GORDON CARTWRIGHT IS THE NEW GENERAL MANAGER AT THE HISTORIC LUMLEY CASTLE HOTEL AT CHESTER-LE-STREET – BUT IT’S A PASSION FOR FOOD THAT HAS LEAD HIM TO HIS LATEST ROLE…
In his years as an inspector for the AA, Gordon Cartwright would conservatively estimate that he probably stayed at around 2000 hotels. It was an interesting change of career for a man who started life as a chef at one of the UK’s most celebrated restaurants at the Sharrow Bay Hotel in the Lake District.
At the time Gordon was the youngest head chef to work at a Michelin starred establishment – famously the place where sticky toffee pudding was first invented – and it was a real baptism by fire for the ambitious young man.
Despite the 80 hour weeks and the pressure of keeping up the standards that are required to keep a star, Gordon stayed at the Sharrow Bay for five years, building on time spent at other celebrated eateries like the legendary Le Gavroche. It gave him the fire not only to continue his career in hospitality, but to help him create his vision of what he wanted his future to bring.
In the mid 1990s Gordon took over as chef patron as The Snooty Fox at Kirby Lonsdale, with the aim of wanting to bring fine dining to a more affordable level. That ambition saw him nominated for a Catey – the Oscars of the catering wall – and named as one of the country’s top chefs.
It was at The Snooty Fox that he began to also take an interest in what happened outside of the kitchen, learning about hotel management and all that entailed – which put him in a perfect place when the AA came calling.
“It just seemed like a great way to really learn about hotels and how they operate,” said Gordon, who, over the next 13 years rose through the ranks to become part of the AA management team, helping to establish industry standards.
That experience saw him move back to hotels and head to the Lake District and The Gilpin Hotel & Lake House for two years before moving to run a property in Belfast and the five-star Isle of Eriska Hotel and Spa off the West Coast of Scotland.
Every position saw Gordon leave his stamp on the hotel and elevate it to new heights – which is the magic he’s now planning to weave at Lumley Castle. It certainly wasn’t the most auspicious of starts, taking up post just before the pandemic struck and finding you were the only person rattling around a huge, historic building for months on end.
“The hotel has a reputation for being haunted and there were definitely a few unexplained things that went on,” said the GM. Thankfully he’s not a man who is easily rattled and now his focus is much more giving the castle its rightful place not just in regional hospitality but across the UK.
A refresh and refurbishment has taken place, so that the public areas of the hotel still retain their sense of tradition but with a more contemporary twist.
The bedrooms too are also gradually getting a facelift, again in a way that’s sympathetic to the building and its legacy.
Exciting new innovations such as the launch of a cigar and spirits den where guests and visitors can enjoy the finest Cuban cigars which are perfectly matched with whiskies and brandies has already proved a huge hit. And that’s just the start. Knowing Gordon’s background, it’s hardly surprising that the food operation is a major priority from turning the hotel into a destination venue to ensuring that the offering for everything from weddings to meetings is exciting, ambitious and of course delicious.
Innovations such as brunch as well as breakfast – for guests who don’t want to get out of bed too early – have been added to the menu. Food in the renamed Knights’ Restaurant is hearty, stylish and changes with the seasons, to reflect the best available produce.
From king oyster mushroom wellington to roast loin of hake to Morteau sausage and confit pheasant leg and leek pie, the emphasis is on creating memorable flavours.
For Gordon building a destination restaurant is yet another priority on his ever growing list.
“I used to come to Lumley when I was an inspector and I always felt I could do so much here,” he said. “So it’s fantastic that I now have that chance.”
Further information about Lumley Castle is available at www.lumleycastle.com