Sunday Sit-Down With… Shane Zhao, Head Chef at Grantley Hall’s Bar & Restaurant EightyEight
Where East meets West and energetic city dining meets the idyllic Yorkshire countryside… We discover Bar & Restaurant EightyEight through the eyes of its exceptional Head Chef.
Paid Partnership with Grantley Hall
Shane Zhao has a passion for exceptional food.
A culinary wizard, her Chinese and Australian heritage has helped develop her flair for the exotic, while her commitment to her craft has helped her win plaudits the world over. Having started her culinary career in Melbourne, Australia, and working in a number of prestigious restaurants down under, Shane’s background may seem a far cry from Ripon, North Yorkshire.
But after moving to the UK in 2016 – where she quickly established herself as one of the North’s most talented chefs – her inherent ability to win the love of customers and critics alike has led Shane to the Head Chef residency at Bar & Restaurant EightyEight in North Yorkshire’s superlative country house hotel, Grantley Hall.
And it’s safe to say, Grantley Hall have quite the culinary reputation of their own. After all, it’s not just any hotel who can lay claim to multi-Michelin Star maestro Shaun Rankin and mutli-AA Rosette aficionado Craig Atchinson in their kitchens.
As well as four exquisite indoor restaurants, Grantley Hall have also extended their alfresco offering – with their uber-stylish new restaurant, The Orchard, joining visitor favourites the Norton Courtyard and the terrace of Bar & Restaurant EightyEight. Right next to the enchanting Japanese Gardens and set against the backdrop of the spectacular Yorkshire Dales, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more impressive dining destination.
It’s within the kitchens of Bar & Restaurant EightyEight where you’ll usually find Shane, but, luckily for us, we managed to catch her on a rare break from her gastronomical experiments to find out just how she manages to bring fresh Yorkshire produce together with far Eastern flavours so effortlessly…
For those who haven’t visited Grantley Hall before, how would you describe Bar & Restaurant EightyEight?
Bar & Restaurant EightyEight is a contemporary Pan-Asian restaurant, where vibrant, city-centre dining meets the idyllic Yorkshire countryside. We offer a fusion of Yorkshire produce and far Eastern flavours to create our exciting menu.
The restaurant is set against the stunning backdrop of our English Heritage-listed Japanese Gardens – one of the key influences for the whole concept of EightyEight.
When did you first become involved with EightyEight at Grantley Hall?
I am very thankful to be involved with the EightyEight team. I joined Grantley Hall in March 2021, during the pandemic. It’s great to see Grantley Hall has done everything it can to keep our part of the hospitality sector going and offers people so many great opportunities to power through the pandemic together.
Can you tell us a little about your professional background?
I first started working as a chef in 2009, in Melbourne, Australia. Derek Boath – who used to work at Per Se – has been one of the inspirational mentors in my career. I’ve been trained with French fine dining culinary skills, and I’ve also worked at a 5-star hotel, Hotel Lindrum, a 1 Chef’s Hat restaurant at Mountain View Hotel, and a few Japanese restaurants in Australia until I moved to the UK in 2016.
In my five years in the UK, I’m proud to say I’ve been a part of the opening team for Issho restaurant in Leeds and gained a Michelin Plate in our first two years. I’m proud of keeping the Michelin plate during my stay at Stockdales of Yorkshire, experiencing the busiest restaurant in Leeds – Tattu – and I also enjoyed the menu development at Chophaus. Now, I’m very excited to be a part of the team at EightyEight, as I feel the restaurant really express my passion and love for Pan-Asian food and culture.
Yorkshire produce and far Eastern flavours aren’t the most obvious combination – how do you make them work so well together?
It’s always fun and interesting to work with different flavours and ingredients. I don’t see Yorkshire produce and far Eastern flavours as being in conflict – cooking is all about balancing flavours and tastes.
Of course, it’s essential to have the best quality, seasonal ingredients, and this is what Yorkshire provides in abundance. I treat ingredients as individuals – I learn about their tastes, the different methods of cooking them to bring out their flavours and the best way to present them. By opening the door of Asian flavours, it gives me more possibilities to create a truly unique dish.
What is it about classic Asian cuisine that you really enjoy working with?
I’m Chinese – I was brought up with Asian flavours, they’re in my DNA. However, I’m trained with French cooking techniques. It’s a gift for me to know their differences and how they could each benefit the other to bring out the best flavours from ingredients.
I never intend to gravitate to Asian dishes in my cooking, but some of my dishes do present my background – Chinese culture and traditions and the knowledge I learnt from my travels across Asian countries. I love to share it all with our guests!
You described the cuisine at EightyEight as ‘energetic city dining’ earlier – why do you think it’s important to bring that urban dining experience to a much more rural space, such as Grantley Hall?
Grantley Hall is located in one of the most beautiful parts of the Yorkshire countryside – offering luxury bedrooms, relaxing spa treatments, a top, fully-equipped gym and a fantastic range of drinking and dining venues. EightyEight, along with Valeria’s Cocktail Bar, creates an energetic, urban dining and drinking experience that you just wouldn’t expect in the Yorkshire countryside. We have something for everyone – and that’s what makes Grantley Hall such a magical place to visit.
What’s your personal highlight on the EightyEight menu?
I would like to introduce you to our 88 Robata Porterhouse Steak with Asian spiced butter. It’s a 16oz salt aged steak, grilled over open fire, served with Asian spiced butter, beetroot, tenderstem broccoli, lotus root crisps and (what I call) our ‘pickle tray’ – which are three different house-made pickles, including house kimchi.
The Asian butter is made with lemongrass, Chinese 13 spices, Sichuan pepper, lime leaves, sake and soy sauce. It’s a dish that perfectly presents the combination of the best Yorkshire produce and far Eastern flavours.
What are your ambitions for the future of EightyEight?
EightyEight has great potential, it’s so unique. I would love to make EightyEight the ‘place to be’ in North Yorkshire. Guests’ satisfaction is my greatest reward. In the future, I would love EightyEight to become an award-winning restaurant. It would mean a lot, personally, if we can make our way into the Michelin Guide one day.
Grantley Hall, Ripon, North Yorkshire HG4 3ET