CREDIT: GEOFF PUGH FOR THE TELEGRAPH
Care home food is not generally associated with Michelin stars and celebrity chefs.
But a restaurant in a retirement village in Hampshire has become the first in the country to gain a coveted AA rosette for its food after hiring a chef who previously worked at the Ivy.
The Redwood Bistro in Eastleigh is now open for dinner three nights a week and serves outside diners as well as residents of the village and care home.
The restuarant, which is part of Bishopstoke Park, Eastleigh, offers dishes including loin of farmed rabbit and triple chocolate bavarois.
Kevin Young, manager of the village, said that the restaurant is now aiming for a Michelin star.
Head chef Robert Quehan worked at The Ivy and The Dorchester in London under legendary chefs Anton Mosimann and Henry Brosi.
The rosette was awarded in December after an unannounced inspection from the AA.
Its report describes it as an “inviting modern setting for contemporary British bistro food of positive appeal”.
Mr Quehan said that catering for the care home’s residents presents its own challenges.
“You have to be careful. Normally I’d put a whole bream or bass out, but you can’t do that.
“We do a lot more braising, too, so instead of doing a fillet steak I might use a beef cheek.”
He was hired from a more traditional restaurant setting and admits that he was initially sceptical about the job offer.
“When they came to me and asked if I would like to take it over, I thought ‘care homes? I don’t go to care homes!’
“You think it’s all boil-in-the bag. But when I came to visit I found it quite exciting.
“I wanted to get the Rosette because no-one had done it before in a retirement village – it was a real challenge to be the first to do it.”
The restaurant also has a special puree-only menu that residents and families can request. An example dish is asparagus puree with mashed potato and pureed fish.
It can also cater for care home residents by providing private rooms or screens if the family request it.
The village has 220 retirement apartments and a care home which houses 48 and offers specialist dementia, Parkinson’s and arthritis care.
Mr Young said he wanted to challenge the perception that older people’s food could not be gourmet.
“Food is really important – for a lot of residents, it’s the highlight of their day,” he said.
An AA spokesman said: “This restaurant is very much a trailblazer, and we hope that others will follow suit.”