French born Nico is originally from the Loire Valley, where he grew up around good wine and food. He joined our team in June 2014 as ‘Maitre de Maison’, or house manager. He likens Askham Hall to the format of a small French chateaux where guests get to experience high end dining and very personal service in the setting of a beautiful house and gardens. This suits him perfectly. He fulfils the role of personal greeter and the person who is the main point of contact for guests throughout their stay at Askham Hall. He is also a classically trained sommelier and adds another layer of service to evening meals with his recommendations of suitable wines. When we were planning the opening of Askham Hall we had our eye on Nico for this role as he really is a one off who excels at this type of customer interaction and we felt he and the role were made for each other. We were lucky enough that he accepted our offer and the rest is history. He is now part of the key team with Charles Lowther (the owner) and Richard Swale (the chef) driving the business forward as part of a wave of new, exciting guest experiences in the Lake District.
Nico’s college training in France to study hospitality led him on a journey to become one the finest sommeliers this country has seen, several times winning sommelier of the year for Scotland and the North of England. This training in France got him jobs at several Michelin starred restaurants including Relais & Chateaux Cordeillan-Bages in Bordeaux, Hiramastu restaurant in Paris and the Relais & Chateaux Waterside Inn at Bray on Thames with Michel Roux Snr, not an easy job to get and then from there up to Cumbria to Sharrow Bay for 14 years prior to joining us at Askham Hall.
Nico has a genuine passion for hospitality which is hard to find. He takes no greater pleasure than exceeding customer expectations and nothing is too much trouble for him. His role at Askham Hall has given Nico the chance to create his own wine list, and have the feeling of ownership of the restaurant and guest experience which has allowed his enthusiasm for customer service and love of wine to spill over to such an extent that working here really isn’t work but more a way of life. This is aided by his close connection to Richard Swale the head chef and Charles Lowther the owner.
Having only been in the job here since June 2014 his skills and passion in his new role have already been recognised by being chosen by readers of Cumbria Life as winner of the ‘Outstanding Customer Service’ award 2016, and for which he was shortlisted in 2015, narrowly beaten by the restaurant manager of L’Enclume, as well as finalist for Cumbria Tourism’s Outstanding Service Award in 2016 and Boutique Hotelier Awards Outstanding Service finalist in 2015 and 2016.
He takes huge pride in explaining the valuable and delicate memorabilia, decorations and cutlery left in the house by the owners to guests. He also loves explaining the heritage of the house through the albums on display and wines on the list from the owner’s late father, the 7th Earl of Lonsdale’s cellar. Also a keen fisherman who has long spent his days off fishing the river Lowther, he knows the river and walks around Askham intimately and is never short of a recommendation. He is very aware of guests with special requirements and disabilities for personal reasons. He goes out of his way to make people feel comfortable and is very conscientious of special needs.