Raising a glass to Mr B

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The hearse on Abbeydale Road South

THERE won’t be another Sheffield funeral like it. The rain was teeming down but people lined the pavements, regardless of the spray from passing cars.

A big cheer went up as the hearse drove slowly past my vantage point. People clapped and hollered. Some, clutching bottles of wines or cans, raised a glass. Cars in the funeral cortege following the hearse hooted in reply. Through steamy windows I could see glasses waved in salute.

If there was a lack of the usual reverence normally seen at funerals it was exactly what David Baldwin, much-loved boss of the Omega Banqueting Suite, would have wanted.

Covid-19 had restricted the number of mourners to 10 at Hutcliffe Wood Crematorium. In normal times the chapel would have been packed like sardines. But these are not normal times.

So his widow Pauline and family had asked his friends and customers to line the route as the hearse set off from his family home in Dore and bring a bottle in lieu of a wake.

But what to wear at a roadside funeral? Half a dozen chefs, all of whom had been helped in their careers one way another by the man they called the Big ‘Un or Mr B, had no doubts. Despite the rain they took off their coats and stood in their whites. Some of the male mourners wore black ties.

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Mourners had been asked to bring a drink

We all cheered: former staff – Mr B inspired loyalty – customers and people from across the hospitality industry.

After the hearse passed we broke away, sheltering under the arch at Abbeydale Sports Club, which houses the successor to Baldwin’s Omega, the Omega at Abbeydale. People swapped stories, remembering his acts of generosity, always willing to give a word of advice or lend a helping hand.

Over at Hutcliffe the funeral service was beginning. “Thank you for the days, those endless days, those sacred days you gave me,” sang the Kinks. There were plenty of days – and nights – to remember at the Omega: works Christmas parties, salmon and strawberry evenings, Sixties and Seventies nights, society shindigs, limbo dancing at Caribbean Nights and midday lunches.

The music faded. Elder son David and daughter Polly gave their tributes. Son Ben read the words of My Way. Things were always done Mr B’s way at the Omega because it was the right way.

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Passing the Omega at Abbeydale

There was a psalm, The Lord is My Shepherd. Prayers. A Blessing. And then music from Les Miserables, Master of the House. The lyrics could have been written with David Baldwin in mind.

“Wecome, Monsieur, sit yourself down

And meet the best innkeeper in town . . .

Master of the house, doling out the charm

Ready with a handshake and an open palm

Tells a saucy tale, makes a little stir

Customers appreciate a bon-viveur . . .”

That’s exactly what he was, a bon-viveur. And he made sure his customers were that, too, while they were in his company. Although the lyrics forget the swearing . . .

“Everybody raise a glass to the Master of the House.”

RIP David Baldwin 1939-2010.

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Order of Service

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s goodbye to the Big ‘Un

 

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David Baldwin and wife Pauline

DAVID Baldwin, founder of Baldwin’s Omega banqueting rooms and the Grand Old Man of Sheffield’s hospitality industry, has died in his sleep at home in Dore. He was 80.

“He passed away peacefully at 3am, about the last kicking out time that would have been at the Omega,” said his son David Junior.

While he had retired through ill health after selling off the Omega on Psalter Lane two years ago, his passing marks the end of an era for the city’s restaurant trade. He put his stamp on it in more ways than one.

“He was most proud of the number of chefs he had trained who had gone on to bigger and better things,” added David. They include Ray Booker, now head chef at the Chester Grosvenor, chef turned fishmonger Christian Szurko, and Sam Lindsay, head chef at Owlerton.

Yet, at the same time, he inspired a terrific loyalty and many staff (as well as customers) stayed with him for years.

Among them were head chef Steve Roebuck, who worked for him for 30 years,  and operations manager Jamie Christian, for 25, who have continued his legacy at the Omega at Abbeydale Sports Club.

He was committed to high standards of food and service, was known for providing value for money, and half the city must at one time have attended an office party or a works dinner, or perhaps been to a salmon and strawberries evening, at the Omega.

Bluff, gruff and wickedly funny, with a personality the size of Yorkshire, he was a great raconteur. A former chairman of the Restaurants Association of Great Britain,  he actively promoted young talent through Young Chef and Young Waiters competitions, and had an unrivalled network of contacts throughout the industry, from Brian Turner to Rick Stein, using them to send his own brightest staff on placements.

He was known for very colourful language. Jamie Christian remembers calling his boss from the kitchen one Christmas after a woman diner found lead shot in her pheasant. He roared back: “What do you think it died of? A f*cking heart attack?”

Known affectionately as Mr B or The Big ‘Un, he and his wife Pauline took over the white-painted hacienda-style building in 1980, after it had been dark for two years.

With a catering background that included running the Angler’s Rest at Bamford and the Hillsborough Suite at Sheffield Wednesday, they acted on a hunch that Sheffield needed at top class banqueting venue. They were right and in its heyday the Omega was constantly busy but times change and they were hit by the decline in office parties as businesses tightened their belts.

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The Rib Room at Baldwin’s

It was offset to some degree by the popularity of lunches in the Rib Room for an elder clientele and people who wanted to give customers and friends a taste of Sheffield. When present and not on holiday abroad, he was a legend in many people’s lunchtimes.

David was born into the hospitality industry as a publican’s son. He was a former communist and a ship’s steward, no doubt accounting for his expletive-laden language. Customers often liked it gently directed at them.

Very much a family man, he had three children, David, in construction; Benny, a TV producer and presenter; and Polly, a photographer. He had four grandchildren.

Many spoke of his generosity. John Janiszewski, a former lecturer in hospitality at Sheffield College, said he had held a fund-raising dinner in aid of its restaurant equipment.

“On a personal note he was a mentor, almost a father figure and a hell of a laugh. We need to think about a proper memorial after Corvid-19.”

The Omega had a certain style, from its massive car park, big enough to house a squadron of tanks, through its entrance hallway with ‘flaming torches’ to the ballroom, scene of so many dinner-dances, with its sprung floor.

The menu might not have kept up with trendier places – roast beef sliced from the trolly by the chef at your table was a highlight – but it was always exceptionally well done. If you couldn’t manage that there was always the Yorkshire Pudding and gravy starter on the plat du jour menu.

Whatever the occasion, lunch or dinner dance, it was always enhanced by the appearance of Mr B himself.

David Baldwin was something of a rarity in the catering trade, equally at home in the kitchen as front of house, a born Maitre D. He will be very sadly missed.

The private funera is on Thursday at Hutcliffe Wood crematorium at 3pm. Friends and colleagues will line the streets as the cottage passes. Donations for the Alzheimer’s Society can be made online at http://www.johnheath.co.uk

TRIBUTES

Some comments from those who knew David

Jamie Bosworth, chef: “He was a true gentleman and very generous. He lent us plenty of catering equipment when we started Rafters (with his brother Wayne) and always provided an ear to listen. Jayne and I  got married at Baldwin’s and we had Wayne’s wake there.”

Cary Brown, chef: “He was the Godfather of so many chefs.”

John Mitchell, wine merchant: “It’s a sad day the Big Un leaving us. There was nobody like him.”

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Taken on the announcing of their retirement

 

Back to 1990 – how we ate then

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Reviews from 1990

WHENEVER, however restaurants finally re-open things will never be the quite the same again. But are they ever? Prices change, inevitably upwards. And so do menus and fashions.

But would we notice, I wonder, if we were blindfolded and whisked back in time to, say, 30 years ago in Sheffield and the surrounding area and given a menu?

Take it from me, we would.

With time on my hands I have been leafing back through my restaurant reviews for The Star in 1990, and it is surprising how interesting a year that was. The hospitality business is constantly changing but there was an awful lot happening in those 12 months.

It was the time when the city’s tastebuds were sharpening up and being alerted to new ideas and flavours, often by a bevy of young Made-in-Sheffield chefs. The city’s diners were beginning to realise there was more to life than fish and chips or a curry (although some never caught on).

Let’s start at the top.  Max and Susan Fischer had not long transferred their business from Bakewell to Baslow Hall, with some heartaches along the way,  and were proclaimed the Good Food Guide’s Derbyshire restaurant of the year.

Four months after they opened I tootled over to Baslow to sample the £25 a head TDH – squid ink salmon ravioli on a green herb sauce, venison with chocolate and raspberries, and Grand Marnier and orange mousse, and broke out in purple prose to comment: “Max’s food has a moody, demanding magnificence.”

The bill for two was £64.70, more than twice that at the week’s other review (I more often than not wrote two) at the Admiral Rodney pub.

Things were more light-hearted but no less skilled at Greenhead House, Chapeltown, the guide’s South Yorkshire restaurant of the year (and only entry). Neil Allen’s Anglo-French cooking crossed with English country house offered chicken stuffed with ham, salami and olives, based on a recipe from the Tarn, or fillets of beef with a truffle sauce. And there was the Beano annual and pocket bagatelle in the loo.

Making up the area’s top trio was Tessa Bramley’s Old Vicarage at Ridgeway, really Sheffield but technically just over the border in Derbyshire.

There was soon to be some serious competition.  At the Charnwood Hotel (now apartments), a new head chef had not long moved in to take charge of its two restaurants. “I have yet to sample the new Henfrey’s, now under the wing of style merchant Wayne Bosworth, but his food at the adjacent Brasserie Leo shows considerable panache,” I wrote.

In a faux-Parisienne setting you could eat baked marrow bones, salmon and crab terrine with a lobster sauce for £3.95, cod medallions steamed with ginger and, wait for it, pancake baked inside a soft meringue. There was to be much more to come from Wayne.

North of the city the Charnwood’s former head chef was opening at Hudson’s at The Rock, Crane Moor. For a shilling under £20 Cary Brown offered chargrilled smoked salmon or stuffed quail in puff pastry, then a soup or sorbet (those old country house hotel choices), best end of lamb with a kidney sauce, ending with an almond basket of  fruits with honey ice cream.

Then, as now, there was a financial squeeze and there were casualties. The excellent Arcadia, at Hillsborough, run by Rex Barker and Paul Betts, by far the best place ever in this suburb, closed, as did the equally upmarket Armstrongs in the city centre. Boss Roy Fellows blasted the city’s diners as “£8 bellyful merchants,” not without cause.

Yet Barnsley could sustain Armstrongs’ twin, of the same name, under the charge of Nick Pound, last seen running restaurants in London. And there was more gastronomic excellence when Max Fischer’s sous chef Michael Peano opened in town, to say nothing of Jim Gratton’s shrine to the Barnsley Chop at Brooklands. 

1990 Sheffield even had an oyster bar – briefly. Long before Loch Fyne  opened (and closed) a seafood restaurant in the city you could sample their wares at an oyster bar which opened at the Lyceum Theatre that year. Sadly, it didn’t catch on.

Sheffield’s hospitality scene always served up big portions and some didn’t stint on quirkiness, not least at Mr B B’s( now Otto’s)  on Sharrowvale Road, almost the city’s sole veggie restaurant, run by owner-cook Peter Wigley. He had revamped it from Singin’ Hinnies, the year before.

The £8 a head three course menu featured bulky veggie food but the most memorable part of the evening was when the waiter put his hand on my wife’s knee. Peter Willamett offered spiritual healing along with the chilli con coconut.

This was an era when hotel dining rooms held sway. The Hallam Tower Hotel might have had a reputation for posh food at big prices but £9.95 Sunday lunches were pretty standard fare. The main attraction was that for an extra quid diners could use the pool.

Its rival, The Grosvenor (now demolished) had Gary France as its head chef, who was to make more of a name for himself when he moved to the Harley Hotel with its sprung mini dance floor. While if you wanted to be seen spending money there was the Beauchief  Hotel with tournedos Rossini on the menu.

There were dinky bistros like Parkes and Four Lanes, Hillsborough, lovely little country places like the Millthorpe, in the village of that name, and the Lazy Landlord at Foolow. While Baldwin’s Omega on Psalter Lane was in its champagne and strawberries heyday.

For me, feeling my way as a reviewer, it was all exciting stuff. There would be more, much more, to come.

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And more!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s lockdown – but is it showdown for city’s chefs?

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Cooking along to Jamie Bosworth’s Facebook show

EVEN before the government turned the key on the nation’s restaurants Marco Giove had acted. Rather than take out tables to preserve social distancing he closed the fine dining business he has run for the last 20 years from a former police station in Archer Lane, Sheffield.

And he turned into a one-man-and-his-family ‘Deliveroo’ service, cooking up pizza, pasta and parmigiani for customers who were dining in rather than dining out.

“When Boris came on the television we shut almost immediately because I knew people were going to stop visiting  restaurants,” says Marco.

All across Sheffield restaurants are having to rethink their business models. Some, like the Summer House, on Abbeydale Road South, offered a takeaway service and were “overwhelmed by demand.” But they had to abandon it as the sheer logistics of working and finding staff became too difficult.

So did Michelin-listed Rafters, on Oakbrook Road. Tables were taken out and takeaways sold but the moment social distancing came in they knew it it was time to stop, says front-of-house Alistair Myers, co-owner with talented chef Tom Lawson.

The pair have kept their core team of 12 on furlough – the government money came within three weeks – and are using the time wisely, devising new menus and drinks (Alistair has one made from pineapple skins) and cultivating the restaurant allotment.

They realise keeping the talent in the restaurant is as important as keeping a loyal following in this high-end sector of the business. Alistair  thinks the accent is going to be even more on local produce when things return – but that will be the crunch time. “There will be casualties, more when we are eventually allowed to re-open when there is no government support. The ones which will survive will be those with a loyal following.”

Others, like the guide book listed No Name Bistro, abandoned fancy meals and offered bangers and mash (although with some style) to NHS and other key workers on the Coronavirus front line.

Others tried to keep a presence on social media so they would not be forgotten if and when their doors reopen. At the George Hotel, Hathersage, where new head chef Carl Riley had hardly time to warm up the ovens after arriving, cocktail recipes such as the racy Porn Star Martini have been posted online.

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A customer enjoys a meal at home from Marco@Milano

Over at Thyme in Broomhill, Sheffield, there are plans to put dishes from its 15 year old recipe book online.

But few can have made a bigger splash than Jamie Bosworth. No stranger to the cookery demo – he’s a regular fixture on BBC Radio Sheffield – he streamed a live show on Facebook which has had well over 7,000 views.

“I try and cook simple, easy dishes for three course meals using store cupboard ingredients with plugs for local producers,” says Jamie, who was joined for the second by vocalist daughter Katie for the second,  60 minute cook-a-long. “I could catch up at the stove while Katie sang.”

It was a family affair with wife Jayne holding the camera for a Floyd-esque show, with guest appearances from son, cat and dog.

Jamie has owned and run a clutch of top restaurants and is now a development chef who “keeps his hand in” with regular pop-up bistro evenings at the Rendezvous coffee shop, Totley.

“I had to cancel the last two because of Coronavirus so there’s going to be one hell of a night when we re-open.”

Meanwhile, back at Marco@Milano  Marco Giove, with a helper, is busy prepping orders for deliveries. His partner and her son help take the food to the right doorsteps. To emphasise the new informality customers are encouraged to send in photos of themselves enjoying a Marco meal.

But the current crisis has prompted him to take a different direction, one he has been contemplating for a while. “This restaurant will be one of the last to go back. I am going to change it completely, away from fine dining to something more relaxed with a deli and coffee shop for all the family,” he says.

There is no doubt the crisis has been a big jolt for the city’s restaurants. Some will fall by the wayside. The survivors may take other directions. But it has given restaurateurs and chefs the time to talk to each other and perhaps help each other out.

As the government keeps saying, we really are all  in this together – restaurants and customers alike.

*If you have a coronavirus story or views on the situation do get in touch.

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Tom Lawson ( left) and Alistair Myers in lighter mood

 

 

 

 

 

 

That Was The Year That Was!

AS I write the blog, now in its fifth year, has had almost 80,000 views in 2019, well more than double the previous year. The total (check the front page for the latest figure) is over 183,000 since Another Helping first appeared in 2015.

It’s gratifying that so many people like this mix of restaurant reviews, recipes, food history and current news, particularly when the abject failure of the local newspapers to cover the scene properly leaves so many people wanting more.

Is it poor reporting, laziness or being too timid to pick up the phone that leaves them simply rewriting what appears on hotel and restaurant websites?

So when Hassop Hall Hotel suddenly closed, to be bought as a private house, only this blog told the full story of who had bought it. You can join the 11,000 readers who read it here

It was the same story with the closure of another hotel, The Maynard closed at Grindleford. Local papers hardly touched it but you can read about it here and here, at Peter and Rob save the day for Maynard

There were plenty of other scoops, such as the latest exploits of chef Cary Brown, revamping the Hathersage Social Club with businessman Ian Earnshaw.

There was much else. Other top reads (as in previous years) were Derbyshire oatcakes and Sheffield  Fishcake

The biggest volume of traffic, though, had nothing to do with food but everything to do with abject reporting. The big story of the year was how a local pensioner, Tony Foulds, had spent a lifetime tending a memorial to crashed WW2 American airmen in Endcliffe Park.

But did he? And why did nobody see him? And why did his eye witness account contradict the official record of the time? But all it takes is a credulous BBC presenter and local papers such as the Sheffield Star and Yorkshire Post to keep silent on what they knew to be a fantasy to become fake news.

If the BBC and other couldn’t tell the truth this blog had to here and  here

Thanks to this blog, some 22,000 readers know the real story.

So what will 2020 bring? Who knows? But Another Helping will bring it to you first.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter and Rob save the day for Maynard

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Rob Hattersley on the lawn at The Maynard

THE Maynard at Grindleford, which closed suddenly in October work forcing 50 couples to find a new wedding venue and putting 18 people out of work, is to reopen in January.

Award-winning new boss Rob Hattersley says it will continue in the weddings business and has made this offer to those left in the lurch. “I want people to feel they have a second chance of getting married here.

“I have already had one couple contact me. Within reason I will match the quote (people got from the old Maynard).”

He says the same goes for old staff who can reapply for jobs.

Mr Hattersley, aged 35, the son of Bakewell wine merchant John Hattersley, former proprietor of the town’s celebrated Aitch’s wine bar, has taken on the lease of the ten bedroomed hotel. He has set up a private limited company, Longbow Bars and Restaurants Ltd, to run the business from January 1.

He declined to name the new owner, saying he was “a very private individual.”

However I can reveal he is  businessman and roofing tycoon Peter Hunt of Ashford Hall, Ashford-in-the-Water.

Mr Hunt owns roofing and cladding business Coverworld, based in Chesterfield, as well as a number of other businesses and properties. He keeps a low profile but hit the headlines in 1997 when he bought Thornbridge Hall from Sheffield City Council, which had used it as an educational establishment.

He was not anxious to talk to journalists about his purchase then but I did manage to have a quick word with him when he attended the contents auction, at which he bought a number of books.

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Thornbridge Hall – one of Peter Hunt’s earlier homes

He sold it on five years later to  Jim Harrison, who was to found the renowned Thornbridge Brewery there, and his wife Emma, then boss of welfare-to-work A4e.

Mr Hunt did not reply to a request to comment on The Maynard.

Rob Hattersley, who was educated at Lady Manners School and took a BSc in hospitality management at Manchester Metropolitan University, comes to The Maynard (he is keeping the name but getting the hotel rebranded) with a career-long background in hospitality.

He has worked for the Revere pub group, the posh end of Marstons Brewery, and was until recently general manager of its flagship Farmhouse at Mackworth, Derbyshire, itself a weddings venue.

He announced on Instagram and Facebook that “I have big ideas to restore the life back into this iconic building with plans for the bedrooms, bar, restaurant and events.”

He told me: “I want to bring it into the modern age, doing things in a more acceptable way, making the food and drink more accessible. Everything I have ever done has all been premium.”

While he has moved away from the area (he worked for a time on cruise liners) The Maynard has always been in his heart. “We have had three family weddings there over the years. ” Although not his own. Rob is single.

He recently picked up general manager of the year in Revere’s annual awards.

Locals will be relieved The Maynard will continue as a hotel. There had been fears it would become luxury apartments, similar to others Mr Hunt owns, including the £300 a night Goldcrest at Stanton in Peak.

Not everything he does has met with local approval. He was in in a planning dispute over converting Bleaklow Farm, near Great Longstone,  into luxury accommodation. The farm was demolished but the new building was bigger than allowed by planning permission. Locals in the nearby hamlet of Rowland have protested about a 14 bedroomed “large country house complex.”

The Maynard is to undergo considerable refurbishment, something Peter Hunt will be experiencing at home. With a liking for big, historic buildings he moved on after Thornbridge to Grade I Jacobean manor house Holme Hall, Bakewell (a  location for the BBC’s 2006 version of Jane Eyre), before buying Ashford from banker and former High Sheriff of Derbyshire Jasper Olivier in 2009.

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Ashford Hall which Peter Hunt is having renovated

Grade II listed Ashford Hall, which stands in nearly 200 acres of prime farm land, is to be extensively renovated, subject to planning permission.  Work is expected to take two years.

The Maynard will be reopen considerably sooner, probably by the end of January.

 

 

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Peter Hunt’s Coverworld HQ in Chesterfield

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good Cod! Bruce worries Brexit will hit the price of fish and chips

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Bruce Payne – free fish taste test

ACE chippie Bruce Payne will be offering customers on Sheffield’s Moor Market free fish if they agree to take part in a blind taste test of mystery fish.

He’s worried the price of the city’s favourite fish, cod, will hit the deep fat fryers after Brexit.

“I need a back-up plan if the price soars. It’s got to be white, it’s got to be flakey and it’s got to be bland,” he says.

Bruce, who runs the Market Chippy, doesn’t know what fish he will be using until the day before the taste test, from 10am on Saturday, October 26. It will depend on what is available – and sustainable.

While the price of haddock has more or less remained stable  that of cod has steadily risen. Normally it  drops after Christmas but this year they didn’t.

“Sixty pounds of frozen-at-sea Icelandic cod cost me £210 currently. At the moment it’s caught by the Spanish. It has been Russian or Chinese. As we don’t have much of a fishing industry left we will be buying another country’s fish and if they land here there will be a tariff,” he adds.

There is already to be a seasonal 20p price rise on his regular prices (fish and chips is currently £4.60) and Bruce needs a Plan B if prices hit the psychological £5 mark.

“I don’t want to be caught flat footed. Suppliers can be ruthless. They will use Brexit as an excuse anyway,” he adds.

Bruce will not stop selling cod (or haddock and plaice) but among cod substitutes are coley, hake, catfish, gurnard, pollock, New Zealand hoki and tilapia (which some chippies are rumoured to be already using). However not all fit his criteria.

When he ran a stall on Sheffield’s old Castle Market he tried using Scarborough woof (also known as catfish or wolf fish) which has a white firm flesh but customers rejected it. Traditional as always, they wanted cod. Perhaps it is time for Bruce to give woof another go.

The taste test is free. All people have to do is rate what they eat. “Even if it costs me £50 in fish I am going to have a better idea than if just cooking a couple of pieces. I have three fryers so it can b e A, B and C. It’s like fishing, the wider you cast your net, the better the result!”

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Fischers loses its Michelin star

 

 

 

 

FISCHERS of Baslow Hall has lost its Michelin Star after 25 consecutive years. It’s the second time this decade that a North Derbyshire restaurant has tumbled from the guide.

Four years ago, in 2015, Tessa Bramley’s Old Vicarage at Ridgeway lost hers, an award held continuously since 1998.

Some may point to the departure of Baslow’s head chef Rupert Rowley earlier this year following changes at the country house, owned by Max (above right) and Susan Fischer, after almost 17 years at the helm but the Guide is as taciturn about its reasons for exclusion as it is about inclusion.

There was a bit of a fanfare locally about Fischers’ quarter century of glory so it is all the more bitter the star was lost this year.

I can claim to be the person who first told Max he had earned a star, quite out of the blue. One autumn day in 1994 I was at my desk at the Sheffield Star when I opened a Press release from Michelin to read of the award. These were the days, long gone, when the Guide never bothered to tell the recipients in advance.

Naturally I rang Max for a quote and to my surprise found he didn’t know. To my further surprise he also said, during the conversation, that “I suppose we shall get all those people coming wanting steak and strawberries,” referring  to some (but not all) types of Guide groupies and box tickers.

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How Michelin announced the losses of stars

I gently managed to persuade him to let me do a big interview later, pointing out that Baslow Hall was not your steak and strawberries kind of place. I haven’t got that interview to hand but recall asking him his favourite dish. It was something his mother used to make.

A few years later Max rang me with an idea. He was looking to groom a future replacement, ideally a local lad, who eventually would take a share in the business, enabling him to take a back seat. Could I put something in? Max had been long in the business, previously in Bakewell, some readers will remember.

One person who read that article was the father of Rupert Rowley (pictured below), who was then cooking away. He had a cv to die for, having worked for Raymond Blanc, John Burton Race and Gordon Ramsay. He sent the cutting to his son.

The upshot was that Rupert joined as sous in 2002 and was made head chef the following year.

Much later the couple and Rupert bought a pub in the village and turned it into a restaurant, Rowleys. Rupert, now studying international hospitality management and working as a development chef, no longer has a stake in it. Nor is his name still on the pub sign; it has reverted to the previous name, the Prince of Wales.

The Old Vicarage was to join the Michelin stellar elite four years later, giving us two in the area. Ironically, now Baslow loses its star four years later.

Sadly, when I put down my fork and spoon eating for The Star some five years or so ago I also handed in my expense account, so have not eaten at either place recently so cannot comment on the merits of the Guide’s decision.

But there are fewer people who go around with a copy of Michelin than there are, say, the Good Food Guide or Hardens. let along the AA Guide and I fancy holding a star has more publicity value than anything.

Still, it is the ultimate accolade yet fatal to take it too seriously like French chef Bernard Loiseau who thought, wrongly, that he had lost one of his three stars at Le Cote d’Or in Burgundy. He shot himself. And yes I have eaten there, too, but that is another story . . .

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Ian and Cary get social in Hathersage

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Cary (left) and Ian at their new venture

WHEN LOCAL businessman Ian Earnshaw feels peckish in London he can always pop into the Ritz Hotel for one of his favourite dishes, braised oxtail cottage pie.

Now very soon he’ll be able to do the same much nearer home in the Hope Valley. He’s bought a restaurant, the popular Hathersage Social Club.

He’s teamed up with his old pal, top chef Cary Brown, to take over and run the quirky little eaterie, a favourite with locals and tourists alike,  in the middle of the village. It was put on the market earlier in the year by owners Simon Couth and Lucy Wurstlin who created it out of a garden centre in 2013. They are taking on a new venture in Whitby.

“We have known each other for 20 years and mused about doing something together over the last ten,” says Ian, aged 55, who runs a highly successful fabrications business making staircases, balustrades and architectural metalwork, including the biggest single-span staircase in the UK. He lives near Cutthorpe.

Cary, who is 53, has made his name with a succession of restaurants including Carriages and Slammers in Sheffield, the Devonshire Arms at Middle Handley, the Royal Oak at Millthorpe and until recently  at Barlow Woodseats Hall.

Ironically, neither had set foot in the place, best described as esoteric, until Ian decided to buy it and rang Cary up to see if he’d come on board. Both, though, had heard good things about it.

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The Hathersage Social Club will get a new look

They are calling the venue Earnshaw & Brown @ Hathersage Social Club. Earnshaw & Brown sounds like a gentleman’s outfitters in Pontefract. “Or a soap maker,” laughs Ian over coffee at the nearby George Hotel. Both men are full of enthusiasm for the new venture which should open towards the end of October.

They are anxious to reassure customers that not everything they love about the place will be swept away. So while the old LP covers-as-menus may go in place of new ones featuring a cartoon of the pair of them, the famous waffles will stay.

“We don’t want to lose the fun part that has made Hathersage Social,” stresses Cary, adding that much of what they will be doing the previous owners might have intended if they had stayed.

For Ian, who says his passion is food and wine and cooking at home is his way of relaxing from a highly stressful job, it will be the chance to put into practice what he has learned from his years of eating out at all levels. He very much knows what he likes and can see things with a customer’s eye.

“Ian’s probably eaten at more Michelin-starred restaurants than you and me put together,” says Cary. Ian teases that he can beat his chef in The Battle of the Mashed Potato and can make a better salad. He keeps photos of some perfectly poached egg and impressive roast beef Chez Earnshaw on his smartphone.

Both men had decided on a ‘shop local’ policy for their restaurant but Cary was stunned when Ian came up with a deal for all the meat to be supplied by the Chatsworth Estate.

Earnshaw & Brown will be open for more of the week than previously, initially from Wednesday through to Sunday this year then throughout the week by next summer, offering, variously, breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, depending on the day.

That oxtail cottage pie will be on the menu, of course, as well as Cary’s signature crispy fried monkfish with chilli jam, plus classics such as calves liver, chicken Kiev, fish pie, lobster thermidor, Chatsworth Chateaubriand and steaks.

So traditional then? “You will read the menu but it’s not going to come out like you think,” winks Cary, no slouch at porcelain pyrotechnics. And there will be plates, not slates or boards. And no slicks or foams.

Admirers of Cary’s Sunday lunches previous at Millthorpe and Barlow Woodseats will be delighted to know they will continue at Hathersage.

The venue will also be aimed at families. “I’m astounded how even good quality places don’t give good quality food to kids,” says Ian, a father of four. “Our children’s menu, called ‘For The Next Generation of Foodies,’ will have the same ingredients as the adult menu.”

He calls himself “a details man.” And considering that it is very often the woman who decides where a couple will dine, one important detail will be to install separate toilets to replace the unisex loo at Hathersage Social. Cary will have a bigger, better kitchen, dining space will be converted out of the old cinema room upstairs and more covers will be provided outside in a series of phased redevelopments.

In the past Cary has had business partners who have left the lot to him but this time Ian will be pretty active in the restaurant, concentrating on keeping the cogs oiled, leaving his chef plenty of time to concentrate on the cooking.

Both seem to be relishing the project. Ian, not content with striking a good deal with Chatsworth, is still busy sourcing locally. Sourdough and duck eggs were mentioned. Cary, who has never needed much to light his blue touchpaper, says: “He is bringing the buzz out in me this time.”

*Due to open Friday, 18 October.

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Cartoon of the pair to appear on the menu, by Dave Howarth of Howarth McSwain Ltd

 

Breast is best with lamb

WHEN I was younger I was skint but had a girlfriend whose stepfather was a butcher. So I got a tip or two about meat.

The one I remember best was to buy a breast of lamb and roast it. It might be fatty and a little greasy but you got a mouthful of crispy skin and sweet meat for just pennies. (Another was to buy bacon bits and misshapes ‘for a quiche’ which always got diverted to Sunday breakfast.)

Years flew by and I was better off and forgot about breast of lamb. As it fell out of fashion it also fell out of the shops, as did another inexpensive morsel, sweetbreads. I seldom saw it on menus except once some years ago at the Wig & Pen in Campo Lane.

I had to ring to make sure it was on that night. As I recall it cost a fortune for something so cheap. Fellow blogger Craig Harris tells me it used to appear on dishes such as ‘lamb three ways’ although that must have passed me by.

I was at Thicketts the butchers on Sharrowvale Road recently and for some reason asked if they sold it. They did but I would have to order it. “Only pensioners ask for it these days and people buy it for their dogs. Younger people don’t know what to do with it,” I was told.

Now that’s a shame because this is the equivalent of pork belly and we all know the good things you can do with that.

The lamb breast, just £3, was ready the following Saturday and I had it neatly boned. I kept them. They went in the freezer along with others for a stock.

I had forgotten how I cooked it so l looked for recipes. There are lots of fancy ways. Ramsay braises his then cuts the meat into noisettes and crisps them off.

I didn’t want things to get too complicated so, after halving it and putting the remainder in the freezer, simply seasoned, made a stuffing of garlic, rosemary and anchovy fillets (I wouldn’t have done that back then), tied it in a piece, browned it off and roasted it at 150C under aluminium foil for two hours till tende. Then I  whacked up the heat to 200C to crisp.

It cut into three roundels and tasted fine. It wasn’t that greasy as the fat had poured off- and the skin was crispy-sweet. The anchovy added a little piquancy. I served it with pommes dauphinoise and purple sprouting broccoli.

My wife didn’t like the sound of it so had a lamb steak.

I might try a classic French recipe with the other half when I am using the oven for another dish. The breast is roasted flat, again slow and low, or braised,  for 2-3 hours until tender, drained, cooled overnight in the fridge, then cut into strips, floured, egged and breadcrumbed, then fried. Sort of lamb, not fish, fingers.