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...
David Parkin on Man on the Moon, the Man from Delmonte and an honorary Yorkshireman

David Parkin on Man on the Moon, the Man from Delmonte and an honorary Yorkshireman

TWO men have dominated the news this week. Neil Armstrong and Boris Johnson. One was the first man on the moon, 50 years ago this week. The other can be a superhero rocket man or a space cadet – depending on your views on Brexit and what he is able to deliver in the three months left until the Halloween deadline for Britain’s departure from the European Union. Rather than focus on the latter, I decided to celebrate the former by attending a ‘Moon Party’ hosted by the Dakota Hotel and organised by Jonny Hick. I’ve mentioned before how Jonny, a talented advertising executive and entrepreneur who went on to found the headhunting business Directorbank and now advises Zeus Capital, is something of a name dropper. So it was no surprise to get an invitation to the party which combined both Jonny’s creative flair and vaunted ability to mention luminaries. “On my actual 56th birthday the day before ([the party] July 21st, it will be exactly 50 years since man supposedly walked on the Moon. As the only person on this list who actually met Neil Armstrong, I’m none the wiser as to whether ‘supposedly’ is ‘defo’ or not, as I was told not to ask him about it! What a kind, modest, lovely, gentleman he was however – I can report that as a very definite fact.” Jonny met Neil Armstrong at one of the first Yorkshire International Business Convention events at Harewood House back in the 1990s. Both he and YIBC founder Mike Firth were told not to ask the astronaut about landing on the Moon and...
David Parkin says goodbye to a good guy and flashes the plastic on Love Island

David Parkin says goodbye to a good guy and flashes the plastic on Love Island

TERRY Hodgkinson was one of the good guys. A rare beast – he was an entrepreneur who successfully embraced a high profile public sector role. Terry died suddenly last week at the age of just 70. The construction company founder who became chairman of regional development agency Yorkshire Forward was universally well liked in the region,. You can put that down to his calm, sensitive manner and that he always seemed to want to help others rather than advance his own position. And his lack of ego was almost unique for someone who reached the level he did. I first met Terry in 2003 when he was named chairman of Yorkshire Forward. He was certainly the dark horse in the race for the top job at the regional development agency, winning the role ahead of well fancied contenders including former Yorkshire Water boss John Napier, Yorkshire Television MD Richard Gregory and businesswoman and Yorkshire Forward deputy chair Linda Pollard. It’s fair to say that the others had been lobbying hard for the job and were gutted to miss out on a role seen at the time as one of the most high profile in the region and with a direct line into the Gordon Brown government. When I made my way to his Wakefield home after the appointment had been announced, Terry was beaming with pride and delight. He then lived in Heath Hall, a magnificent stone mansion which sat in the centre of a picturesque village surrounded by a verdant common on the outskirts of Wakefield. I recall it had a ha ha at the bottom of the...
David Parkin on bangers, Boris and BBQs

David Parkin on bangers, Boris and BBQs

YOOHOO! I’M BACK! Calm down, calm down. OK then, you never knew I’d been away. Fair enough. A relaxing 10 days on the Greek island of Kefalonia has helped recharge the batteries. My last “official engagement” before heading off on holiday was to attend a very fun Royal Ascot event at Bibis Italianissimo restaurant in Leeds. The day, organised by the glamorous Mandy Taylor, sales and business development manager at Bibis, a Leeds institution for the last 40 years (Bibis, not Mandy), raised money for the Maggie’s Yorkshire charity, where I am on the fundraising board. It was my job to say a few words about Maggie’s and the amazing centre it is building in the grounds of St James’s Hospital in Leeds which will open later this year. When I arrived at Bibis the event was in full swing with around 180 guests in their best bib and tucker and the place decorated with flowers and bunting. The races were broadcast on a big screen, there was a tipster, a bookmaker, fashion, jewellery and wine exhibitors and a huge flower wall where photographers Lincoln and Perrin from Roth Reed Photography, who had donated their services for free, were taking photos of guests. I even got in on the act, adding my own touch of sprezzatura in a photo with Mandy (pictured above right) and Luciana Spirandio of Bibis (above left). It made their day. Laura Riach of Maggie’s Centres had already spoken to the audience so I just needed to briefly thank everyone and tell them about the huge positive impact that the new Maggie’s Yorkshire will have...