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Amani Wine&Dine Epsom A5_Layout 1 24/09/2010 15:34 Page 1 Wine Dine&


savouring the challenge


T&L meets Derby chef John Ward


He’s in the home straight, approaching his ninth Derby fast, but John Ward, head chef at Epsom Downs Racecourse, has his eye on the field and is fully focused on the finish line. ‘It got easier over the eight years,’ he says. Catering for 120,000 on site on Derby Day doesn’t throw up so many surprises, now.’


The Queens Stand and Duchess Stand restaurants, 65 food trailers; sandwich bars; 400 picnics and 1,000 covers a day in the Tattenham Marquee alone take more than a modest amount of pre-planning, but John’s team will be up to the challenge. Indeed, they will be cooking up some incredible experiences for the fastidious Derby-goers.


‘We get some very unusual requests, especially from the box holders, but we’re aware of the diversity of the clientele and their different tastes,’ he says. Have their tastes changed over the last eight years? ‘Yes, they have, very much so. It’s much more of a fine dining experience, these days,’ he says, ‘with a demand for more healthy options, more natural, locally-produced foods and FairTrade products. It used to be more buffet-orientated, with everyone consuming vast amounts of food.’ The fondness for alcohol shows no sign of diminishing, however, with 15,000 bottles of Champagne and 44,000 pints of beer consumed over the two days.


Of course, John and his team are far from a one-trick pony, if you’ll pardon the pun. They are busy catering for conferences, banquets and weddings throughout the year. ‘We’re one of the top wedding venues in the region,’ John reminds me. We cater for banquets of 400 to as intimate as a dozen - and we’re busy all year round. The spring race meeting serves as a good springboard to the Derby Festival and the Epsom Live racing and concerts.’


John produces great cuisine ‘because we are allowed to do what we want.’ He values the support and encouragement of sponsors Investec, who have chosen some, shall we say risqué, options for this year’s menus. These – and the exact name and nature of this year’s Derby cocktail are still under wraps, though John did disclose that the cocktail was being trialled at the Grand National before it got the green light for Epsom.


Cheers, John. Here’s to a well fed and watered Derby! 46 . what’s on guide . timeandleisure.co.uk


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starter, main course and dessert plus a glass of wine or beer Offer valid until 28th February 2011 and not available December and 14th February.


Offer valid until 30th June 2011 AMANI classic indian cuisine


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WINE & DINE SPECIAL 26TH JUNE REVIEW OF AMANI


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