David Parkin on the benefits of being sober, headline grabbing antics and Harrogate hotel highlights

David Parkin on the benefits of being sober, headline grabbing antics and Harrogate hotel highlights

THE upside to hosting an event is that you stay sober enough to remember what people said. It was always my achilles heel as a journalist that I’d pick up the best stories or gossip when attending a dinner or while out for a drink with business people and then not remember it the next day. However our Ascot in the City event last week meant I was in the ‘zone’, not drinking until later in the afternoon and circulating around the tables to make sure our guests were having a good time. That meant I heard some interesting snippets of conversation. At the bar, one female guest who was wearing a rather interesting vintage dress, told one of her fellow attendees that she was quids in after winning £100. “Are you going to put it towards buying a dress from this century?” he replied. On one of the tables the guests were deep in conversation about would be included on their ‘bucket lists” – the amazing and memorable things what they want to do before they kick the bucket. I was about to tell them that one of mine is to fly into an exotic location in a seaplane when one lady looked wistfully and rather misty-eyed into the middle distance and declared: “I’d like to grow some carrots.” Not being a great vegetable aficionado, I moved swiftly on to check on another table. ::: ONE of the downsides of the slow and excruciating demise of newspapers is the departure of so much talent from newsrooms around the world. Sub-editors are now an endangered species. Despite the name,...
David Parkin on Ascot in the City, arise Sir Big V and au revoir La Grillade

David Parkin on Ascot in the City, arise Sir Big V and au revoir La Grillade

I THINK I may have found a new calling as a racing tipster. Our new events and travel business, COPA, held its first event yesterday, Ascot in the City, at The Foundry restaurant in Leeds. The premise was simple – bring the high quality horse racing, high fashions and fine food and wine of Royal Ascot to Yorkshire without the four hour journey home. We had great support for the event and given it went on until well after the final race at 5.30pm, I think our guests enjoyed themselves. As part of the event I interviewed Colin Stirling, formerly of private equity house Spirit Capital and now the owner of Yorkshire racing stables Foulrice Park Racing near Middleham, close to the home of our new Yorkshire knight Sir Gary Verity (more of him later). Colin literally did a sterling job taking our guests through the runners and riders of each race. I pointed out that if you weren’t a racing expert then perhaps Waterloo Bridge in the first race might be worth a punt at 12/1 as yesterday was of course the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. Several guests surprisingly heeded my words and bet on the horse with the on-course bookie we had at the event. They later returned beaming to their tables clutching handfuls of crisp £20 notes but refused to reward me for my foresight. Among the guests was Andy Needham, an entrepreneur who appeared on Dragons’ Den earlier this year. I mentioned him in this column a couple of weeks ago as his business is involved in the national Pitch to Rich...
David Parkin on Dine at the top table, waving goodbye to Baker Tilly and strawberry airfields

David Parkin on Dine at the top table, waving goodbye to Baker Tilly and strawberry airfields

THEY used to say that you know you are getting older when policemen start looking younger. My measure of the ageing process was always slightly different. Going into business journalism in my late 20s, everyone I met and interviewed seemed much older than me. I don’t know whether that gave me too much of a sense of deference but there must have been some element that these people were my elders and betters. That’s why, having then arrived at the Yorkshire Post as business editor, I distinctly remember the first time I interviewed someone for the Business Tuesday back page profile that was younger than me. That person was Daniel Gill, founder of a fledgling catering business called Dine and, then, better known as being the son of Michael Gill, renowned restaurateur and the man whose Pool Court brought a Michelin star to Leeds for the first time. Ever since that interview I’ve bumped into Dan in a variety of locations. Whether it was serving up Yorkshire-themed canapés on the Leeds yacht at the annual MIPIM property convention (in the days when a large chunk of the city’s property sector decamped to Cannes for three days every March) or catering a dinner at Leeds Town Hall, if you spotted Dan and the Dine team at an event you at least knew you would be very well fed. It’s a pity the same quality control couldn’t sometimes be applied to fellow guests. So it was great to catch up with Dan at a recent dinner he hosted at the Mansion in Roundhay Park in Leeds, where Dine is based. The...
David Parkin looks for the The Man Behind the Curtain and pitching to Branson

David Parkin looks for the The Man Behind the Curtain and pitching to Branson

WHAT makes a city attractive? A vibrant economy, varied retailers, thriving arts scene, great public spaces. We all have our favourites cities around the world and we have our individual reasons for choosing them. But in the majority of cases it is because those cities combine the attractions above – along with lots more – that makes them unique, memorable and buzzing place we want to be. I’ve always believed that restaurants are a sign of a city’s success and sophistication. A varied eating scene more than likely points to a cosmopolitan population with a high degree of disposable income. And while I think Leeds has many reasons for counting itself an attractive, successful city, it has long lacked a really high end restaurant, one with, or pushing for that elusive Michelin star. My limited experience of this type of fine dining has been enough to understand that paying a big bill for a tasting menu and dishes that look like they belong in an art exhibition rather than a restaurant table, doesn’t automatically mean that you get a fantastic dining experience that is memorable for all the right reasons. Leeds has some great owner-managed restaurants that serve well cooked, great food, such as The Foundry, Brasserie 44 and Sous le Nez. Other cities it would compare itself to, such as Manchester and Birmingham, each have a handful of fine dining restaurants which have managed to delight both restaurant critics and customers. After a lunch last week, I’m now of the opinion that perhaps Yorkshire’s biggest city does have a restaurant that is sufficiently different and can add to...