Sarah Chambers

Andrew Vales at Hotel Coco with a photo of chef Marco Pierre White in the background <i>(Image: Charlotte Bond)</i>
Andrew Vales at Hotel Coco with a photo of chef Marco Pierre White in the background (Image: Charlotte Bond)

Major works to transform a Suffolk hotel went over budget – but the new manager is over the moon at the result.

The Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill opened in Felixstowe today following a major refurbishment of the entire hotel – bringing a touch of glamour to the seaside town.

New general manager Andrew Vales – in post for just nine weeks after moving back to the UK from running a mega-hotel in Spain – said he was delighted at the transformation.

The Marco Pierre White steakhouse and grill (Image: Charlotte Bond)

“It’s absolutely wonderful – the work, the effort and all the thinking process that’s gone into it,” he said. “It’s looking so professional and so good.”

The former Brook Hotel in Orwell Road has become a boutique hotel and has been renamed Hotel Coco following the £750k-plus makeover.

A new pub-based venue called The Queen’s Head – the first of its kind in the country – is also opening under the Marco Pierre White Ale House brand.

The restaurant serves signature steaks and “timeless” English and French classics the menu.

Steak is served (Image: Charlotte Bond)

The team behind the bar and restaurant – excluding hotel staff – numbers 26. Darren Beales is head chef and under him is a team of 12 sous chefs.

The launch follows a deal between hotel owners the Govindasamy family and Black and White Hospitality – the franchising arm of Pierre White’s restaurants.

The man behind the brand is the no-nonsense chef who kick-started the careers of famous figures including Gordon Ramsay, Heston Blumenthal and Jason Atherton.

The entrance to the Queen’s Head (Image: Charlotte Bond)

Nick Taplin, chief executive of Black and White Hospitality, has already visited the site – and Marco Pierre White is expected to follow.

“What we are trying to do here is an experience,” said Andrew. “Apart from all the work that’s gone into it I want customers to feel they are coming out for an experience, enjoy themselves and have great food.”

The restaurant gave customers “a grand dining experience where you have got all your friends”, he said.

(Image: Charlotte Bond)
Andrew said he had job offers in Scotland and London but chose Felixstowe – where he worked 10 years ago at the town’s Orwell hotel. His last job was running a 200-bed hotel in Seville.

“I chose Felixstowe because it’s home to me,” he said. “I’m excited and honoured to be here.”

Although the town boasts good restaurants, Andrew feels that it deserves a Marco Pierre White restaurant. The new-look venue was already lifting the neighbourhood, he said.

“The neighbours have come and had a peak. They are very proud that this investment has been carried out here because obviously it re-values the whole area,” he added.

(Image: Charlotte Bond) Bookings are strong and the 90 to 120-cover restaurant expects to cater for 336 guests by the end of June.

“The team are really excited and really proud to be part of something very special for Felixstowe,” said Andrew.

Andrew Vales  (Image: Charlotte Bond)