’s key to getting more people in from outside the hotel,” he explained.
Heading up the kitchen is Tom Axford, who ran a gastro-pub with his brother in Brading, joined by Jacob Green as pastry chef and sous chef Jack Terry.
Thompson, who plans to build the kitchen team to 10, is also over-seeing the new outside Kitchen and Grill Bar, which will open at Easter. “It’s important to create some theatre, to see a connection with the chefs,” said Thompson.