Racing has restarted at The Curragh, albeit behind closed doors. Shortly before lockdown, Williams visited the venue to interview some of the key figures involved in the extensive refurbishment project that saw the stunning Aga Khan stand being opened in April 2019. With space for over 6000 people over four floors and a 7000 sq/ft roof, the stand is the largest single part of the project.
You can also view the video fullscreen by clicking here
The Curragh occupies a 5000 acre plain near the town of Newbridge in County Kildare, Ireland. Derived from “Cuirreach”, or place of the running horse, it has been associated with horse racing for centuries. It is home to one of Ireland’s most important racecourses, and one of the major flat racing courses in the world.
Catering is a hugely important part of the operation at the Curragh, which can play host to many thousands of people on race days. Fergal Nugent, the Curragh’s head chef, explains. “We have everything from à la carte restaurants, casual dining and cafés, to a selection of street food and grab and go operations. We have to be able to cater to groups of all sizes, and making sure we had the right refrigeration equipment to handle all our needs here was vital.”
Intoto Design Limited was commissioned by Curragh Racecourse Limited to design and oversee all the food and beverage elements of the project, taking the brief and completing detailed design and specifications. “Our brief was simple: to design the food and beverage spaces to match the client aspirations of building a world class facility for racegoers,” says Simon Gillott, director of Intoto.
The project was installed by Kaneco Commercial Kitchen Specialists. Project manager Keith Mulvaney explains the scale of the undertaking. “This has been an enormous job, we’re creating a world class venue. We’ve basically rebuilt everything that was here,” he says. “We’ve brought all of the amenities up to modern standards – not just the public spaces, but the areas for staff and the owners and trainers too, and the behind the scenes infrastructure supporting it.”
The Curragh project was run on a lean system, which meant that construction was done in tightly controlled stages and only what was needed at each stage could be brought on site. “It was vital that we could trust the equipment suppliers to work with the kind of precise schedule we required,” says Mulvaney. “This is why working with Williams for refrigeration was so easy.”
A vast array of Williams equipment was required to meet the Curragh’s requirements. This covers every step of the catering workflow, from bulk storage modular coldrooms to storage refrigerators, blast chillers and prep tables as well as bar fridges and wine coolers. “We were looking for a single manufacturer for all bulk storage rooms and plant,” says Gillott. “Williams were able to offer a full range of products to meet our very high specifications.”
Williams coldrooms are made with modular components that allows them to be constructed to the site’s specifications, meaning they can be configured precisely and installed in locations where more standard solutions wouldn’t fit. “We have a coldroom for incoming goods, which has five internal sections with different temperature ranges that lets us store fish, meat, vegetables and dairy in perfect condition, as well as a freezer too,” says Fergal. “It’s hygienic and safe, and it also makes it easy for staff to find what they need.”
“The cold room and plant installations were complex - a multi-level building of this shape has some interesting spaces for the catering back of house areas,” says Gillott. “The team of engineers from Williams were able to offer a professional and first-class service, working with the challenges and fulfilling all the requirements.”
From the central coldroom supplies can be distributed to the other coldrooms attached to each kitchen and bar, and then out to the kitchens themselves. Intoto’s design of the kitchen needed to make sure the equipment fitted into the space and offered the best working environment. “They worked really hard on the ergonomic flow through the kitchen, the layout of the cooking islands and the accessibility of the fridges, it helps chefs get on with their job without running out of ingredients,” says Fergal.
Race days can see the Curragh’s caterers having to prepare food for thousands of people. With such large potential number of covers, the blast chillers are a vital part of the process. “We do a lot of bulk cooking to prepare for the big days,” says Fergal. “Obviously food safety is paramount, and with the Williams blast chillers we can be sure that what gets chilled retains the same quality as when it was cooked.”
Some of the 56 undercounter fridges at the Curragh are public facing, being installed in private suites and bars. “Williams equipment is tough enough to survive professional kitchens, but it also looks great with the overall décor,” says Fergal. Since the undercounter cabinets are not as deep as some manufacturers’, they are able to fit flush with less deep worktops.
One of the most impressive pieces at the Curragh is the wine tower in the champagne bar overlooking the parade ring, which was made to Intoto Design and the Curragh’s exact specifications. With crystal clear glass walls and under-rack LED lighting, it creates an attractive way of displaying wine to customers. “That’s really been catching people’s attention,” says Fergal. “We get a lot of compliments from customers about how good it looks, and of course it keeps our best wines in perfect condition.”
The champagne bar floor also houses the owners and trainers area. “We suggested using the bar itself to separate the two areas,” says Gillott. “It meant the owners and trainers area benefited from the atmosphere generated by the champagne bar customers. At the same time, customers in the champagne bar could directly see the owners and trainers across the bar. This design also allowed us to incorporate the stylish Williams Wine Tower into the area – and Williams supplied it as a full height ‘pass through’ unit.”
Jobs like the refurbishment of the Curragh are enormous and require careful co-ordination. Williams has decades of experience with such projects, providing clients with training and support for their new equipment. “They’ve been fantastic,” says Fergal. “The training is great – they came in to tell us everything we need to know, and if I’ve had questions since then they’ve responded really fast.”
“Williams was able to offer equipment that met the design and specification requirements, and to offer professional support during the whole design and installation process,” says Gillott. “The commitment and technical ability of the Williams team was key to the success of the installation.”
Fergal is in no doubt about how ready he and his team are. “We’ve got the most impressive setup I’ve ever seen here, Williams listened to what we needed and easily exceeded our expectations. I couldn’t be happier with it!”