Celebrating 50 years of the 3 Acres Inn near Huddersfield
PUBLISHED: 00:00 09 November 2018
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of a West Yorkshire restaurant that's a firm favourite with foodies
Derrick Truelove knew a tasty bet when he saw one. So, when the Bradford bookie spontaneously bought a pub in a handshake deal over the bar, his family were confident the odds were in their favour. ‘I was at school in Scotland,’ said his son, Neil. ‘The first I knew about it was when I received a letter saying he’d bought The Three Acres. Frankly, I thought it was great. You suddenly discover you’ve got lots of friends when your dad buys a pub.’
That was in November 1968 and, 50 years later, the Truelove family is still in charge at the multi-award-winning West Yorkshire pub, serving ‘honest food with integrity’ in the shadow of Emley Moor mast.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. ‘Dad had sold his business to Ladbrokes and was looking for a new opportunity, but he had absolutely no experience in the pub trade,’ said Neil. ‘He liked this place because he saw the potential – and it had room for our horses.’
If only it had had room for his family too. ‘My parents and sisters lived above the pub, but I had to stay in a caravan out the back. Cold is not the word.’
Just weeks after Derrick bought the pub, Emley Moor mast collapsed due to an accumulation of ice on its support wires. The drinkers were disturbed by an almighty roar as it hit the ground. Apparently, some even momentarily put their pints down.
‘Things happen,’ said Brian Orme, who joined as head chef in 1971 and became a partner in the business in 1982. ‘Over 50 years, you have ups and downs and you adapt to survive. We were once at the heart of a strong mining community – you couldn’t get near the bar on a Friday and Saturday night. But then Mr Scargill had his little showdown with Mrs Thatcher and the mining community was ripped apart. That rocked the business, but we found our way through it.’
While The Three Acres is definitely a family business, that doesn’t just refer to the Truelove clan. Brian’s mum, Lillian, joined the team shortly after him as administrator and book-keeper, and pretty much every branch and twig in the dual family trees has done a stint over the years.
‘All our kids have worked here and, when we say family, we include our staff in that too,’ said Brian. ‘We look after our people and, as result, they stay with us (25 years’ service is not unusual).’
Neil’s son Tom joined the team in 2008 after an early career in the wine trade, becoming a partner in 2012 and officially taking over the helm in January this year. ‘I always had a hand in,’ said Tom. ‘When it’s a family business everyone mucks in. I loved being behind the scenes in the kitchen and will always enjoy cooking, but you can only keep your head down over the stove for so long. After a while, you have to take a wider view.’
Tom Davies, who joined the kitchen brigade in 2013, is now head chef, giving Tom (Truelove) more time to develop new areas of the business.
While Brian has retired and Neil has handed over the reins to his son, they are not what you might call silent partners. Both are obviously still passionate about the pub and excited for what the future holds.‘I still come in most mornings and Brian is in one day a week,’ said Neil. ‘The last 10 years have been a great three-way partnership – a very natural progression – but now feels like the right time for us to really slow down and pull back.’
Progress at The Three Acres is certainly not following suit, with not one but two major projects in the pipeline. First, in January, a modern, efficient, single space kitchen is being installed in what is currently a mismatched rabbit warren of built on and eked out areas.
Then, Tom and his team will be setting their sights on creating a purpose-built wedding, celebration and corporate venue backing on to the car park with immense views across the Pennines.
It feels like the start of a new era, but there are some things that will remain constant and true to the Truelove ethos. ‘The bar will always be the bar,’ said Tom. ‘It’s been the same since my grandfather bought the place and it will never change.’
And as for the food – well, why mess with a winning formula? ‘We are always working on the menu, of course, but our basic ethos has always been, and will always remain, the same,’ said Tom. ‘We are all about honest food – great pies and rich stews. Over the years, Brian has taught us all to make the richest, most delicious sauces and great gravy. We cook with honesty and integrity. And we develop the business in the same way.’
The Three Acres team don’t chase stars, rosettes and awards, but they still get more than their fair share of accolades. In the 1990s, eminent food critic Egon Ronay crowned the inn his Pub of the Year and Sandwich Pub of the Year. As the millennium dawned, it was named Best Dining Pub in Britain and Best Fine Dining Pub by the Good Pub Guide, as well as Restaurant of the Year by the Yorkshire Evening Post. And, in 2003, it scooped Dining Pub of the Year in the Yorkshire Life Food & Drink Awards – a title it won again in 2015.
Its food and bonhomie have won it a loyal, extended family of customers and a reputation that stretches far beyond the county’s borders. ‘It’s a place you can dress up for on a Saturday evening or come in casual for a pie and a pint,’ said Tom. ‘We never want anyone to feel awkward or out of place.’
Even celebrities are made to feel right at home, with a wall of signed menus from the likes of David Cameron, Chris Evans, Simon Cowell and Sharon Osbourne (yes, she added a few expletives) paying homage to the restaurant.
It’s fair to say that The Three Acres has had an incredibly successful first 50 years, but what of the next half century?
‘I try not to look too far forward,’ said Tom, ‘and I don’t really think about legacy or the generations to come. I’ve got this lunchtime’s service to sort out first.’