A good service is “poetry in motion” - Clare Ratcliffe, Food and Beverage Manager at Whatley Manor

The Staff Canteen

Sustainability, seamless service and striving for success lead Clare Ratcliffe’s days as Food and Beverage Manager at Whatley Manor.

Written by: 
Natasha Spencer-Jolliffe

Clare’s entry into hospitality and the world of fine dining was an accidental one. A story shared with many of her peers, Clare fell into the profession by chance with a part-time job.

From chance to career

But that first foray into food signalled the beginning of Clare finding both her vocation and career. A life-long love of the culinary environment has seen her working at Restaurant Andrew Fairlie, the two-star Michelin restaurant, later for the Roux family, of which Michel Roux is at the culinary helm, and now the renowned Whatley Manor, a 1-Michelin-starred fine dining establishment in the Cotswolds.

From the moment Clare worked in fine dining, she knew she had found the right path for her and continued to follow her love of hospitality. “The passion, care and dedication I saw and experienced around me fuelled my own passion for food and service,” Clare Ratcliffe, Food and Beverage Manager at Whatley Manor, told The Staff Canteen.

Clare Ratcliffe Whatley Manor


Investing in yourself

Working at these venues showed Clare how capable we are of creating something unique and special for others. “Being able to transport guests away from the everyday routine whilst showcasing some amazing produce,” Clare adds.

Moving to live and work in France is Clare’s proudest achievement in hospitality to date. “I began a new chapter in my life, I learnt a new language and immersed myself into the culture,” Clare notes.

Clare’s entry into hospitality is at the heart of her advice to others who may be considering or actively seeking a role in hospitality. “It’s a vocation,” Clare says. It’s one built on sheer love and passion for serving others. And it’s there that the reward comes. “If you really care for people and truly enjoy food and drink, I can’t think of a better job,” comments Clare.

Opening up opportunities

For Clare, good service is more than simply what you do, but how that feels to each person who walks through your doors and takes a seat at your restaurant. And it comes down to three uncompromising qualities: seamless, knowledgeable, and finesse. “I like to describe it as poetry in motion,” says Clare.

Today, the core hurdles facing the food and beverage (F&B) industry revolve around the fewer people entering the profession. Clare details that these are coupled with “the rising costs of ‘doing business’ and squeezed margins”.

Yet, for Clare, this doesn’t deter her from the industry and job she gets fulfilment from. “But we are still smiling and loving it,” Clare adds. It does, however, lead to a strong sense of ownership of playing her part in helping to address challenges in the sector.

Her core role in tackling these educational, enrollment and economic issues is “leading by example”, Clare says. Coaching people is vital, as is making full use of training opportunities such as apprenticeships to grow the industry and Whatley Manor’s talent pool. 

Clare Ratcliffe Whatley Manor


Pursuing excellence and sustainability

Michelin-starred 'The Dining Room' restaurant sits within the Whatley Manor Hotel & Spa, a luxury manor house hotel in the Cotswolds. Whatley Manor has been operating as a hotel since 1982. The current owners bought it in 2001. Over two and a half years, they refurbished the property and restored its gardens to their original arts and crafts-led design. It re-opened in 2003 to establish itself as one of Cotswold’s finest 5* luxury hotels.

Along with its dedication to fine dining and quality produce, the venue’s commitment to the environment makes it stand out on the luxury culinary stage. “We are without a doubt the leading 5* country house hotel when it comes to sustainability,” Clare proudly asserts.

In 2023, through its partnership with Sustainability NOW, Clare details that the restaurant is offsetting its 2022 remaining emissions and becoming carbon neutral. “I believe we are the first country house hotel to achieve this in England!” shares Clare. Whatley Manor’s targets are to achieve a 95% reduction in Scope 1 & 2 emissions for its energy use by 2028 and 90% for its supply chain by 2035.

Whatley Manor is a proud partner of EarthCheck, a leading benchmarking and certification provider. EarthCheck has created a framework that helps the venue measure various key performance indicators (KPIs) relating to the circular economy and helps it make and achieve its environmental goals. To date, Whatley Manor has achieved silver accreditation under the EarthCheck framework and is striving to attain the gold accolade, which Clare comments typically takes up to five years.

“Our environment and its people mean a great deal to us,” says Clare. Regarding accolades, Whatley Manor is very proud of its Green Michelin-starred status, which Clare notes “is a testament to our kitchen brigade’s commitment to sustainability”.

Expanding its service in 2024

Every year, Whatley Manor closes for a week or two in January for a bit of tender loving care, but besides that, Whatley is open seven days a week, all year round. The Whatley Manor comprises two restaurants: The Dining Room, which can accommodate up to 40 guests and Grey’s, which can seat 60.

The Dining room, Whatley Manor’s Michelin-star restaurant, is open for dinner from Thursday to Sunday. From February 2024, Whatley Manor will extend its offerings in Grey’s restaurant, where dinner will be served every evening and with an all-day dining menu emphasising afternoon tea.

On Sundays, guests can expect a traditional Sunday lunch menu, which on occasion is accompanied by live jazz and is very popular with its local clientele. A lighter menu is served in the venue’s spa lounge from noon until 6pm. Whatley Manor also serves breakfast daily, with room service being available round the clock, and the hotel bar opens daily from noon until the last guest leaves.

Ricki Weston, Whatley Manor’s Executive Chef, has assembled a tight-knit team to meet the demands of a Michelin-star environment and, at the same time, cater for all the other food outlets. “Every member of the brigade has to understand the importance of quality and consistent standards, no matter which outlet the food is being served in,” says Clare.

Whatley Manor has a team 19, including “our amazing kitchen porters,” Clare shares. Clare is also incredibly proud of the team they have assembled in their Front-of-House. Clare’s role is supported by her a deputy F&B manager, a head sommelier and a breakfast manager. “Those are my core people who help me manage the guests’ needs,” Clare says.

Clare Ratcliffe Whatley Manor


British-inspired, classic recipes

Whatley Manor’s F&B style can be described as British-influenced with classical cooking techniques. “We try to source as much as we can from the UK, utilising the seasons as a benchmark for the menu,” says Clare. “We are lucky enough to have a state-of-the-art kitchen that runs completely pm electric power situated just outside of the restaurant, and we use as much as we can from our garden,” adds Clare.

The chef’s style celebrates British dining in keeping with Whatley Manor’s sustainability and Net Zero pledges. “The only real imports into the kitchen are chocolate and caviar,” says Clare. After seeing the whole process, the system and how it’s harvested, the chef chose to work with Valrhona for its chocolate and Sturia for its caviar.

Flavours, textures and tempo all play integral parts of the cooking. “Ricki loves food that evokes memories,” Clare says. “Quite a few of the dishes are inspired by nostalgic memories of the chef’s childhood and favourite dishes,” Clare details.

Manuel Ribeiro, Whatley Manor’s Sommelier, is a keen forager and incorporates much of what he forages in the drinks menu. Currently, a Mugwort Old Fashioned is a popular choice, Clare notes. The Whatley Manor Citrus drop is made with Whatley Manor’s own Sapling Citrus vodka, made using the citrus shavings that would have otherwise been disregarded and used to infuse the vodka.

Whatley Manor’s trio of bluefin tuna is currently its best-selling dish. The dish comprises three core elements: Tuna tataki with ponzu and shallot marmalade, tuna bolognese with pappardelle pasta and parmesan, and tuna black pudding with date ketchup and sorrel. “We are excited to be able to work with such incredible produce,” says Clare.

There is a total headcount of 16 full-time members and a handful of casual team members at Whatley Manor, “which is reasonable for the current levels of business”, Clare says. “I am now planning to recruit a few more people to deliver on the extended opening hours planned from February,” says Clare. 

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The Staff Canteen

Editor 10th January 2024

A good service is “poetry in motion” - Clare Ratcliffe, Food and Beverage Manager at Whatley Manor