Burgers, buns and belt loosening: how I’m bringing a taste of America to Center Parcs

After polishing off a taste tour of London, what can we expect from the new menu at Huck's American Bar and Grill? Group Executive Chef James Haywood tells us...

The chefs hard at work in the Huck's kitchen
The chefs hard at work in the Huck's kitchen
Outside Huck's at Whinfell Forest
Outside Huck's at Whinfell Forest
Huck's interior at Woburn Forest
Huck's interior at Woburn Forest
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The chefs hard at work in the Huck's kitchen
The chefs hard at work in the Huck's kitchen
Outside Huck's at Whinfell Forest
Outside Huck's at Whinfell Forest
Huck's interior at Woburn Forest
Huck's interior at Woburn Forest

In little under a month, we’ll be unveiling the new menu for Sports Café to you all – I can’t wait to hear your thoughts! In the meantime, I’ve been working hard to develop new menus elsewhere in our restaurants, in particular Huck’s American Bar and Grill. If you read my blog post in February you’ll know that the nation’s appetite for American food is bigger than ever, and I’ve been doing lots of research and tasting to bring our guests the best States-influenced tastes.

New ideas
In fact, I’ve seen a handful of suppliers in the past three days, each showing off their finest produce for us to deliver. Last week I had the pleasure of visiting six different eateries in London for food tasting and inspiration-gathering. It’s always important to keep in line with trends. From Bodean’s BBQ and Meat Liquor to Covent Garden’s latest spot, Big Easy, I picked up lots of new ideas that I’m determined to bring to our Villages.

I loved the side dishes such as creamed corn and Boston beans, and I’d love to inject some of these into our menus at Center Parcs. However, I must say, out of all the eateries I visited I didn’t come across a decent macaroni and cheese all day. In my opinion a good mac ‘n’ cheese needs to be oozing with gooey, stringy cheese, which is nicely browned on top. We had macaroni cheese as a winter special recently, which went down really well so we could see that becoming more of a permanent fixture. What do you think, is it something you’d like to see?

Food-visit-London
Some of the dishes sampled on my taste tour of London

But, the biggest takeaway that I got from my research trip was it highlighted just how good Huck’s is. I won’t name any names, but I found the food in one of the restaurants to be quite tasteless; although it’s clear that time and effort has been made, the execution falls short when it comes to flavours. I had a great sharing platter at the Big Easy, but the wings and calamari on the Huck’s sharing platters can certainly give it a run for its money. I love the idea of sharing food, though; diners can get stuck in with their hands, peeling juicy prawns and lobster tails – a real interactive dining experience.

Special touches
The new Huck’s menu is set to include lots of exciting new dishes – I can’t give too much away, but there’s going to be a fantastic burger that is guaranteed to make your mouth water. In fact, I’m in Manchester in a couple of weeks where I’ll be working with a baker to create the very best bun for the new menu. I don’t want any old bread off the shelf – this has to be something special and unique that our guests will remember. I also have an amazing dessert up my sleeve that’s going to be a lot of fun. Including a gingham rice-paper napkin, the entire dish will be edible.

I can’t wait for you all to see the menu development come to life; we’ll be announcing the date of our tasting panel very soon. But for now, I’m off to the gym! After weeks of food tasting around the country and trying out new dishes, I’m perilously close to adding another notch to my belt.

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  • Laura

    We are visiting whinfell in 3rd oct, excited to try Hucks and booked for first night – but why does the platter only come for 4 people? A 2 person platter would be fab on your new menu :)

    • Amy Dickson

      Hi Laura, thanks for your comment. I will pass on your idea regarding the platter for 2. Hope you have a fantastic time at Whinfell Forest next month!

    • Jo Watts

      Sounds great James, you just some some serious America anthem music to complete the theme. On another note I’d like to see changes to the breakfast menu at La Sapiniere maybe Kedgeree 😉

  • Margaret Roberts

    How about a low calorie platter for healthy eating Spa visitors I’m taking a spa break later this month and am easily tempted

  • Jackie McMenemy

    Hi it would be helpful if you had info on menu regarding gluten/wheat free ,I was at Sherwood last year and going again next month and even the chief couldn’t guarantee what was wheat/gluten free

Amy Dickson

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Amy Dickson

As Brand Content Manager I plan, create and curate the best articles, photos, videos and music for our channels, in particular the blog. With a degree in Journalism under my belt and many years’ experience in the big smoke as a journalist and editor, my focus is firmly on discovering the little gems hidden away in Center Parcs life, before buffing them up to make them sparkle online. From on-village events to the latest travel industry trends, I’ll be there – notepad in hand – to bring you the most entertaining and interesting stories.