Top Chef Pops Up

Chris Hill, who runs Latitude, one of Yorkshire’s best independent wine merchants, knows more than a thing or two about matching food and wine.

To put it to the test, he persuaded chef Richard Walton Allen, ex Harvey Nick’s in Leeds, to return to the stoves. Chris challenged Richard to create a menu round six wine choices.


Latitude Tasting Room at Duke Studios

And so, the Latitude Tasting Room was born. It popped up for the first time at Duke Studios in Leeds showing wines from New Zealand, Spain, Italy and France – with Richard on top form running the gamut of lovely Yorkshire produce. No sipping and spitting here, just great food, interesting vino and a lot of fun

Swaledale blue cheese with beetroot, fennel and truffled honey was kissed by a complex Tuscan Vermentino from Antoni Camillo. Chorizo, razor clams, bitter leaves and blood orange more than stood up to a rich new wave Rioja from Beronia, showing spice and red fruit.

Pièce de résistance was seven hour cooked beef cheek and tail with shallots and parsnip puree, so soft and unctuous you could have eaten it with a spoon, matched with a Boutinot Côtes-du-Rhone Villages from the village of Cairanne, called Le Côte Sauvage. As Chris put it, some weird alchemy occurs when this wild wine is paired with slow cooked meat. Yep, we loved it.

The next Latitude Tasting Room will be at the Leeds Indie Food Festival in May. Can’t wait.

And the wines:

Latitude wines


Cooks at Carlton Towers

CarltonTea‘Not a Cookery School’, Development Director Elaine Lemm, corrects me: ‘It’s a School of Food’ – the difference being that the courses at Carlton Towers offer far more than cookery lessons. The website explains: ‘Grow, cook, photograph or write about food. Come to bake, butcher, forage, preserve, get back to basics, hone your skills.’

Carlton Towers, if you don’t know it, is the ancestral pile of the Duke of Norfolk. It’s in Carlton, a village between Selby and Goole, and the Gothic palace and its turrets, gargoyles, battlements and clock tower, half English boarding school, half grand country house, is the place the Duke’s brother Lord Gerald Fitzalan Howard and his wife Emma, call home.

Inside it’s just as imposing with yards of ecclesiastical paneling and stained glass, gilded walls and chandeliers. The upstairs is largely given over to weddings, shooting parties and corporate events but you can stay in one of the 16 bedrooms, beautifully designed and furnished by Lady Gerald herself.

Twelve months or so ago Lord and Lady G decided to take downstairs in hand and turned the old kitchen, scullery, dairy and butler’s pantry into a cookery school, sorry School of Food, and they’ve done a cracking job.

Elaine Lemm, Development Director plans the courses, Richard Walton Allen, ex head chef at Harvey Nichols in Leeds, is course tutor. Together they have put together a series of one day courses: Fiona Sciolti is guest chocolate tutor, Josh Sutton the self-styled Guyrope Gourmet is offering campfire cooking, there’s upmarket barbecuing with Andy Annat and bacon and sausage making with David Lishman of Lishman’s of Ilkley.

My day at Cooks was an afternoon tea master class with Adam Smith, the head chef of the Burlington restaurant at Devonshire Arms, Bolton Abbey and before that at the Ritz in Piccadilly, where afternoon tea is an institution.

We baked scones, cakes and macaroons and took our breaks in the housekeeper’s sitting room – very English country house with sofas and side tables and a well stocked drinks cupboard. You could easily be tempted to kick off your shoes and settle in with coffee, cake and Mrs Beeton.

But manager Nicola Shann shoos us back to the kitchen and at the end of the day we get to scoff all we have cooked in the genteel surroundings of the ‘Duchesses dining room’, a formal dining room where once upon a time the young Lord Gerald remembers sitting down to tea with his grandparents, the Duke and Duchess.

This of course is the USP of Yorkshire’s newest cookery school. An upstairs/downstairs experience.  Compared to all the curlicues upstairs,  downstairs is boarding school spare. Wide doorways, stone flagged corridors, the cool dairy and the spacious kitchen where they have cleverly (and expensively) combined old and new. State of the art equipment sits alongside mighty cast iron ranges, old shelves house copper pans and antique jelly moulds. Teaching takes place around a huge central island complete with a ‘listed’ pillar through the centre.

Yorkshire has any number of cookery schools, Bettys, Malton, the York Cookery School, the Cooking School at Dean Clough, Swinton Park, Yorkshire Wolds and more. Cooks is a first-rate addition to that list and promises to offer something more. The current list of courses goes up to September so the ‘more than cookery lessons’ is still in development, but watch this space.  Until then, it’s a fine place to work and learn with exemplary objectives; after all, where else can you cook like the servants and dine like a duchess.

Cooks at Carlton Towers, Carlton, Yorkshire DN14 9LZ
T: 01405 861662 W:
Price: Full day tuition with lunch £170. Single or double room with breakfast £95/£125

Chefs on the Move

Jeff Baker

Jeff Baker

No sooner have we reported on the closure of Create followed by Anthony’s in Leeds than we have to announce the demise of J. Baker’s in York. He cooked for a wedding reception and then closed the doors for good.
What a shame. We’ve always rated Jeff Baker who arrived in York in 2006 after a Michelin star-studded career at Leeds’ Pool Court. His modern, exuberant cooking brought a breath of fresh air to York. We hope he will be back at the stove somewhere in the county very soon.
It’s certainly all change just now. Ex-Harvey Nichols and Create chef Richard Walton-Allen has been signed up by the polished outside catering outfit Dine Consultancy. His short-lived replacement at Harvey Nix Paul Cunliffe has moved on, too, to open a newly refurbed pub, The Dunsforth at Lower Dunsforth in North Yorkshire.
Another brave start-up is Michelin-starred Adam Jackson who has departed the Black Swan at Oldstead for what he describes as a fine dining restaurant, The Park at Sutton Park at Sutton on the Forest, the pile owned by Samantha Cameron’s family.
Elsewhere, Dan Birk leaves the Box Tree to join Jason Atherton’s Social Eating House in Soho though it remains in safe hands under owner  Simon Gueller, while young Adam Smith moves into position at the Burlington Restaurant at the Devonshire Arms at Bolton Abbey.  The fancy hotel and spa at Raithwaite Hall, Sandsend have appointed Martin Pick (one time partner with his brother Chris of Armstrong’s, Barnsley) as temporary head chef following the departure of head chef Darren Iddon to Queens Quay Social in Derry/Londonderry. The permanent chef Mark Johnson starts in October. He trained at Bradford and Ilkley College and has worked at the Connaught, the Ritz and Chelsea’s Sloane Club.
Finally we hear that following the closure of Kitchen in the Alea Casino in Leeds, TV celeb James Martin is renewing his links with the casino owners to open in the Manchester 235 Casino. He remains executive chef of the Talbot Hotel in Malton.


Chefs On The Merry-Go-Round

What’s been going on at the Feversham Arms in Helmsley since Simon Rhatigan, a good guy who ran a classy operation, sold up and rode out of town last summer?

Under its new owners, the place has come under the Official Secrets Act. Their PR people wouldn’t tell me a thing, not even who’s in the kitchen. Was head chef Simon Kelly still there? Can’t tell you that. OK, can I speak to the new manager? No, he’s in meetings all day. All day, every day? Yes.

A phone call to the hotel extracted the promise that someone would call me back. Weeks went by. Christmas came and went. I tried again in the New Year and was asked to email my request to sales and marketing. A month has gone by with nothing.

The website reports Simon Kelly still in command but his chef’s blog hasn’t been updated since September 2011. We’ll try to crack these vital state secrets by other means but in the meantime I’ll keep my purse securely zipped up until I can confirm who the chef is. After all, when the Fev’s a la carte menu is £45 per head before you’ve wined and tipped, it doesn’t seem an unreasonable question to ask.

Paul Cunliffe

Harvey Nix do it differently. Since the departure of Richard Allen after 12 years as executive chef to join a social enterprise company Create, there were big boots to fill in the Fourth Floor kitchen. Mandy was invited along to meet the new chef Paul Cunliffe, who arrived from Devon but is originally from Bradford. She reports he’s a charmer and while continuing the tradition of local sourcing developed by Allen is planning to put his own stamp on the place.

Dan Birk

Elsewhere, young chef Dan Birk has departed the Devonshire Fell in Wharfedale to take up a big new post as head chef of Ilkley’s Michelin-starred Box Tree. We’ve had our misgivings about how Squidbeaky a country hotel like the Devonshire Fell should be but Birk’s a talented lad who will undoubtedly shine ever brighter with the tutelage he’ll get at the Box Tree from owner and executive chef Simon Gueller. Oliver Adams moves over from the Devonshire Arms to take his place at the Fell.

We’d heard rumours that Scott Hessel locked up and left the Old Bore at Rishworth in a bit of a hurry after Christmas. It didn’t look good. Now the Huddersfield Daily Examiner reports that a local meat and fish supplier is in pursuit of £2,000 worth of unpaid bills. No one has been  answering the phone either at Rishworth or at Hessel’s other gaff the Carlton Bore in Carlton Husthwaite near Thirsk. Now we see it sports a For Sale sign outside. Shame. Hessel’s always been a bit of a maverick and I’ve crossed swords with him over restaurant reviews but he could cook and I’ll always have a soft spot for Mustard’s and Punch, the vivacious bistro he set up in Honley, back in the 1990s when he was only 23 and boy did Kirklees need it.

Finally, not to kick a chef when he’s down but… Remember we told you how much we liked Marlena Spieler’s book Feeding Friends. The other day I noticed a testimonial on the front cover: ‘Marlena’s recipes are so good, they’re worth stealing’ – Anthony Worrall Thompson.


Harvey Nix New Dawn

Paul Cunliffe

Since Richard Walton Allen left the Fourth Floor Café in April 2011 to mastermind his magnificent Create project, Harvey Nichols has been a bit rudderless. A six month recruiting campaign didn’t bear fruit, and despite advertising the post nationally, the right person didn’t come forward. Store Director Brian Handley was starting to twitch: ‘we had a good team keeping it going but I was starting to think we weren’t going to replace Richard. Then I got a letter from a Yorkshire chef working in Devon looking to come back north and something clicked. We interviewed Paul and it was clear from the off that he was the man for us’.

Bradford born Paul Cunliffe walked through the hallowed portals at the start of December just in time for the Christmas rush. ‘It was mental. I didn’t really have time to take stock – I just rolled my sleeves up and got stuck in’ says a now much calmer Paul ‘ it could have been intimidating coming into an established kitchen, but I’ve shaken a few pans in my time and I just bossed it!’

Valentini Bellini

The other week his first menu was launched at a select gathering on the Fourth Floor. Fuelled with prototype cocktails designed around Valentine’s Day (a Sloe Romance, anyone?) we were treated to a cooking demo during which Paul flashed some knives and spun some sugar – always impressive – and produced three fantastic plates of food in short order.

I think there might have been a starter involving belly pork and squash puree and a main course with lamb in it. The Valentini (Bellini, get it?) had kicked in so the dessert was a blur. But it all looked lovely and tasted terrific and I can’t wait to return and eat it all again. Properly. And report back. Ahem.

Wine Champion

We know that we think Yorkshire folk are the best at everything, but we can now claim a world champion in our midst. Step forward Karen Hardwick, who has just been crowned the Wine Educator of the Year by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. Karen, who runs the Wine Academy in York was the only individual through to the shortlist which contained big training and PR teams – and received her award from Master of Wine Jancis Robinson. In previous years the award has gone to outfits in the US and Australia.

Before she had her children, Karen worked her way up in the drinks industry and ended up working for Californian wine supremo Robert Mondavi, representing him all over the world. Doing a fund-raising wine tasting for her children’s playgroup launched her independent career as a wine trainer. It’s expanded to working with the trade, running public tastings and being involved in the York Food & Drink Festival (where Jill can confirm how enjoyable her tastings are).

Pupils of hers have gone on to become winemakers, work in top restaurants and in the retail sector. One waitress from Meltons Too in York joined Asda’s wine team after Karen’s training and is now one of the 10 most influential women in the wine trade.

The wine landscape  in Yorkshire has incredible breadth, according to Karen, with great independent merchants and restaurants with good lists. Anywhere which offers good champagne by the glass goes to the top of the class, and the lists at the Pipe and Glass, South Dalton, J Bakers in York, the Durham Ox in Crayke and Harvey Nicks in Leeds get Karen’s best ratings for the choice of wine without having to buy a bottle.

She’s passionate about wine but never poncey. You can join her for monthly tastings at Harvey Nichols, Leeds, Meltons Too in York and Chapters in Stokesley which are good fun and affordable. See her website for listings


Be My Valentine

Normally I head a mile from marketing hype encouraging us to big it up for certain occasions and Valentine’s Day where you can’t miss the marketing telling us to invest in chocolates and fizz for loved ones, preferably something pink, should be no different.

But I have a confession to make. It’s my anniversary, and some years ago my romantic fate was sealed by a shoe box containing a bunch of white freesias and a bottle of Pol Roger champagne, left anonymously on my desk.

I was then a TV researcher, and in a production meeting had opined that proper champagne and an armful of white flowers was the way to a girl’s heart. They were.

Fast forward down the years, we’re still together and Pol Roger still does it for me (find it at Majestic £42.00 or £37.00 when you buy two). On the dry side, with a very fine mousse of bubbles, it’s a delicious mouthful. If you have to go pink, then my choice would be Billecart Salmon Rose – and with this why wouldn’t you. It’s pale pink, raspberry scented, elegant and beautifully made by a family firm. Harvey Nichols in Leeds has it in a gift pack or search the internet for the best deal, but expect to pay upwards of £45 a bottle.

But for the best deal in terms of choice and quality from small and medium producers,  I’d now head to the Champagne Warehouse, a family company run out of Boston Spa which has a fabulous choice of sparkling wines and champagnes, all personally sourced. Plenty of choice around the £25 mark, and if you call them, they’ll make suggestions when you tell them the style of wine you like.

Their good value crowd pleaser, Triolet Brut, which is light fruity and easy drinking, was served at their stall at York Food Festival.  At £18.99 a bottle it’s great value – and the producers also sell grapes to Billecart Salmon.

Want an off  piste gift? Flourish and Prosper’s Sean Welsh has put together a fun box of six wines for £50. Amongst the bottles are Passion Has Red Lips, a Cab Shiraz from Some Young Punks in Oz, St. Amour, Cru Beaujolais from France and Pasion de Bobal, from Utiel Requena in Spain, described as having a passionate and intense heart. You get the picture. Knowing Sean the wines will be delightful and interesting – and probably preferable to just one bottle of champagne. Wouldn’t fit in a shoe box though.




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