It’s hello to John and goodbye to Eric

Changes at two Hathersage venues. MARTIN DAWES reports

John Parsons: back in Hathersage

JOHN PARSONS has taken over as head chef of Hathersage Social restaurant, replacing Cary Brown who has left to pursue a new venture in Sheffield.

Cary enigmatically announced on Facebook that the business, previously known as Earnshaw & Brown at Hathersage Social, was now simply Earnshaw.

For John, who had been cooking at the quirky staff canteen at Breedon Cement Works, it was a chance to return to his home village, where he has worked at different venues over the years.

Breedon was perhaps the only canteen which served tomatoes on toast with za’atar spices, Japanese noodles and other world foods and was also open to all-comers.

It had been a nice little number, acting as a base for outside catering, until Covid restrictions barred the canteen to its own workers. John survived by cooking takeaways for the surrounding villages.

“It’s been two and a half years since I have been in a serious kitchen and did I feel it!” he said on his first day back. His first menu has John Parsons written all over it from the beef cheek Marmite and sauce gribiche to the much-copied Three Little Pigs ‘with pig sauce.’

Owner Earnshaw diplomatically declines to discuss past events althoiugh he did say he had sold his Aston Martin to tide restaurant and staff over during Lockdown in the absence of furlough funding. Instead he enthuses about the menu including “a spectacular Paris Brest.”

Lisa Everest, known to many from years front of house at Yankees on Ecclesall Road, Sheffield, will manage the restaurant.

Eric Marsh: bishop blessed his hotel

ERIC MARSH has sold the three star George Hotel which he took over a quarter of a century ago as “a rundown pub with rooms and a toilet with a condom machine” and turned into a plush three star hotel.

It is now being run as a companion hotel to The Maynard at Grindleford, owned by care home millionaire Peter Hunt, and Maynard general manager Rob Hattersley has taken over the lease.

Eric. who jokingly referred to the George as his pension fund, for many years also ran the Cavendish Hotel at Baslow on behalf of the Chatsworth Estate. Observers referred to the George as Cavendish-lite; he himself called it as “like the Cavendish but without the view.”

One of the old school, he encouraged loyalty in both staff and customers. He could work a dining room with consumate ease, leaving guests feeling they had known him for years, not minutes.

Very much hands on, it was his voice you heard on the recorded announcement if you rang while reception was engaged.

Outside the hospitality business he built and flew his own aeroplane.

At both the Cavendish and George, he had a gift for public relations and PR spin. A few years ago, to drum up business, he threw a party to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the latter. That would date it from 1515 but the earliest records are from the 1700s.

Nothing daunted, he offered an overnight stay to anyone who could come up with documentary evidence to back his claim. As far as is known the prize was untaken. But he did get the George blessed by a bishop.

Rob paid tribute to Eric as “an inspiration for Derbyshire hospitality for many years.”

Ian and Cary get social in Hathersage


Cary (left) and Ian at their new venture

UPDATE: Cary Brown has now left the restaurant and is opening another in Sheffield. New man at the helm is John Parsons. This post is being left in place as a matter of record.

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.


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.


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

Champagne with George – and a blessing from the Bishop

Eric and Elizabeth Marsh cut the 520th anniversary cake

Eric and Elizabeth Marsh cut the 520th anniversary cake

To Hathersage to celebrate the 520th anniversary of Eric and Elizabeth – and George. There’s champagne, free scoff and, entirely unexpectedly, a blessing from a bishop thrown in. Perhaps I’d better explain.

Eric is Eric Marsh and Elizabeth is his wife. You may know Eric from the Cavendish Hotel, Baslow, which he still runs for the Chatsworth estate, or the George Hotel, which he owns, in Hathersage. If you have a bob or two you probably know him from both.

It is 20 years, sort of, if you count the sales negotiation time, since Eric bought what he describes as a “rundown pub with rooms and a toilet with a condom machine” and turned it into a plush three star hotel. A fourth star is being negotiated. The George is “ like the Cavendish but without the view,” is his sales pitch for the hotel he refers to as his pension fund.

Now here comes the PR spin. If this was the 500th anniversary of the George it would have been built in 1515 and the furthest Eric can go back with the deeds is the 1700s. A couple of centuries have gone missing but Eric feels in his heart they are there.

So here’s the challenge he gave the 80 guests who had been consuming the Yorkshire fishcakes, smoked salmon sushi and tomato shots provided by head chef Helen Prince and her team and champagne courtesy of John Hattersley Wines of Bakewell: to bring him documentary evidence of the existence of a building on the site from the 1500s.

He’s offering a reward of either an overnight stay with breakfast in one of the 24 bedrooms or a case of champagne. “But not both,” he says hurriedly.

Eric, so far as I can tell the only hotelier in Britain who also flies and builds his own aeroplanes, has been in the hospitality business for 50 years. In the nicest possible sense, he’s a throwback to the days when the personality of the manager was as important as the hotel he ran, and not a faceless cipher behind a corporate name badge.

He encourages loyalty from his customers. As far as he can he greets each guest personally. I’ve seen him work a dining room greeting perfect strangers as old friends. And that old fashioned courtesy seems to work with the staff. Many of the 24 employees at the George have been with him, either at Hathersage or in Baslow, for years.

Another reason for the gathering was to ask some of his best customers to recommend the George to their friends in a new loyalty rewards scheme still having the i’s dotted and t’s crossed. But you can be sure it will live up to his mantra: “Success is proportionate to the effort involved.”

The George, as befits a venerable building, is full of steps and stairs and long corridors. We tour the rooms with Anne-Marie Milne, the head housekeeper, and admire the £200 a night honeymoon suite with four poster, a standard room and one of the £90 a night budget rooms. Rates will alter shortly to charge for room only with breakfast as an optional extra.

Eric Marsh is not unused to showmanship but even he is taken by surprise when one of his guests, a retired bishop, asks to bless the hotel and all who work and stay in it. So we pause, heads bowed, for what Eric admits is a first for him.

We leave with goodie bags containing a recipe for muesli and a jar of head chef Helen’s marmalade and a quest: to discover George’s missing centuries and rustle up some more guests for Eric.

PS: The George does a good Sunday lunch. Here’s my review from the Sheffield Star last year:


Head housekeeper Anne-Marie Milne and Eric welcome guests into the kitchen

Head housekeeper Anne-Marie Milne and Eric welcome guests into the kitchen

The George Hotel at Hathersage

The George Hotel at Hathersage