Here’s to first-ever Harrogate Independent Food & Drink Festival?

Paul Rawlinson  pouring a coffee to go with some Scandanavian Tosca cake at Baltzersens cafe which becomes Norse at nighttime.
Paul Rawlinson pouring a coffee to go with some Scandanavian Tosca cake at Baltzersens cafe which becomes Norse at nighttime.

By Graham Chalmers

Having turned a long-held dream into successful reality with Baltzersens and Norse, a leading Harrogate restaurateur is hoping the town will embrace a new idea to expand it’s food and drink profile.

David Straker, co-director of William & Victoria Restaurant and Wine Bar.

David Straker, co-director of William & Victoria Restaurant and Wine Bar.

Paul Rawlinson, who founded the award-winning , Scandanavian-influenced cafe (Baltzersens) and Norse (restaurant) on Oxford Street three years ago on leaving the army, is floating the idea of a Harrogate Independent Food and Drink Festival.

He said: “The opportunities for growth here are great but sometimes I wish colleagues in the Harrogate hospitality industry would be more open to collaboration.

“We need a change of attitude a little. Let’s get together and do something good to benefit the town - and ourselves. We would all benefit from a bigger pie.”

Paul knows what he’s talking about. He has close links with Leeds’ rapidly flourishing independent sector, taking part in the first Leeds Indie Food Festival himself earlier in the year.

Paul said: “We are firmly committed to the local community and work with other independents to promote Harrogate and all it offers.

“When we closed for a short period for renovation work, we actively promoted some of our competitors by recommendations on our door.”

Reviewed favourably in The Observer, Norse has just been nominated in the Yorkshire Life Awards for Best Newcomer.

Meanwhile, its talented head chef Murray Wilson was recently nominated for Harrogate Chef of the Year and featured as ‘One to Watch’ in Waitrose Kitchen magazine.

But Baltzersens and Norse aren’t the only award-winners in Harrogate’s burgeoning independent scene.

Long term success stories include William & Vics, Brios, Weetons and the Blues Bar, while recent additions include Stuzzi, Bean & Bud, Hoxton North, LMDC, Major Tom’s Social, Ten Devonshire Place. . .the list goes on and on.

The establishments the Harrogate Advertiser spoke to seemed generally favourable to the ide a of a Harrogate Independent Food and Drink Festival.

David Straker, director, of William & Victoria restaurant on Cold Bath Road, Harrogate, said:

“Lots of fantastic diverse owner led independents have emerged onto the Harrogate scene, which are enhancing the area as a food destination.

“These bring personality and a more personal service, something we have been trying to do for over 30 years.

“Trade fairs, festivals and retail are vital to the local food and drink market so these need to be encouraged.

“A Harrogate Independent Food Festival would be a nice idea. Anything that showcases Harrogate positively is good.”

Award-winning co-owner of the Bean & Bud on Commercial Street, Harrogate, Ruth Hampson said: “I’m sure it’s endemic of every town centre that people flock to the familiar brand leaders, but I think the number of independents is on the rise.

“But people don’t realise how difficult it is for small business especially in hospitality where the VAT element is so crippling.

“ I’d be in favour of a Harrogate Independent Food Festival but everyone would need to get on board.”

Lesley Tunbridge, director of LMDC cafe on John Street, Harrogate, said:

“There are so many independents these days we are always glad for any input we can have into the local scene!

“A Harrogate Independent Food Festival would be a good idea but I feel a lot of small business would not be able to represent themselves properly if the cost was too much.”

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