Casinos may not be the first destination you’d think of to visit for exquisite food, exemplary service and haute cuisine. Yet, London’s Colony Club, Palm Beach and Crockfords, which are all connected by the Genting Group, provide just that. And a lot more.
Make no mistake, fusions of flavour and culinary cultural cross-pollination are paramount to the three restaurants, which means a discerning diner can expect a subtle and unexpected ‘kick’ with any chosen dish from the menu.
Moreover, the restaurants are not merely a by-product or afterthought to the gaming. Rather, they’ve evolved to be the headline attraction which those in the know visit for refined dining, good service and bespoke flavours. It’s the perfect combination.
As Bob Orchard, executive chef at the Colony Club says: “Our food is an undoubted pull for the casino. We have a fantastic reputation and an amazing restaurant. Together, with the quality of the gaming on offer, we’re giving customers unforgettable experiences that go way beyond what people would normally expect of a casino.”
Here, we take a look inside the kitchens of these esteemed venues, and meet the chefs who are reinventing just what a night out at a casino means.
CHEF MAHMUD ZAMAN
The Palm Beach Casino
For Mahmud Zaman, the kitchen is his refuge. “I have done a lot of things,” he says, “but my mind is always in the kitchen. I started as a porter and then slowly went up. In 2004, I became the head chef at the London Club.” Mahmud moved to the Palm Beach in 2018.
The Palm Beach restaurant champions multicultural cuisine. Just as Crockfords and the Colony Club endorse juxtaposing flavours and spices, so too does Palm Beach. “For me everything is new: we don’t just stick to one thing,” Mahmud says.
The Palm Beach differentiates itself from its contemporaries by curating a menu which largely focuses on vegetarian cuisine. “I cook lots of paneer, vegetables and dahl,” Mahmud says. “I make my paneer different by putting it in the tandoor.”
Chef Mahmud, like chefs Bob Orchard and Steve Carpenter, has a wealth of experience working in casino restaurants: “I’ve never worked in a traditional restaurant,” he explains. “I wouldn’t like to work for one. A casino is a different environment, it has different facilities for the staff. I really like it.”
The main point of difference for the chefs is the clientele. The casinos attract a diverse range of people – often VIPs – and they often want to sample the in-house cuisine. “If they want something different from the menu, they’ll call me to the floor and ask, ‘Chef, what can you do for me?’ and I’ll be glad to make something unique for them.”
It’s this kind of ad-hoc scope which excites all three chefs. As Mahmud says, “When the customer is happy I feel proud because it’s something I cooked.”
CHEF BOB ORCHARDsd
The Colony Club
The Colony Club is one of Mayfair’s most exclusive clubs and yet it’s the restaurant that garners most interest. Executive chef Bob Orchard is arguably the driving force. He’s been at The Colony Club for 16 years.
“If we can do it, we’ll do it,” he says in response to our query as to whether the restaurant can really conjure up any dish, flavour or culinary combination.
“If you would like a Chinese starter, an Indian main course, a Japanese dessert, we’ll do it. We serve five different cuisines here.”
It’s not only this gastronomic flexibility that appeals to diners – it’s also the fact that Bob and his team of 19 chefs are happy to create bespoke dishes.
“If a customer asks, ‘Can you make us a soufflé?’ No problem, we’ll do it. You have to be flexible and you have to strive to satisfy the customer’s request.”
The Colony Club’s menu heralds classic dishes, such as grilled sole and tiger prawns and chilli. However, it’s modernised and adapted, too. “We’ve got a great pull here as we’ve got a Teppanyaki table. As far as I know, we’re the only casino in London with one and that’s a big part of the restaurant.”
Bob gets enormous personal satisfaction from cooking for nearly 120 covers: “At the end of the night, I sit out here with the restaurant manager, I have a cup of tea and just think, ‘Wow’.”
The Colony Club restaurant is undergoing a four million-pound refurbishment and will reopen in July 2019. Quintessentially readers are invited to attend the launch.
CHEF STEVE CARPENTER
Opulent 18th-century décor first greets you when you enter Crockfords Casino in Curzon Street. This exclusive club boasts a heritage dating back to 1828 when the debonair William Crockford set out to establish a club fit for diplomats, royalty and the aristocratic elite. While the aesthetic has remained, the tone of the club is far more welcoming and inclusive. This is in part due to its restaurant. Steve Carpenter has been the head chef at Crockfords for seven years.
“I started in 2000 and loved it. It’s so different to a normal restaurant, where you would do 10 starters and 10 main courses. What we do is on a different level.”
Steve’s passion is food and cooking, and it’s this desire for perfection which translates into his dishes.
“I cover all of the European dishes, but I will put subtle hints of fusion into them. For example, I’ll make a lobster cocktail for a starter, but I will add a Sriracha sauce, so it has a little tang to it as well.”
This inclination for two opposing flavours stems from Steve’s training with celebrated Michelin-star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. “It was my finishing school. It refined everything and that’s where really got into the fusion side of cooking.” Customers can enjoy an array of flavour and cultural cuisines, which include Arabic, Indian, Chinese, Thai and European dishes.
“At the end of the day, we are here to please people,” Steve says. “I love the food we get to cook in here.” •