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This year one of Liverpool’s top chefs, Paul Askew, is bringing The Art School to Aintree for the first time which is a safe bet to be an amazing experience for anyone lucky enough to be there.
The Guide spoke to Paul to ask what he’s got planned for the Randox Grand National 2022, and find out a bit more about the Taste Liverpool Drink Bordeaux festival that’s coming up at the beginning of June …
This was something we were planning just before Covid hit, we were about two weeks away from doing it when we got the dreaded announcement that we were all being locked down, so this is third time lucky for us. It was their concept, they approached us three years ago and we first signed at the end of 2019 all ready to go in 2020.
Working with our interior designers, The Jockey Club has turned Paddock Lodge – which was the original owner of Aintree Racecourse Mirabel Topham’s house – into The Art School at Aintree and they’ve done an amazing job. They followed all our colour schemes and the Victoriana of the inside and it’s so gorgeous. It’s right next to the Parade Ring, where they bring the horses round before and after the races, the front garden has got a statue of National winner Amberleigh House, and it’s just a perfect setting.
We’ve signed a three-year deal so hopefully this is only going to develop. I think the whole city is excited to have Aintree back and I’m elated to be going into this new space and having some fun with it. We move in on Monday April 4 and then we’ve got three days of prep and we open on the Thursday.
We tend to do bespoke outside catering, so we’ll often get approached if people are looking for something with a bit of a wow and that’s really wonderful. Obviously that excites us, we do a bespoke menu and theme things, and I think we can add something to the event itself. We did the G7 in December last year and we were asked to do a lovely dinner for Sir David Attenborough when they launched the ship named in his honour from Cammell Laird. With Aintree, it’s about bringing Liverpool and its capital city standards to world class horse racing and I think the combination is fabulous.
There’ll be a six-course tasting menu and a Champagne afternoon tea, so people booking tickets will arrive around midday and we’ll do a couple of courses before the first race. Then we’ll send out a course with every race after that, matched up with a wine which we believe goes perfectly, served by our sommeliers. It’s our new spring tasting menu and the idea is to focus, as we always do, on seasonal, local top-class ingredients and the best of Liverpool City Region.
The final service will be a Charles Heidsieck Champagne afternoon tea with the last race. On the Saturday people will probably go on the course to see the National and then the afternoon tea will be waiting for them when they return.
Like a lot of people, it’s the only time of year when I have a little flutter. Aintree have given 10,000 tickets to NHS workers on the Thursday so we’re delighted to be part of that, and I’ve got my own charity involved too. We do the Chef’s Adopt a School with the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts where we send chefs into schools and teach disadvantaged kids how to cook and all about nutrition and ingredients so we’ll be doing some fundraising on the day for that.
For me The Art School at Aintree is about the food culture, the produce and the service. The eyes of the world are on Liverpool for the National festival, and we want to say to them, look we know how to do this too so you need to visit us more often!
It’s four days, June 2-5, because we have the extra Bank Holiday for the Queen’s Jubilee. We did two pilots on the waterfront before Covid and they worked so well, so this is now going to be the city’s annual food and drink festival. We’ve got the Town Hall turned into an educational and tasting centre, city-wide events including chef demos and a farmer’s market at the Bombed Out Church and Blackburne House and about 30 restaurants all signed up to take part, matching up their signature dish to Bordeaux wines. There’s a food trail around the city, music, art installations planned, it’ll be a really exciting city-wide celebration of our food and world class wines.
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