St Albans restaurant overturns poor food rating following appeal

Phil Thompson at the St Albans Food and Drink Festival 2014

Phil Thompson at the St Albans Food and Drink Festival 2014 - Credit: Archant

A well-established independent restaurant which was given a one star food hygiene rating has had it bumped back up to five star following an inspection on Tuesday (4)

Thompson St Albans, formerly Thompson @ Darcy’s, in Hatfield Road, dropped from a rating of five to one in June after an inspection by the Food Standards Agency.

The restaurant waited the statutory three months to appeal the rating and a five star level was reinstated by the government body on Tuesday.

But the re-inspection came a little too late, as the low rating, which was brought to the attention of the general public last week, caused owner Phil Thompson to lose his stall at the St Albans Food and Drink Festival finale on Sunday (2) and a number of bookings.

Phil said that the restaurant was handed the rating because of the way they were using the expensive Sous Vide, or water bath, machine and the restaurant had not kept up with changing regulations.

Thompson St Albans had been using the same machine, in which food is packaged and placed in water for various cooking processes, for both raw food in the morning and cooked food in the evening which was the cause of the downgrade.

He said that the machine was extremely expensive and Thompson St Albans was one of the few restaurants in Hertfordshire to use one. He has since purchased another one at the cost of about £5,000 to comply with regulations.

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Phil added: “It isn’t nice what me and my fiance have been through over the past three months. You’re fighting your corner and you want people to understand that is isn’t one out of five because it is dirty, it’s one out of five because of a procedure that I do in the kitchen that not a lot people do.”

The new score of five comes two days after the food and drink festival finale, where Phil was told that he could not have a stall because of the restaurant’s low rating just days before.

He had already bought the ingredients and began the preparation but the district council, which oversees the food hygiene standards, told him that he could not have the stall because no one could have a hygiene rating under three.

Phil said: “It was gutting because I feel like I’ve given quite a lot to St Albans. I’m a small independent business and I am trying to support a restaurant in St Albans that people enjoy, like, and want to come back to, Any negative publicity is damaging.”

He went on: “It was annoying because it’s something I look forward to, it’s something that St Albans looks forward to and you want to get involved in it and you want to be there. That was the gutting thing, that we weren’t able to be part of it.”

Debbi White, head of community services for St Albans district council, said: “Thompson St Albans’ rating had recently been downgraded to a one, so they agreed to withdraw their stall.

“Chefs from the restaurant were due to be involved in a festival cookery demonstration, Ready Steady St Albans. This was held at a different venue, the Poggenpohl Showrooms, so we allowed them to take part.

“Before doing so, we also had discussions with Thompson’s about the food hygiene rating and gained assurances that they had acted on the food inspector’s report.

“The restaurant has been a major contributor to the festival for many years. It can play a full part in the festival again next year.”