New owner Barry Hogan has vowed to “improve all aspects” of Earle after acquiring the Hale restaurant from TV chef Simon Rimmer.
Hogan, who already owns Hogan’s of Hale, agreed a deal with Rimmer two weeks ago, ending the Sunday Brunch presenter’s 10-year association with the village.
He has now moved his highly-rated kitchen and front-of-house team at Hogan’s – including head chef Maciej Mordel – over to the Cecil Road restaurant, with Hogan’s itself moving to more of a set-menu approach targeted particularly at parties.
And Hogan told us that Rimmer’s increased workload – he also has two gastro pubs in Merseyside and a restaurant in Dubai, as well as a number of TV projects – had inevitably meant he had “taken his eye off the ball”.
He said: “The association of Simon Rimmer was meant to mean quality, but with him getting busier and not being able to come here, he took the eye of the ball.
“He popped his head in once every four months and if I’m honest with you, the food was suffering.”
Hogan said he would be keeping the “best bits of the Earle menu” but looking to “100% improve all aspects”.
“I don’t want to spoil 10 years of goodwill,” he said. “I am looking at tweaking things rather than doing anything dramatic. It has a lovely feel, I don’t want to destroy the feeling of Earle.”
Hogan said he had been looking at closing Earle for refurbishment in January but he was surprised at how well the restaurant had done since taking over.
“Sundays at Hogan’s was called Hale’s best kept secret, but I was fed up with it being a secret,” he said.
“But we did 130-plus Sunday dinners at Earle last week and the week before.”
Chef Mordel will remain involved at Hogan’s to help out with preparation and generally oversee the food during the day, before moving over to Earle for the evening.
“Our chef is fantastic, and very passionate. Everything is made fresh and nothing microwaved,” added Hogan.
“He has aspirations here to get some rosettes. We want to hit the fine dining end but also the quality value end with early bird customers.
“Hogan’s is doing fine – we’re chocka with bookings all through next week and December. The quality of the food at Hogan’s will remain the same as it is now.”
Hogan said he was concerned that the soul of Hale was being “stripped out” by the recent arrival of a number of chains.
“Carluccio’s has definitely changed the demographic of Hale,” he said. “I used to like the American Bar, but I go past Carluccio’s at half 9 and the chairs are on the table. Now Hale Grill and La Vina have gone too.
“It’s important to understand that I’m here to improve what was already a popular restaurant.”
Earle will retain its name for the time being but Hogan added that it could “maybe” change its name in the future.