Devour - Italian dining with a difference near Holmfirth
PUBLISHED: 00:00 14 February 2020
One of Yorkshire’s most chic foodie hotspots – in a renovated former dyehouse – is an Italian-influenced dining destination you won’t want to tear yourself away from.
Liv Robinson is different. While many would look at a derelict dyehouse and run for the hills, the entrepreneurial 37-year-old spied an opportunity. She's always longed to run her own restaurant and the former mill in Thongsbridge, near Holmfirth, was too much to resist.
'I love old buildings and this one was special,' beams Liv. 'The mill was unloved but there was still an operating workshop in a building at the side of it. I spoke to the owners and we eventually bought it. We'd looked at one in Holmfirth which hadn't worked out but we're glad it didn't, otherwise we wouldn't have had the chance here.'
With the help of husband and cinematographer Paul, she has transformed the once dilapidated building into Devour, an homage to Italian food - a dining destination that would not look out of place in a city restaurant scene. The menu is filled with delicious morsels - it's not just your usual parade of Italian dishes here. Small plates, sharing platters heaving with goodies, fresh pastas and slow roasted sugos all feature as well as Devour's trademark gelato and wood fired pizzas.
She has developed the food with super chef Carl Frost who has created food that Liv - and all of the guests at Devour - love. Ironically, he was only ever supposed to tide them over after their first chef moved on. But a few weeks at Devour was all it took the former Wentbridge House talent to be hooked.
'Carl has been a real find for us,' says Liv. 'He is excited to be here, isn't afraid of hard work and really gets what we're trying to do here. He really is fantastic.
'All of the team are in fact - we're so lucky to have some real stars who work for us, those people who love our ethos and are brilliant to have around.'
Italian and Mediterranean food, unsurprisingly, dominate with classic and more adventurous dishes created using hero ingredients from Yorkshire's larder of spectacular produce. They use authentic Italian suppliers too and make their own Devour olive oil, which is sold at their in-house deli - we challenge you to leave without your arms heaving with breads, oils and cake. They also run fabulous supper clubs and pizza and pasta making classes.
There's no denying Devour's success - it was named in the latest Good Food Guide, and people visit in their droves. But that success is also unsurprising. Liv is part of an entrepreneurial family. Her parents founded Huddersfield mega brand Mamas and Papas. She worked for the family business as well as having a successful career in design and founded pizza oven company Delivita with uncle, Joe Formisano. She has travelled the world and spent several years living in her Italian homeland. It is all this experience - as well as her gentle yet firebrand level determination - that she has poured into creating this cool, chic and charmingly fuss free restaurant.
It's been a labour of love. From wading into the River Holme - which Devour overlooks - to clean it up to the massive scale renovation, she is not one to shy away from hard work. She admits, though, trying to open before Christmas in 2018 may have been a step too far. But it's a challenge she has relished.
'We didn't realise what a mammoth task this would be,' smiles Liv. 'There are times when we definitely thought we had bitten off more than we can chew but seeing it all up and running and thriving is pretty wonderful.
'I love it on a busy Friday or Saturday night, the music will be loud, we'll have our mirror ball - a real show stealer - making everything look amazing and people are enjoying themselves - it's a nice feeling. In fact, it's at night when everything really feels like it comes to life.'
The interior - including that marvellous mirror ball - is as wonderful as the food. Whether it is bargain gems Paul and Liv have found in reclamation yards or those coveted items a splurge of money was worth, they have created a warm, welcoming space that pays homage to its industrial roots and Yorkshire heritage - think heavy oak beams, steel structures and exposed Yorkshire stone walls. There's a strong Art Deco feel to things too with and 1920's & 30's retro industrial lighting mixed with original '70s Paris street lights and a crystal chandelier, classic Italian crystal wall lights, fairy lights, railway station pendants and a huge original 1970's Russian railway station clock.
Cosy couches in the bar, mixed with comfortable dining settings and high tables and stools in the main restaurant ar the perfect combination along with that avoid-at-your-peril deli counter. They have an open kitchen too as well as a large, pride of place, pizza oven from her uncle's business. Everything has been well thought out.
'We're really proud of our fresh food ethos, we hand make all of our pasta and gelato and we want to show that, which is why the kitchen is open,' says Olivia. 'But we also didn't just want it to be about the food. It's about the atmosphere, the theatre of making the dishes and that noisy working kitchen that are as much a part of the experience and the personality that lie at the heart of Devour.
'I always loved the look and feel of the decadent Art Deco 1920s which became a massive inspiration for the cocktail lounge, and I love all things culturally Italian: art, photography, design and cinema. I love the energy of Italian cities like Napoli and Palermo, but if you add a bit of English wit and eccentricity you get a very individual mix.'
For Liv, the community support has also been a real achievement. Devour works to make sure the adjacent river is kept clean and they have established a wildflower walk in the restaurant's grounds to cement themselves in the area. There are plans to introduce bee hives too.
'I've had great support from the people around me, including the community, people have really got behind what we're doing. says Liv. But it really helps when you have a place as special as this.
'We are blessed in this part of the world, there's so much inspiration in the area's heritage, industry and landscape. I'm keen to see where this will take us. We really want to engage with our guests and create a wider social hub that the area can be proud of.'