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Tue 1 May 2007 04:02 PM

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Purple reign

Not just a run-of-the-mill steakhouse, Plums at The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain Hotel & Spa focuses on signature dishes, and everything plum-related.

With a close community feel to Bahrain, Plums restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain Hotel & Spa carries on this ethos by offering a cosy, intimate dining experience.

Wanting to make diners feel "as comfortable here as dining in your own living room," comments Abdul Baaghil, executive assistant manager for food and beverage at The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain Hotel & Spa, the main concept behind Plums is to lean heavily on its name, and everything related to the purple fruit.

"The decoration of the restaurant is a dark purple plum colour, we then decided to carry this into the food, so the name Plums simply followed," says Baaghil.

Using plums throughout the menu; in its signature cocktail and even as a plum compote that is sent to the guest's room after they have dined in the restaurant, Baaghil says it is important that diners remember their experience at the restaurant. With 80% of guests repeat customers, it is definitely working.

With dark purple walls, comfy seats and paintings commissioned by Bahraini artists, the restaurant focuses heavily on the jazz era when it comes to the little touches in the restaurant; including the music. In-house diners are even presented with a jazz CD after they have eaten at Plums.

While the food focuses on steaks - as the restaurant originally started out as a steakhouse - it has its origins in Cajun cuisine, so there is a variety of meats, grills and seafood on offer.

What really makes the restaurant stand out though are its signature offerings that add an additional service to diners.

"Individuality is very important and we need to stand out, not only against other restaurants in Bahrain, but also within our hotel. Testament to this, all of our outlets offer something different from each other, and are full every evening," comments Baaghil.

Showing this individuality, once a booking has been made, diners are shown to their table where they are greeted with a table reservation easel that welcomes them to Plums. On their second visit it says welcome back, and by their third visit, Baaghil says any special requests are noted and prepared for them in advance.

"We have one guest who has been coming to the restaurant every week for the past two years. He sits at the same table and requests the same dish to be cooked a certain way each time. We know when he is coming so his steak is on the grill before he even arrives," comments Jeffry Rocha, sous Chef, The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain Hotel & Spa.

Plums' individual service and niche offerings also extend to the cutlery used. For example, the team decided that the Kobe beef should be eaten with special steak knives that have been manufactured by Goyon Chazeau.

Used for the past nine months, the knife collection is presented to the diner in a wooden box; with each knife having a different wooden handle. In the future, Plums hopes to expand this collection, so front-of-house staff can present a wider selection of knives and explain the different woods that are used, as well as allowing diners to smell the different woods before choosing the knife they want to use.

The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain also worked alongside Asa to produce its range of chinaware, with its espresso and cappuccino cups styled with a long saucer and spoon holder.

"We are not in the design industry as we are a restaurant, but at the same time it is important to have the right balance between the interior design, the food on offer and the presentation. That is what brings longevity to a restaurant," comments Baaghil.

Taking this idea of individuality into the kitchen, Chef Jeffry says people have a free rein when it comes to what food they want. This is particularly seen when people have special events, like birthdays and wedding anniversaries, or on specific days like Valentines Day.

This year for example, when each couple booked a table for Valentines Day the male had to suggest a menu, and then they worked alongside Chef Jeffry to create an individual meal, as well as help prepare the dish.

"A few days beforehand, the menus were submitted and we held a cooking class on how the meat is cooked and prepared. This was great fun as it gave a personal service and was much more interactive," says Chef Jeffry.


Taking this concept on board, Chef Jeffry is now changing the menu at Plums; and while old favourites will still be available, there will be a lot more freedom for guests to choose what they want to eat, how they want it cooked, and what it is served with.

"It is a lot more work for us but it is more interactive. The menu will change every two weeks so there will always be something new," Chef Jeffry adds.

But with a team of eight back-of-house staff and six front-of-house team members, and the restaurant manager a graduate from Lausanne hotel school, Baaghil is confident this new menu idea will work.

With a new menu though, predicting the volume of ingredients required can be a challenge, yet Chef Jeffry says that he undertakes a detailed forecast on the flow of meat used each day, week and month, bearing in mind trimmings and any wastage.

"Our beef comes from Stockyards every three months, so we need to make sure we order the right amount, and enough of it; on average we import around 7000kg of meat per order. This includes all cuts of meat and in different variations, like our 20oz cut. We also used to order a 1.238kg T-bone that was very popular because of the ‘wow' factor," recalls Chef Jeffry.

As well as importing Australian Kobe beef that has a grading of six to seven, bumping up the restaurant's food cost to 32.5%, Chef Jeffry also serves seafood and a range of vegetarian dishes like vegetarian steak.

Using plums as a chutney, sauce or a compote, Chef Jeffry says it is an extremely versatile food item, and while it is used to accompany many of the dishes, Chef Jeffry is also working on a pomegranate vinaigrette for the house salad.

To accompany the food on offer, the front-of-house team work with a range of wines. Predominantly selling more New World wines that account for 65% of sales, the hotel has more than 150 wine labels, 15 of which are vintage Champagnes.

"For Plums, our primary focus is red wines, especially Cabernet Sauvignons, as this suits the meats very well. We offer a lot of South African wines and a large number

of Australian Cabernet Shiraz as well," says Baaghil.

"Californian wines also work well; whether using a blend of 80:20 Cabernet Sauvignon to Merlot, or wines with 70% Cabernet, 20% Merlot and 10% Malbec, it all depends on the cut of meat."

Sourcing top grade Kobe from Australia, wine from the New World and crockery and cutlery from Germany and Japan, Plums restaurant sources products that complement its intimate, Cajun-inspired steakhouse, and both front- and back-of-house are eager to serve food in an eclectic mix, just like the range of products used.

Suppliers at a glance

Chinaware:

Asa

Glassware:

Nachtmann

Linen:

Fili D'oro

Cutlery:

Hepp

Kobe

knives:

Goyon Chazeau

Cocktail glasses:

Riedel

Meat:

Stockyards

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