The meteoric rise of Yorkshire’s food and drink scene is showing no signs of abating
It was a watershed moment for Yorkshire in 2017 when the world’s gaze was suddenly trained on a small country pub in Oldstead.
The Black Swan had just been voted the best restaurant in the world by reviewers on TripAdvisor, who it seems had just discovered what locals have known all along about Yorkshire.
It marked yet another milestone for the region’s food scene, which blossomed after experimental Leeds chef Michael O’Hare won the city’s first Michelin-star in over a decade in 2015.
The nod marked the beginning of the region finally being recognised for its increasingly sophisticated, world-class food and drink scene.
Indeed, Yorkshire boasts award-winning produce, a burgeoning number of food markets, Michelin-starred gastropubs and craft brewers .
From her vantage point in the restaurant industry, Tara Proctor has occupied a prime spot in surveying all the change coming to the region’s food scene.
“We’re noticing a lot more restaurants opening in the North. Sheffield in particular has seen a lot of regeneration in the last six months,” she tells me. “There’s been quite a lot of activity despite the economic doom and gloom. The restaurant industry does seem to be flourishing.”
As the co-founder of Chefs Tableware, a designer and supplier of quality restaurant tableware based in South Yorkshire, Tara knows a thing or two about trends.
Set up in 2013 with her stepfather Stephen, the company has spent the last four years taking the pulse of the culinary scene, setting the latest tableware trends and fashions in restaurants up and down the country.
Could Yorkshire hope to rival places like London in the culinary stakes?
“I would like to think so,” says Tara. “The thing with London is it’s so large and you get so many diverse types of restaurants in so many different areas.
“But you have areas in Leeds and Manchester that are microcosms of London, if you like, that are now booming areas, and the independent restaurants are really coming to the forefront.”
“The advent of social media and the general interest in all thing food related, has also certainly helped the smaller independents reach a wider audience. This is something, that as a Company, we are very aware of.”
Trends from London are starting to trickle northwards more quickly, like the recent street food craze. Not only that, London-based restaurants are seeing the potential of setting up northern outposts sooner with the likes of celebrity haunt, the Ivy choosing to open its doors in Leed’s Victoria Quarter later this year.
Of course, it’s not a one-way street. Yorkshire’s growing confidence has seen it taking huge strides in changing the national conversation when it comes to food and is starting to set the pace for restaurants in the South.
“I think there’s now a lot of interest in quirky local fashions, if you like, in food. For example, Yorkshire Pudding Wraps and Yorkshire Pudding Pizza’s have become quite popular in areas outside the North as well. Traditional local types of food are becoming very popular.”
The ‘Made in Yorkshire’ brand has arguably never been more influential, helping to put the region well and truly on the food map.
Offering restaurateurs bespoke solutions for their tableware to menu design needs, Tara and Stephen have seen business soar in the last four years, offering restaurants around the country Yorkshire know-how and innovative ways of presenting their food.