Guest Post – Ollie from Great British Chefs
People talk about the Northcote family. For nearly 30 years Nigel Haworth and Craig Bancroft have been running a legendary restaurant in the heart of the Ribble Valley in Lancashire. Craig jokes about the number of relationships and children that the establishment has spawned. In a matter of weeks, their head chef, the fabulous Lisa Allen will be marrying Steve, the head barman at Northcote in South Africa. And it certainly feels like an extended family when you step inside.
I’m here to attend Obsession, the mini gastronomic festival that Haworth and Bancroft set up 14 years ago. This year over 10 days, they have invited 11 chefs to cook a dinner each night. Over 80 dishes with 80 matched wines have been served with the menus costing £100 (plus wine). The line-up this year was extraordinary: Paul Ainsworth, Eric Chavot, Gary Jones, Paul Cunningham, Adam Byatt, Jonray and Peter Sanchez, Michael Wignall, Adam Simmonds, Lisa Allen and of course Nigel Haworth. But this is also a special year as Northcote has completed the first phase of its renovation and its state of the art kitchen is in action, including the brand new Chef’s Table, which launched on Obsession’s opening night.
I’ve seen a number of the top chefs’ kitchens across the country and I am always amazed at what they can produce in (sometimes) quite tight spaces. But this kitchen is in a totally different league. Haworth has built something future proof, looking at all eventualities for the years ahead. The space is vast with an incredibly long pass and there’s even a separate kitchen to cater for private parties. The fact that they did 134 covers on one of the Obsessions night is testament to just how robust the operation is.
It is great to visit a restaurant almost 30 years after it opened and feel so much energy and excitement about the future. It a rare bread that after 30 years in one place still has the energy to completely reinvent it and allow others the space to flourish. Nigel and Craig have created a space in which talent like Lisa’s can blossom and that is worth celebrating on many levels.