A mini guide to eating out in Harrogate
PUBLISHED: 00:00 09 April 2014 | UPDATED: 12:10 24 October 2015
Are high-profile restaurant openings set to take Harrogate to another culinary level? Tony Greenway reports
It’s all happening in Harrogate for food-lovers. This is a town that’s had a thriving food scene for years, with a mix of first-class coffee shops and cafes, bars, upscale restaurants and decent takeaways. It does both posh nosh and budget grub brilliantly.
It has Filmore & Union, Weetons food hall and the Fodder shop, deli and cafe and some great pubs (the Drum and Monkey, for instance). It has dazzling Thai, Indian and Chinese restaurants and the Harrogate institution that is Graveley’s Fish and Chips. And that’s just scratching the surface.
Harrogate’s dining offer is being cranked up several notches this year. The BBC Good Food Show comes to the Harrogate International Centre from April 25th-27th for the very first time, with celebrity chefs including James Martin, Mary Berry, John Torode and the Hairy Bikers in tow.
Yes, that’s for just three days, and then it will be off. Big deal, you might say. Yet high-profile permanent additions to the food scene are also on the way, and some of them will be opening — how about this for good timing — just before the Tour de France rolls into town in July.
At the time of writing, Jamie’s Italian was still to open in Parliament Street as the anchor tenant of a new scheme (the other tenants have yet to be named). The West Park Hotel has received a facelift from owners Provenance Inns; Beales department store on Albert Street is closing and could be replaced with a cinema and restaurant ‘supercentre’ and Carluccio’s — the swish Italian restaurant chain fronted by gregarious chef Antonio Carluccio — opens on March 28th, after winning its appeal against initial planning refusal.
For Sandra Doherty, president of Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce, big names arriving in Harrogate makes perfect sense.
‘Harrogate sits at one of the points of the Golden Triangle,’ she says, ‘so we have a big catchment area with a lot of visitors from Leeds, York and the Yorkshire Dales. People come to Harrogate for the evening experience. It’s a different town in the day — a lovely place to shop — but, at night, the bar and restaurant culture is vibrant. And unlike Leeds, everywhere is very walkable. In Harrogate you’re only 15 minutes walk away from everywhere else.’
True. But why are they coming to Harrogate now? Are they being lured by the Tour de France?
‘I think there are several factors,’ says Peter McCormick, chairman of Visit Harrogate. ‘A restaurant needs longevity, so the Tour de France won’t be top of their list of reasons. The real reasons are that Harrogate has always had a reputation as a town that attracts business and leisure visitors; but the International Centre has become much busier in the last 12 months, bringing more events to the town. Add that to the growing reputation of Harrogate International Festivals and the Crime Writing Festival, and it gives restaurateurs confidence that they won’t simply have to rely on local support for their evening weekday trade. Plus, it’s a pretty town and it’s a wealthy town.
‘But, yes, it is attracting a lot of interest with the Tour de France. Harrogate is unique in having Le Tour on the first two days and Yorkshire is expecting three million visitors for the event. Hopefully a good proportion of those will love it and want to come back.’
Peter also points out that Harrogate was recently voted the third most romantic destination in the world (‘we even beat Paris!’).
According to Carluccio’s CEO Simon Kossoff, it made perfect sense to open here: ‘Harrogate is a wonderful and beautiful town with a wonderful selection of great traditional retailers and plenty of restaurants of all types to choose from. Carluccio’s brings something to both the food retail scene in Harrogate and the casual restaurant experience.’
The recession took the shine off eating out, but as we start to come out of the other side there are predictions that the UK’s branded restaurant market will grow by 22 per cent to £13.6 billion by 2015. And according to the Restaurant Association, part of the British Hospitality Association, ‘as big names and leading operators focus on acquiring prime sites in London, regional operators are able to take advantage of local opportunities’.
Many of these are undoubtedly in Harrogate which, says the association, ‘is a highly affluent area with some of the highest property prices in the UK as well as being an established spa town and tourist destination. This heady combination makes it an attractive proposition for investors and restaurateurs seeking to embark on a profitable venture.’
All of which is great news, because a vibrant restaurant scene isn’t simply good for restaurateurs. It’s good for retailers generally.
‘People might only be coming here to go to a restaurant,’ says Sandra Doherty, ‘but if they see something they like on the way, they’ll come back again. It’s a good advert for a town.’
Ones to Watch
Van Zeller, Montpellier Street, vanzellerrestaurants.co.uk
Van Zeller’s is not new: it’s been in Harrogate since 2009, but it has a growing reputation and a trophy cabinet full of awards. Peter McCormick, chairman of Visit Harrogate, feels that ‘there’s every chance Van Zeller’s will win a Michelin star — which will really put it in the spotlight’.
Jamie’s Italian, Parliament Street, jamieoliver.com/italian
At the time of writing, it’s still unsure when Jamie’s Italian will be opening, but the smart money is in June, before the Tour de France.
Carluccio’s, James Street, carluccios.com
Carluccio’s was initially refused planning, but won on appeal. It’s now opening on March 28th.
West Park Hotel, West Park, thewestparkhotel.com
At the time of writing, the unveiling of the new look West Park Hotel by owners Provenance Inns was still to be confirmed. Its Facebook page says June.
Cinema/supercentre, Station Parade/Albert Road
Your guess is as good as ours when this will finally open. Planning permission will be needed, but if it’s successful it will be a huge and perhaps controversial development for the town.
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