Alasdair MacDonald is fresh faced and bursting with enthusiasm.
The 20-year-old has started his shift early to take us down to the greenhouse, which is just 97 steps from the kitchen at Wynyard Hall in the Tees Valley.
He enthusiastically talks us through the different herbs the team are growing. “I ran down here last night to pick the fresh basil we used in your cocktails,” said the restaurant supervisor.
We’d put Alasdair and the team on the spot during our seven- course tasting menu and instead of a dessert wine (to complement the balsamic strawberry tart with mascarpone sorbet that executive chef Michael Penaluna has as a dessert) we’d asked for a cocktail.
For my partner, Alasdair concocted a strawberry and basil non-alcoholic mojito and, for myself, he combined a wild strawberry liqueur with an almond liqueur to make a sour that had a biscuit-like taste and worked in perfect harmony with the tart.
During our three-hour meal, Alasdair, sharply dressed in a crisp white shirt and black suit – and never without a smile –completely captivated us.
His knowledge was key to the conversation, but it was his zest for his role, his passion for educating us, and other guests, on the finer details of each course which really struck a chord.
“The level of service from such a young team – and their attention to detail – is pretty remarkable,” said my partner. I couldn’t agree more.
It’s Alasdair; food and beverage assistant George, 19; chef de rang Kayleigh, 21, and 27-year-old restaurant manager, Alex, that give eating at Wynyard Hall that je ne sais quoi.
It’s their passion that makes it an experience, rather than just having food in just another restaurant, and it’s absolutely refreshing to see a front-of-house team so young, yet so engaged with their guests.
My advice: visit and lap it all up.