Rankin restaurant Cayenne gets one star for hygiene
One of Northern Ireland's most respected restaurants has received a damning verdict from safety officers operating a new hygiene scoring system.
Celebrity chef Paul Rankin's fine dining restaurant Cayenne was awarded a rating of just one under the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme.
It replaces previous rating systems, including the well-known Scores on the Doors.
A score of zero means "urgent improvement necessary" and the top rating of five indicates a "very good' standard of food hygiene.
The result has shocked the Belfast restaurant's many fans.
Cayenne celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2010, but in March this year the verdict from food safety officers was that "major improvement" was needed.
Manager Peter McKenna said staff at the restaurant were upset by the low rating, but insisted that the restaurant was perfectly safe and the score had nothing to do with food handling.
"We were very disappointed. I'm not really sure what went wrong," he said. "There were broken tiles on the floor and a lot of cosmetic work that needed fixed.
"We were given a checklist of work to do to get a higher score and we did it.
"The kitchen is 10-years-old, so we have invested money in new equipment and maintenance work. It's important to us, the food and hygiene in the kitchen and service on the floor, is of a high standard.
"It's something we are dealing with and moving on from.
"The inspector who came back four weeks later said she had never seen that amount of work done so quickly. Unfortunately the score stands, which doesn't seem fair."
A new mark will not be given until at least three months after the last inspection. Mr Rankin was unavailable for comment last night. The hygiene rating is the latest blow in what has been a decline in his fortunes over the past few years.
Financial troubles forced him to sell off the rest of his business interests, leaving him with just Cayenne, although he still makes television appearances.
Mr McKenna said he wasn't convinced customers will be too bothered about the ratings.
"Our business is based on word of mouth," he said. "The scheme covers such a wide umbrella - from a video rental place that does hot dogs to a fine dining restaurant."
Nick Wright, manager of Made In Belfast, said he is waiting for inspectors to return to his restaurant. They visited the city centre restaurant on March 5, 2010 and gave it a rating of one, which indicates the need for "major improvement". "The only reason we received the score was for structural reasons," Mr Wright said. Zen Restaurant manager Alex Yosh, based in Adelaide Street, said while he appreciates the work done by environmental health officers, he feels the rating system can be "misleading". Zen was last inspected on December 7, 2010 and currently has a rating of two, which indicates "improvement necessary". "Zen is not a dirty restaurant," Mr Yosh said. "Hygiene is very important to us. We have a very busy restaurant and we deep-clean very well.
"In the past issues like lighting and a broken tile in the corner and facilities not near the cooking area have been mentioned.
"We appreciate when we are told about improvements that need to be made and take our responsibilities very seriously. Our building is eight-years-old. New problems come up every year."
A food safety officer inspecting a business checks how well it is obeying the law by looking at:
1. How hygienically the food is handled - how it is prepared, cooked, re-heated, cooled and stored.
2. The condition of the structure of the buildings - the cleanliness, layout, lighting, ventilation and other facilities.
3. How the business manages and records what it does to make sure food is safe.