Foxholes Restaurant at Runshaw College named The AA College Restaurant of The Year

The pass at Foxholes Restaurant

The pass at Foxholes Restaurant - Credit: n/a

You don’t have to go to Michelin starred venues for a fine dining experience. Foxholes Restaurant at Runshaw College is coming up rosettes, as Mairead Mahon discovered

Working hard in the kitchen

Working hard in the kitchen - Credit: n/a

Fillet mignon, slowly cooked ox cheek and lamb shoulder lollipops might not be the first things you’d expect to be served at a college training restaurant. But Foxholes Restaurant at Runshaw College in Leyland is no ordinary place. It has been named The AA College Restaurant of The Year for 2016-2017 beating off tough competition from across the country.

‘It is a fabulous honour, especially as this is the first year of the award, so we’re hugely proud,’ said Jenny Cruickshanks, head of school, who attended the AA Hospitality Awards with course leader Fiona Merrill and students Max Daglish and Rebecca Orrell.

‘We were invited along to a glittering ceremony at the very swish Grosvenor House Hotel in London. We put on our best bib and tuckers and yes, we did whoop when we were announced as the winner. Who wouldn’t?

‘We had to undertake a variety of culinary challenges, be extensively interviewed and then wait a week for the result.’

Trio of duck

Trio of duck - Credit: n/a

Receiving the accolade is hugely prestigious. But Foxholes should be accustomed to the spotlight by now as they have received other honours including Gold Accreditation and the AA Rosette Highly Commended Award. Add to that being recognised as a Centre of Excellence for Food and Beverage Service and it has received the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence Award.

The restaurant is celebrating its 30th birthday this September – another cause for celebration. But what has made it such a star on the national culinary stage? It was started by Neil Cruickshanks with the aim of providing top class training for the stars of tomorrow. Such is its reputation that students travel from far and wide to learn about the hospitality industry; becoming experts in wine, cocktails, front of house, service and of course, fine dining. A team of highly respected chefs and hospitality experts make top class tutors and guest chefs are invited to come along and share their craft with students.

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‘Expectations are high and many of our students go on to gain work experience and employment at acclaimed establishments,’ explained Jenny. ‘They’ve gone to the Michelin starred L’Enclume in Cartmel, The Midland in Manchester and locations further afield such as Danesfield House in Buckinghamshire and Galvins at Windows Hilton on Park Lane in London.’

Drinks aren’t overlooked either. Every year Foxholes runs a Young Sommelier of the Year competition, which has a guest judge from Barrica Wines and involves students matching the drinks to foods. Cocktails are popular, too, and the restaurant hosts a Diploma Cocktail Project working with Kuckoo Boutique Cocktail Bar in Preston to concoct delicious tipples like the delightfully named Marmalade Medley made with Seville orange marmalade, vodka and lemonade.

‘We do keep up with current trends but our watchwords are quality and integrity and they are words which for us, will never go out of fashion,’ said Jenny. ‘We use only the very best of ingredients and the only way to do that is to source locally, which we are proud to do.

‘Lancashire is home to some of the best foods to be found anywhere and we have a great relationship with our suppliers. It helps to make us special.’

Special is something that all those who come to dine at Foxholes are made to feel. From the moment they step over the threshold, they are greeted by smart front of house staff and escorted to their stylishly set table. They are then guided through the drinks list, informed about speciality cocktails and advised about dishes on the menu.

‘Everyone loves our food,’ said Jenny. ‘Not only does it taste good, it looks superb and anything that is less than perfect doesn’t even make it to the pass. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen very often.’

Many commercial restaurants would envy Foxhole’s client base. They encompass all ages and come for a variety of occasions from romantic evenings and family celebrations and Christmas dinner or simply to enjoy top class food and wine cooked, presented and served by the stars of tomorrow.

Foxholes has also built up a reputation for its popular themed events. Each theme is chosen by senior students and, so far this year, have included An Evening at The West End, Paris by Night and The Pride of Lancashire.

But there is one drawback to Foxhole’s success – you may have a battle to get a table. So, if you want to experience lunch or dinner here, check them out as soon as term begins. It’s an education!

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