Signature Living have decided not to renew his contract following “public feedback”

PLANS for a top end restaurant at Cunard House have been shaken by recent team changes including the resignation of both its managing director and operations director, as well as the unexpected dismissal of the project’s executive chef.  

In November last year, the Livepool-based hotel firm signed a fifteen year lease with Liverpool City Council, owners of the Grade II-listed Cunard building, revealing aspirations to transform it into a destination fine-dining restaurant and bar, as well as a flexible boutique venue for weddings and events.

Soon afterwards, the company announced that Ernst Van Zyl was to be the executive chef who would take the reins of this new restaurant - which made no secret of its Michelin starred aspirations. 

Zyl was also to head up its brasserie and the banqueting operation. However, after a series of pre-launch pop-up dining events, it seems that Van Zyl has been given the boot following “public feedback following the development period.”

Van Zyl revealed the news on social media with a series of Tweets, which began simply enough;

Ernst Van Zyl Twitter

Before erring into semi-cryptic Cantona-like statements....

Ernst Van Zyl Twitter 2

Signature Living announced that Van Zyl had come to the end of his initial three-month contract, “and this will not be renewed”.

The former chef-patron of Cheshire’s Hanging Gate Inn has an eclectic style of experimental cooking, which might not be to everyone’s taste. During a visit to Etrop Grange, a restaurant Van Zyl previously headed, Confidential’s publisher was served a pate de fruit made from broccoli juice, which he likened to a ‘bad fart’ (full review here.) Van Zyl has subsequently admitted that this culinary experiment “was not one of my better ideas.”

A spokesman for the hotel company said: “When Signature Living took over Cunard House at the Cunard Building in November it was always on the basis that we would stage a series of pop-up restaurant experiences as part of our development plan to formulate our fine dining menu and offering… Based on this feedback we didn’t feel the offering in its current format would expand into the Cunard. A review was undertaken and as a result various changes have been made both creatively and operationally.”

Cunard Building Liverpool
Plans for a top end restaurant at Cunard House are now in doubt

Van Zyl’s sacking comes alongside the news that, following an ‘internal review of operations’, the managing director of the Cunard House project, David Hughes, has offered his resignation and that, although operations director Mike Mounfield has also resigned from his full time role, he will continue to work with Cunard House on a contract basis.

Signature Living boss Lawrence Kenwright insisted that he will still bring a “very exciting venture” to Liverpool. However, with the senior operations team in disarray, next month’s intended launch date is starting to look somewhat ambitious.