Top chef on mission to revive historic Scottish inn

A SCOTTISH hospitality expert who worked as a chef under the late Andrew Fairlie and Michel Roux is bidding to revive the fortunes of a historic country inn on the outskirts of Glasgow.

Brian Home, who was also part of the Michelin star winning team at One Devonshire Gardens, has seen turnover double at the Kirkhouse Inn in Strathblane since commencing trading the bar, restaurant and hotel with his business partner in April.

The duo had acquired the business during lockdown in November.

So far, the operators have invested around £100,000 of their own resources to take them halfway through the planned renovations. Interior designer John Amabilie has been working on the project.

Mr Home told The Herald: “I’ve been in this trade for a long time. We have a goal of what we want to do, an ambition of where we want to be [and] we are on track.

“We have probably doubled the turnover and we have loads of other ideas, tasting nights, events etc that we can bring in as well.

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“We are going in the right direction – it is just going to take time.

“If we keep investing in the property and making it look nicer, [offer] better service [and] better food it will grow and word of mouth will get out there.”

Mr Home added: “We are here to bring something special to Strathblane, which I know it will be.

“We just need to stick to our guns and believe in ourselves, which we will do.”

Twenty-four new members of staff have been recruited by the new owners to work at the Kirkhouse, some who previously with Mr Home in other hotels.

Some of the team the pair inherited decided not to stay when they returned to work from furlough, though several remain and have embraced the changes being made.

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Mr Home, who also owns the Merkland Café in Kirkintilloch, said it has been “extremely” difficult to attract staff amid the ongoing skills shortage within the industry.

He revealed new working patterns have been offered to employees as part of efforts to attract and retain people.

Mr Home said: “The trade has changed – people don’t want to work the hours that chefs used to work before. I have now put my chefs on to a four-day week.

“That’s the way forward, I think, for everywhere in hospitality. If you give them five days, they are knackered.”

Staff who have moved to a four-day working week will continue to earn the same salary, Mr Home said.

One factor that could boost the aspirations of the new owners is the limited competition on their doorstep. The Blane Valley Inn in the village closed its doors early last year.

But Mr Home, who also works as a consultant to other hospitality businesses, said that was no guarantee of success, pledging that the operators will continually strive to raise standards.

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He said he and his partner will “literally not leave the place, because we want to catch everything.”

Mr Home declared: “If anything drops, we will catch it, we will make it better. That is the only way you make something change quickly and keep pushing it forward.”

He added: “When I worked with the Roux brothers and Fairlie and [Gordon] Ramsay in France and America… the guys I worked with were always there.”

“It’s key, because it keeps people on their toes and you push the standard to where you want [it to be].”

The Kirkhouse offers various areas to eat and drink, from the newly refurbished Wild Thyme lounge to its 1601 bar – named after the year the Kirkhouse was established.

It also has a 40-capacity beer garden, recently revitalised with new decking and furniture.

Plans are in place to re-open the main restaurant, which will be called the Finnich.

The refurbishments so far have also included the installation of new windows at the front of the property, which has also been painted.

The next stage will focus on the hotel’s 15 bedrooms. Fourteen will continue to trade as bedrooms, while one has been earmarked to become a treatment room, Mr Home said.

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