Prescribing a brand new restaurant for the James Paget Hospital

Nichola Hicks inside the new look James Paget Hospital restuarant Aubergine.Picture: Nick Butcher

Nichola Hicks inside the new look James Paget Hospital restuarant Aubergine.Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

Locally-sourced, fresh and seasonal produce, daily specials, plenty of variety – these are goals every restaurant aims to attain. And they're also on the menu as standard at the new restaurant at the James Paget Hospital.

The much-maligned hospital canteens of yesteryear have been transformed in recent years from fluorescent-lit dingy afterthoughts to design-led spaces created to offer a relaxing place for patients, their visitors and staff to enjoy their dining experience.

The James Paget Hospital in Gorleston is the latest to revolutionise its restaurant and dining offer in order to reflect the trust's focus on healthy eating and its link to wellness with a brand new restaurant, Aubergine, to cater for thousands of diners every single day.

It's recognition of the vital role that dining areas in a health facility hold in improving people's recovery and experience at hospital, said JPH Trust head of facilities, Nichola Hicks, who has masterminded the refurbishment of the restaurant.

Opened by Morston Hall's Galton Blackiston last week, the new-look Aubergine Restaurant, on the first floor of the hospital, has been given an extensive makeover and caters for diners with a range of freshly-prepared hot and cold food made on the premises by the hospital's in-house catering team.

Catering assistant Kay Simmons working in the new James Paget Hospital restuarant Aubergine.Picture:

Catering assistant Kay Simmons working in the new James Paget Hospital restuarant Aubergine.Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

The team of eight chefs and 60 catering assistants prepare more than 2,000 meals per day, including over 400 meals, three times per day, for patients – with a budget of £3 per patient per day.

Patient meals are prepared according to individual dietary needs, meaning a huge variety of meals are prepared from gluten-free to those suitable for diabetics or those on high-protein, low-potassium or nut-free diets.

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Staff work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that patients and staff can have nutritious meals every day and in doing so play a vital role in patient recovery in addition to ensuring that a full menu is available to staff and visitors to the hospital at breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.

Research shows that well-designed dining areas can encourage healthy behaviour in patients, the wider community and staff. For healthcare providers, promoting healthy choices while people are in the building where they are receiving care is part of a holistic approach to looking after people.

The new James Paget Hospital restuarant Aubergine.Picture: Nick Butcher

The new James Paget Hospital restuarant Aubergine.Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

Just as any other restaurant, a hospital restaurant also provides a community gathering space, often for people who are having a difficult or stressful time due to medical issues which they, or loved ones, are living with. In addition to providing nourishment, restaurants can also offer comfort.

Ms Hicks, who started her career in the hotel industry and is responsible for the catering team at the JPH, explained that for many patients, staying in hospital was a worrying experience away from family and home comforts which could be worsened if they were presented with uninteresting, unappetising food.

She stressed the importance of eating and drinking well in a speedy recovery and that malnourished and dehydrated people take longer to recover and are more likely to suffer complications. Nationally, one in four people of all ages going into hospital are already malnourished or at risk of malnutrition when they are admitted: so it's essential to ensure patients get the right nutritional care.

With eating playing a critical role in shaping people's overall experience of hospital, Ms Hicks pointed out the importance of providing the right kind of environment and right support to eat and drink and said her hospital clients were, like all restaurant customers, discerning diners.

Chef, Herbie Patz working in the James Paget Hospital kitchen.Picture: Nick Butcher

Chef, Herbie Patz working in the James Paget Hospital kitchen.Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

'We have many different diets to contend with,' she said, 'there are people who don't want to be here, people who don't feel like eating, and people whose medication changes how meals taste.

'There is a fine balance for the team to prepare meals not only for patients that are not well and do not feel like eating, but also for hungry staff who want a varied menu. The patients' menus feature traditional dishes and we try to accommodate patients' wishes.

'It is not always possible but we do go out of our way if someone hasn't eaten for a while and suddenly fancies something. I recall a 100-year-old patient who had refused food for a couple of days, and we asked her if there is anything that we could tempt her with. Her reply was 'pancakes' – so we made pancakes!'

She added: 'Catering is my passion and I always want the service to provide the best nutritious food, locally sourced whenever possible, and prepared with care. We use fresh, local ingredients in our dishes wherever we can.'

The official opening of the restaurant came just a week after a new M&S Food to Go outlet opened in the foyer, which will provide the hospital with an income stream which will go towards patient care. Together, the new facilities provide patients, visitors and staff greater choice when they want to eat or drink while in the hospital.

FOOD FACTS: total weekly consumption

• 844 two litre bottles of milk

• 285 kilos of peeled potatoes

• 50 turkey crowns

• 393 loaves of bread

• 60 dozen eggs

• 50 kilos of chicken breasts

A day in the kitchen:

6am: Chefs start cooking the porridge for breakfast and getting started on the lunch menu.

7am: Catering assistants arrive to prepare patient breakfasts. Other staff arrive to set up for service in Aubergine Restaurant. Fresh food deliveries arrive at the loading bay.

7.30am: Aubergine Restaurant opens. Patient breakfast service starts and the kitchen porters take meals to the wards

8am: Staff visit wards to collect completed patient menu forms.

10am: Chefs receive numbers for each menu choice and a list of any extras requested. Each diet menu is a different colour and this colour is used throughout the food production to ensure the food is cooked and served correctly.

11.50am: Patient lunches are prepared and the kitchen porters then take the meals to the wards – this take 50 minutes to serve 400+ meals

12 noon: Aubergine Restaurant starts to get busy with lunch service. Meals are ready for service.

1.15pm: Kitchen porters collect the meal trollies to return all items to the kitchen for a dish wash. Menus are collected off the trays to gain feedback from patients about their food.

2pm: Kitchen porters clean the kitchen.

4.30pm: Evening kitchen staff arrive to prepare for the supper service

5pm: Supper service commences and the kitchen porters take the meals to the wards – this take 50 minutes to serve 400 plus meals

8pm: Aubergine Restaurant closes. All staff finish, ready for the night cleaners to commence their cleaning duties.

A typical week of menus:

Monday: steak and vegetable pie served with new potatoes, seasonal vegetables and gravy, £5.50; chicken stroganoff with rice, £5.50; mint pea risotto, £5.25.

Tuesday: Chilli con carne with rice, £5.50; Korean chicken drumsticks with kaleslaw and wedges, £5.50; cauliflower and broccoli cheese, £5.25.

Wednesday: Lasagne served with salad or chips, £5.50; barbecue pork baguette £3.50 served with salad or chips £5.50; vegetable jalfrezi served with rice and naan bread, £5.25.

Thursday: scampi with a lemon garnish served with salad or chips, £5.50; deluxe tower burger with Monterey Jack cheese and bacon served with onion rings in a brioche bun, £5.50; vegetable pasta bake, £5.25.

Friday: Fish of the day served with chips and peas, £5.50; sweet and sour chicken balls Hong Kong-style served with rice, £5.50; vegetable lasagne served with salad or chips, £5.25.

Saturday: Honey and mustard chicken served with rice, £5.50; pasta ratatouille, £5.25.

Sunday: Roast turkey served with stuffing, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, vegetables and gravy, £5.50; mushroom stroganoff served with rice, £5.25.

* In addition to the above, jacket potatoes with hot and cold fillings, a variety of baguettes made to order at the new baguette bar plus a new salad bar are available.