A touch of spice at the Yorkshire Life Property Lunch

PUBLISHED: 14:27 06 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:23 20 February 2013

Yorkshire Life lunch at Brooklands Hotel

Yorkshire Life lunch at Brooklands Hotel

Estate agents and property developers join us for our annual Yorkshire Life Property Lunch with special guest Dickie Bird. PHOTOGRAPHS BY ANDY BULMER

It was a nervous few moments for head chef Jonathan Harper as the first course was served at the Yorkshire Life Property Lunch. He had only just settled into the kitchen at the Grill, the restaurant at the four-star Brooklands Hotel in Barnsley, when he was asked to prepare a special menu for us and our guests who were estate agents and developers from around the county.

We had gathered in the hotel's impressive lobby for pre-lunch drinks where we were joined by special guest Dickie Bird, the world famous cricket umpire, who regularly visits Brooklands. The retired Barnsley-born legend, who has just celebrated his 75th birthday, said he always enjoyed the food served at the Grill. But the new chef, who started in the kitchen just a week before the day of our lunch, said he had a few plans to spice up the menus.

Dickie didn't appear too enthusiastic about the idea at first. 'Why don't people cook proper,' he said as he glanced at the menu and his eye caught the main course - duo of spiced duck with sweet potato bubble and squeak and vanilla and liquorice jus. It was clear that Dickie was still a lover of traditional Yorkshire cooking even though he had travelled the world. 'I've been everywhere but I always come home to Barnsley, I wouldn't want to live anywhere else,' he said. 'I like simple food, well cooked, nothing too fancy.'

So it was with some apprehension that he began the main dish although any doubts melted away after the first taste. The blend of flavours, he said, delighted him. 'Not bad,' he added smiling as he finished the course.

Earlier the 30 year old head chef, who has led kitchen teams at Magna, one of South Yorkshire's leading tourist attractions, as well as at the Hilton Hotel, Sheffield, explained what he hoped to achieve in his new role at Brooklands. 'The hotel is famous for its Barnsley Chop, I aim to put a little spin on that,' he said then added: 'I want to use more organic ingredients from local suppliers whenever possible and introduce some healthier options on the menus. I love to cook fish but I like to think I am an all-rounder.'

Our food and wine consultant Annie Stirk congratulated the whole kitchen team on their light and expert touch. She told them: 'This was not just a meal but an experience.'

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