Colin McGurran

Colin McGurran

Colin McGurran

Championing local produce is no mere passing fad for Colin McGurran – the chef has developed the grounds of his restaurant with rooms to include a vegetable garden, nursery and full functioning farm. With the very freshest of ingredients, Colin McGurran’s seasonally changing menus reflect a deep respect for natural produce combined with a molecular mastery that often leaves diners stunned.

Colin McGurran was born in Zambia, returning to the UK as a boy. He trained at Bournemouth College before getting a taste of fine dining working at the 2-Michelin-starred Domaines Haut de Loire in Onzain, France. He later moved to Abu Dhabi, accepting a post as banqueting manager for the UAE royal family.

The chef is a popular face on television including Saturday Kitchen, Ramsay’s Best Restaurant and Great British Menu. He has appeared on the latter a number of times, winning in 2012 with his staggeringly accomplished Quail in the woods starter – created from over 50 ingredients – and again in 2014 for his nostalgic Dickin medal dessert.

Returning to Britain in 2001, Colin McGurran took over the Woolpack Country Inn in Whitley with his sister. In 2005 he bought the luxurious restaurant with rooms Winteringham Fields in North Lincolnshire, driven by a desire to return to fine dining. The chef had dined at Winteringham Fields some years before when it was still owned by Germain and Annie Schwab, and held great respect for the venue and their approach to maintaining the restaurant’s excellent reputation.

While taking over such a prestigious venue may have seemed a daunting task to many, Colin McGurran was keen to build on the restaurant’s stellar reputation and spent a year shadowing Schwab and his head chef Robert Thompson to learn about the running of the business. This process was at times hands on, and the chef took the time to learn some of Schwab’s signature dishes – such as Hare royale – to keep on the menu by way of homage.

Colin McGurran expanded the business, developing much of the property’s eight acres into a fully functioning farm and nursery, and the chef encourages his staff to take an active part in the cultivation and harvesting of their produce. Sheep, pigs and chicken are kept to supply meat and dairy, while the vast majority of the restaurant’s herbs and vegetables are grown in the grounds of Winteringham. Anything that cannot be grown on site, such as beef and shellfish, are sourced as locally as possible, a philosophy the chef refers to as their ‘One-Mile Menu’.

This decision made financial sense, but was also motivated by a passion for provenance and sustainability. The chef loves the transparency a home-grown ethos brings with it, with front of house staff able to talk to customers about the ingredients on the menu with unusual precision and expertise. Menus are guided by the seasons, with perfectly prepared, fresh-from-the-ground ingredients – think Chicken with wild garlic and asparagus in spring, or Pigeon with textures of beetroot come autumn.

Nature has a huge influence on his food, and as the chef himself says ‘our creativity comes from looking at nature, how nature deals with produce, and we try and replicate that in what we do in the kitchen’. While his ethos may be simple the food is not, often displaying dazzling degrees of molecular mastery. Tomato gazpacho, one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, playfully tweaks nature itself, coming served with a whole ‘tomato’ made from gazpacho mousse coated in glossy tomato gel.

The restaurant offers a 7 or 9 course ‘Menu Surprise’, a tasting menu where only the merest tantalising hints are given to diners as to what they can expect – ‘Third Course: Roasted and Confit’, for example, or ‘Main course: Braised from Lincolnshire’. Colin McGurran sees these menus as a way of communicating the restaurant’s own ethos, remarking on the Winteringham website: ‘[They] allow the customers to go on the journey that we’re going on ourselves … there’s a thread going through all of them demonstrating what we grow and the respect we have for our produce.’

This respect is clear to see – the chefs in his team are involved at every stage, from tending the gardens to caring for the livestock. Colin McGurran believes this instils a deep respect for the produce they are handling, observing to Big Hospitality: ‘When they’ve seen a lamb born, bottle-fed it, seen it grow then sent it off to slaughter they give extra care when they are cooking it.’ In October 2018, Michelin finally award Colin and his team a Michelin star for their work at Winteringham Fields.