As a pop-up restaurant on the last Monday of every month ‘The Willow Tree Restaurant’ at Willow Court Care Home in Harpenden has proved a great success for its residents and their families and friends.
The ‘Best Friends Café’ area of the home is transformed into a relaxing, intimate restaurant for the evening for residents to dine with their loved ones. There is a three-course meal with two or three choices of a starter, main and dessert; a small charge is asked of visitors to the home whilst the residents dine for free. The restaurant setting has provided a wonderful experience for residents, some of whom may otherwise not be able to go out to a restaurant due to their care needs.
The idea behind ‘The Willow Tree Restaurant’ was to create a warm, safe and relaxed atmosphere for residents and their families and friends to have a nice meal together away from the care environment. Willow Court staff continually promote the importance of creating socially engaging atmospheres for residents and ‘The Willow Tree Restaurant’ provides the perfect setting, allowing families to share stories over dinner.
The menus are carefully created by Paul Campbell (Chef Manager), and Malek Bachene (Deputy Chef), who have combined their expert knowledge to ensure there is a good choice of nutritional, high quality meals being served, and residents’ dietary requirements are always considered. The menus are often inspired by the residents themselves following on from conversations about the importance of food and their own experiences of eating at different restaurants throughout their lives.
A recent menu featured a Scallop, Pea Purée and Black Pudding starter followed by main course of Chicken Ballotine Stuffed with Wild Mushrooms, Baby Vegetables, Garlic Mash and Madeira Sauce, and to finish Spiced Apple and Sultana Pannacotta with Peanut Brittle.
Says Paul: “The idea of creating the dining experience was first suggested to me by Quantum Care’s head office. It was something that was being trialled at other homes and the feedback from everyone involved was very positive. I was excited about the idea of hosting a dining club at Willow Court and once I had done a couple I wanted to really refine the menu and the restaurant experience, and so came up with ‘The Willow Tree Restaurant’.
“Since then it has been a real pleasure and honour organising the restaurant nights and it fills me with a tremendous amount of pride when I hear all the feedback. The residents really enjoy having the opportunity to get dressed up for the evening and they all gather excitedly in the entrance for their families to arrive. You can feel the excitement in the air!”
The Willow Tree Restaurant already has its regulars and through the excellent comments that have spread around the home the a la carte restaurant experience is always fully booked. It currently caters for up to 25 covers once a month, since the home insists that it keeps numbers at an intimate number to ensure the experience is relaxing and nothing is rushed. However due to the high interest from residents and their families Willow Court is now considering opening ‘The Willow Tree Restaurant’ over two consecutive nights to ensure they don’t have to turn residents and their families away.
Maria Ball, Chief Executive at Quantum Care says: “We take pride in having a very good reputation for food quality at all our homes. It is so important that we get it right in our sector, which is why we have a Support Services Team that ensures consistency throughout with regard to using locally sourced suppliers and food prepared by fully trained chefs who are able to meet a variety of dietary needs. So whilst the food served in our homes is of excellent quality, I have never associated Quantum Care with Michelin star ratings until seeing what is being produced at Willow Court. The idea of creating a restaurant environment within a home is solid proof that Quantum Care continues to be a resident-led care provider.”