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

img_20191116_221923-277454620.jpg

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.

thornbridge-hall-1

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.

Ashford Hall 3356032_85305fbd (2)

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.

 

 

Coverworld-1

Peter Hunt’s Coverworld HQ in Chesterfield

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tears as hotel ‘jilts’ 50 wedding couples

the-maynard-hotel-and[1]

The Maynard in Grindleford is to close

FIFTY couples who thought they going to marry at The Maynard in Grindleford will  be looking for a new venue after the shock news the hotel is to close by the end of October.

The Downing family, who have been losing money on the hotel they bought 16 years ago, have accepted an offer from buyers who insist on remaining anonymous.

It’s a big blow to brides wanting large wedding venues in North Derbyshire, coming as it does after the closure of another, Hassop Hall. That has been bought by local care home businessman John Hill and his wife Alex.

Contrary to rumour, this is being converted to their private house and not as a nursing home.

Within hours of the announcement going up on The Maynard’s website the rival East Lodge Hotel at Rowsley tweeted it was standing by.

The tweet said: “We are a similar sized venue to The Maynard, also set in the beautiful rolling hills of the Derbyshire Dales. We still have a few slots for weekend weddings in 2019 and can pull out all the stops to make your wedding happen.”

Paul Downing, aged 50, said his family would be ending their involvement in the hospitality business after more than 60 years. The hotel had been on the market for the last two years.

It is understood the initial asking price was £2.4 million but local gossip has it being sold for considerably less.

Their company previously held catering franchises at Sheffield’s Cutlers’ Hall and Whirlowdale Hall, among others.

Paul, who said the closure meant 18 staff losing their jobs, added he genuinely did not know what the new owner planned but hoped that it could eventually continue as a hotel. It has not been refurbished for 13 years. “I hope it will reopen in the not too distant future.”

(Locals are speculating on what it might become, possibly private apartments as it is way too close  to the main road as a private family residence.)

The Maynard has a capacity for almost 140 wedding guests but “weddings are not that big any more and people are not spending the money,” he added. And the number of  guests has halved to around 50.

Half a dozen couples who had planned a Maynard wedding will be immediately affected in the next two months, 50 in total in the next two years.

Paul said weddings, on which many hotels rely to survive, had declined enormously. “There has been a 50pc decline in the couple of years. It is not a case of if another one (hotel) goes, it is when.”

As a restaurant critic I always rated the view from the hotel’s dining room as one of the best ‘chews with a view’ in the locality. It was noted for a mural which showed the view as it would look towards Hathersage if the trees weren’t in the way! That was painted over a couple of years ago.

The Maynard, a hotel for about a century besides the old turnpike road, now the B2651, was previously known as the Maynard Arms. It changed its name in 2007 in a burst of modernisation.

*The Maynard will cease trading a midday on Monday, October 28. The bar and restaurant will be open on a limited basis until then.

Still a chew with a view

Prawn cocktail at The Maynard

Prawn cocktail on a slate

I can remember when The Maynard finally laid down its Arms after almost a century in 2007. For all that time it had been quite content to be the Maynard Arms, Grindleford, a hotel and pub alongside the old turnpike which is now the B2651.

Then owner Paul Downing dropped the ‘Arms,’ refurbished the building as well as the name and turned it into a boutique hotel and wedding venue known simply as The Maynard (with the definite article, if you don’t mind).

Some things don’t change, I think, nibbling on a bread roll as I gaze through the dining room’s open French doors over the fields towards Grindleford village. The Maynard, arms or no, was a regular on the ‘Chews with a View’ list I regularly trotted out when restaurant reviewing for the Sheffield Star.

Turn your head and there’s another view. The back wall of the restaurant is still dominated by a painting of the vista over to Hathersage. In this case art is actually superior to real life for the artist has removed the trees blocking your line of sight.

It is decades since I first came to the old Maynard Arms for Sunday lunch and was so thrilled by the rosy hue of the tender beef that I identified myself to the manager to congratulate the kitchen. He couldn’t believe his luck and whisked me away, gave me a drink and drilled me full of PR stuff, to be on the safe side.

When the glowing review appeared the hotel phone rang hot with bookings but perhaps the staff were not so prepared. I had reports that gravy was spilled, service was slow and, from people who liked their meat grey and had not properly read the report, that the beef was undercooked. “They had to finish  it at my table,” spluttered one man, unconvinced by my saying that they had given him special treatment by cooking it on in a flambe pan.

The Maynard's pork

Rather a lot of gravy with my pork!

Once again we are here for Sunday lunch and I have high hopes for The Maynard has two AA rosettes. It is a family day and most people are casually dressed. My wife whispers: “Don’t look now but there’s a man eating his lunch in his flat cap.” I turn, discreetly, and, under that painting of Hathersage, so he is.

A little later he walks by to the lawn with a small child. “He’s wearing Wellington boots,” I splutter. “Are they green?” “Yes.” “That’s all right then.”

Before lunch there was no room in the lounge so we had been asked to sit in the bar for a while. The Maynard is ‘dog friendly’ and for £10 a night your hound can stay with you. There were at least four in the bar and a great deal of yapping (some under the tables while their owners ate).

Prawn cocktail here comes not in a glass (that would be too obvious) but on a slate. It lacks eye appeal. My teriyaki salmon fishcake is a bit on the small side but otherwise OK. And that’s how our lunch goes: just OK.

For some reason I do not have the beef but plump for pork. It is a little underflavoured and the roast potatoes hard and leathery, as if they’d been around the oven too long. It is swimming in gravy but not in a good way: the gravy lacks meatiness. My wife’s roast chicken is better and so is her gravy. “It’ll be the same,” she says, but it isn’t. For a start it is seasoned. And her potato cake has flavour.

Two courses cost £20, three are £25 but we can’t summon up the enthusiasm to go on so call it a day after coffee. Service is pleasant, far outshining the kitchen on our visit. It is still, though, a chew with a view.

Main Road, Grindleford, S32 2HE. Tel: 01433 630 321.Web: www.themaynard.co.uk

Over the hedge and far away - the view from The Maynard

The view from The Maynard’s restaurant