Founder chef returns to Brocket Hall’s landmark Welwyn Hatfield restaurant
A chef who converted a golf clubhouse into a top quality restaurant has told the Welwyn Hatfield Times how has returned to breath new life into it 20 years later.
Paul Hackett, who became director of operations at Brocket Hall near Lemsford in May last year, first arrived there in 1996, just as its aristocratic owner was jailed for insurance fraud.
He had previously worked as a chef at the London Capital Club, owned by the same business that took on a lease for Brocket Hall and its estate from Lord Brocket’s creditors.
At that time, the golf club house occupied a former shooting lodge, but he set about converting the building into the Auberge du Lac restaurant, and establishing a strong dining reputation.
Three years later, Paul, a keen motorcyclist, had a serious accident, almost losing an arm.
The trauma, and the desire to spend more time with his young children, inspired him to leave Brocket Hall to buy a farm and pub in the Cotswolds.
After selling them for a substantial profit in 2005, and a spell running a hotel in Cheltenham, he started working for International Golf and Restaurant management, eventually bringing him back to Brocket Hall under his old boss Michael Longshaw.
He told the Welwyn Hatfield Times: “I left as executive chef, and I’ve come back as director of operations. I suppose it was destiny. I had unfinished business here. I would never have left except for the accident.”
The hall and its various businesses are now achieving less than half the £10million/year turnover of the late 1990s, but Paul is full of ideas for restoring the glory days.
These include opening a new top quality seafood restaurant in the modern golf club, open to all comers, not just members, in April or May this year.
The Auberge du Lac has moved with the times under his guidance, with a more relaxed atmosphere and a truly global wine list
The hall itself is attracting plenty of corporate clients, who enjoy exclusive use for entertainment and functions.
Paul said: “It is like staying at Downton Abbey. It is a wonderful estate. There is nowhere quite like it in England – perhaps there is in Scotland, but that is a long way away.”