Yorkshire's Independent Restaurant Guide

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.