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.
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.