David Parkin on a grand ambition, a shirty response and being lost for words

David Parkin on a grand ambition, a shirty response and being lost for words

IF there is a better approach to a hotel in Yorkshire than the way you arrive at Grantley Hall, then I’d like to see it. But then when the aim is to be not just the best hotel in the county, or even the North of England, but one of the best luxury properties in Britain, then I suppose it is no surprise. To describe Yorkshire’s newest hotel, Grantley Hall, as an ambitious project is a bit of an understatement. Five years in the making and with £70m invested, the hotel is certainly the result of the grandest of grand visions of businesswoman Valeria Sykes and her son Richard,. I visited Grantley Hall last week for the opening of its ELITE gym and spa by athletics legend Lord Coe. As Sebastian Coe he won two Olympic gold medals and set countless world records. I remember his old friend, former Tory Party leader William Hague, saying he was never surprised that Seb Coe turned into a great athlete. “When you are called Sebastian and you grow up in Sheffield, you have to learn to run fast,” he used to quip. As he opened the new gym Lord Coe was full of praise for the ambition of those behind Grantley Hall. “It really is fantastic,” he told guests, “I used the gym this morning and did an hour on the running machine – don’t worry I wiped it down after!” The hotel has just 47 rooms but boasts 220 staff. You get a taste of that when you pull in at the gatehouse and a man in a tweed suit with...
David Parkin is super excited for a new dining star and a night out with Cardi B

David Parkin is super excited for a new dining star and a night out with Cardi B

IF you visit a British city centre and ask a local for a restaurant recommendation then chances are even the most knowledgeable will struggle to name more than just a handful of independently owned establishments. The rise of the chains continues unabated. Despite the demise of the likes of Jamie’s Italian, Giraffe, Can and the closure of dozens of outlets by Carluccio’s, Byron and Prezzo, restaurant chains continue to open and private equity firms continue to show an appetite to invest in them. They call it the rise in “casual dining”. I think that is an awful phrase. While it actually refers to a restaurant that serves moderately-priced food in a casual atmosphere, if you look at the customers in many of these chains then you’d probably be entitled to call it “scruffy dining”. Those running independent restaurants find it harder and harder to compete as many diners flock to the familiar. I take my hat off to the imagination and entrepreneurialism of those who start up their own restaurant. So it was nice to be invited for lunch to the newest independent eating establishment in Leeds, The Whitehall Restaurant & Bar. I dressed up for the occasion, wearing my second best cardigan. Or Cardi B as I like to call it. That’s one for the younger readers. My hosts were George and Diane McKerracher, who live in Leeds city centre and are astute judges of the best places to eat and drink. Diane is a vastly experienced executive in the healthcare sector with the likes of Ultralase, Optical Express and Freedom Clinics while George is the former logistics...