By Chris Harris
Friday, January 4, 2013
A SUFFOLK food writer and broadcaster has launched a legal challenge after inspectors raised concerns about hygiene at her hotel.
Ruth Watson, former star of The Hotel Inspector on Channel 5, hit out after The Crown and Castle in Orford was given a one-out-of-five rating for food hygiene. This means “major improvement necessary”.
It has prompted Mrs Watson, who co-owns the hotel with her husband David, to begin the process to get a judicial review of the decision.
She presented three series of The Hotel Inspector giving tips and advice to struggling hoteliers in a bid to turn their fortunes around.
Suffolk Coastal District Council, who carried out the inspection on November 26, said as a result of the rating certain dishes were removed from the menu. Changes were also made to the layout of the kitchen and how food was handled.
Mrs Watson, who used to run the Fox and Goose in Fressingfield, and Hintlesham Hall, said in a statement: “We strongly disagree with the score we have received from the environmental health officer for Suffolk Coastal District Council, removing our previous maximum score under the scheme. To validate our view we have taken independent advice from one of the UK’s leading food safety experts. He has carried out his own assessment of the EHO’s report and firmly believes that it neither follows, nor accurately reflects, Food Standard Agency guidelines.
“As someone who has worked in the hospitality industry for nearly 30 years, I fully accept there is always room for minor improvements. However part of the problem appears to be that the boundary between taking food safety very seriously, as we always do, and being allowed to cook top quality local ingredients in the way our customers want, is being irrevocably blurred.
“We have made every effort to resolve our dispute with the food safety team as swiftly and amicably as possible, but remain unable to agree with their approach, and so we have commenced the first stage of a judicial review action to allow a court to determine the fairness of the inspection and the rating.”
A spokesman for SCDC, referring to the Orford inspection, said: “The appeal against the rating considered fully the independent advice sought by the Crown and Castle. Our decision to confirm the rating was based firmly on the national guidelines set by the Food Standards Agency and we also took independent advice. We believe that our decision was a correct one and will defend it strongly if it is legally challenged.”
The 21-bedroom Crown and Castle, which is co-owned by the Watsons and Tim Sunderland, calls itself more of a “restaurant with rooms” than a hotel.
The venue says its restaurant, called the Trinity, is a lively bistro serving “decent, unpretentious food”.
The controversy in Orford comes after The Angel Hotel in Bury St Edmunds threatened legal action after it was listed as a zero-star establishment on the Food Standard Agency’s website last year. It was re-inspected on December 19 and rated “generally satisfactory” with three stars.