A jubilant Chris Lee and head chef Phil Skinner celebrated last night with the team from The Packhorse Inn, when once again the AA recognised him as the only 3 AA Rosettes chef in Suffolk. The announcement of the 3, 4 and 5 Rosettes were made as part of the annual AA Hospitality Awards, often referred to as the industry’s ‘Oscars’, held this year at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London and hosted by Fiona Bruce.
There were 28 new 3 AA Rosettes awards made nationally last night – The Packhorse Inn being one. This made The Packhorse Inn the only establishment in Suffolk to have this rating and one of just seven in East Anglia* to have 3 or more Rosettes. The Rosette scheme is a long established recognition scheme operated by the AA. Approximately 10% of all restaurants across the UK are of a standard to attain one rosette making up 50% the AA Restaurant Guide; only 10% of the hotels/restaurants within the Guide will have 3 Rosettes and above, which therefore ranks The Packhorse Inn in the top 1% and one of the best 150 restaurants in the UK.
Earlier this year, The Packhorse’s accommodation received 5 AA stars, which when considered with the 3 AA Rosettes, also makes it just one of a handful of pubs with rooms/inns in the country with this combined grading.
Philip Turner, owner of The Packhorse Inn, was delighted to praise the talents of Chris Lee and the great team spirit at the Newmarket inn: “When Chris and his wife Hayley decided to join me last year in the new Chestnut Inns adventure and work with me in revitalising The Packhorse Inn as the pilot and blueprint for future openings, they took a leap of faith and I’m very glad they did. The way the AA works, Chris had to step away from his 3 AA Rosettes status which he had held since 2007 and effectively start again and in a very different environment. I cannot adequately express the emotion I feel to be able to say that, in our first year of opening, and in our very first Chestnut Inns pub, that we have received such significant industry recognition. To be able to claim that The Packhorse Inn is the only 3 AA Rosettes establishment in the county surpasses any sense of team achievement that I might have felt in my 20 years in banking. I am so proud of everyone at The Packhorse Inn; it has been a full-on first year but it feels great to be part of such an incredible team.”
Chris Lee was equally happy:
“I can’t deny it. To have 3 AA Rosettes, once again, is just simply amazing. Food is my passion and my life and this award means a great deal to all of us who have worked hard to establish the Packhorse Inn as a destination for great locally-sourced food and attentive service. Being part of a new and growing business such as Chestnut Inns has been the perfect environment for my creativity as a chef. But in this business, there is no time for complacency.
The timing could not be better as we are opening our second business, The Rupert Brooke in Grantchester, next month. The challenge for me and the team is not only to show our Packhorse customers and everyone behind the AA Rosette ratings that we deserve to retain the status but to use the recognition to set the quality standard for The Rupert Brooke and other operations to come. Of course, each business will be different, and not all will suit or indeed need such accreditation, but as the first business to open and of course my base as Executive Chef, The Packhorse Inn will lead by example and attaining the 3 AA Rosettes status will be up there as inspiration for us all.”
3 AA Rosettes status is defined by the AA as “Outstanding restaurants that achieve standards that demand national recognition well beyond their local area.” When a chef holds a 3, 4 or 5 Rosettes and moves from one establishment to another, the award is suspended. Nor does the award follow the chef automatically but can only be re-awarded after inspection and announced twice during the year. The Packhorse Inn was inspected after the March announcement and so this was the first opportunity for the award to be made.
Suffolk has not had a 3 AA Rosette establishment for the past six months; both previously rated restaurants had their 3 AA Rosettes suspended because of chef moves.
* The seven in East Anglia are:
Suffolk (1) – The Packhorse Inn, Moulton
Cambridge (2) – Midsummer House (5 AA Rosettes) and Alimentum
Norfolk (4) – Morston Hall, Blakeney; The Neptune Inn & Restaurant, Hunstanton; Titchwell Manor, Titchwell and Roger Hickman’s Restaurant in Norwich
There are no 3 AA Rosettes restaurants in Essex.