Having left Rohan Harrogate nearly three months ago to buy and run the Youth Hostel in the pretty Yorkshire dales village of Kettlewell I thought that I would give Rohantime an update on our progress so far.
In the first weeks of buying the Hostel from the YHA we had a series of customers who had hired the whole building for 40th birthday parties, friends with children who just never get to spend evenings together, church groups coming away and walking groups just getting together to more thoroughly explore the area. We also had the amazing fell runners association navigation course held here, such a great bunch of people, a really good weekend.
It was fascinating to see how each group of people use the space, seeing how some groups play games in the lounge, other groups congregate in the residents’ kitchen, and almost all spend most of their communal time in the large dining room. This might not seem like big shakes to most people but as we are looking to bring the hostel up to modern standards in both design and feel these little things are worth looking at.
The thing that I was most worried about before we got started was catering, having not done anything like this since my spell working at the Hawks’ Club in Cambridge many, many years ago, I really had some work to do! We do have a self-catering kitchen and I really understand the need for our customers to be able to cook for themselves, not just from a cost point of view, although for some this is important, travelling as a parent can be really tricky, especially if your child for that brief moment in time will only eat one brand of spaghetti sauce and olives or whatever, really cooking for yourself sometimes can make the difference between being able to relax or not.
But, I wanted to get a menu so good that people would, if they are staying for a couple of days feel like it was a treat to eat here. The first dish I set to work on was the 8 hour Beef Stew, it took 10 attempts to get it up to the quality that I wanted, getting the best beef I could from the brilliant butchers ‘Jacksons in Cracoe’, getting just the right proportion of beef to vegies to sauce. A good stew takes time, and the sense to leave it alone whilst it is cooking. Next came the pulled pork ciabatta with chips and homemade coleslaw, vegetarian 7 bean spicy burrito and then fresh pasta with smoked salmon and whisky, I have plans to get the smoked fish from a local smokehouse but not just yet.
I have been looking into better provision for those with special dietary requirements, I currently have three brands of lactose free milk to ponder over and looking at different brands of GF breads, all very interesting stuff. I am always guarded against the menu getting too large, one in, one out. Bigger menus always mean waste, or the quality dropping and for now I am absolutely committed to the best possible food that I can make. I have been reading cookbooks before bed!
The Great Yorkshire Breakfast was relatively simple to sort out, just get the best ingredients I could. Colin the butcher makes the sausages down the road, we only use Yorkshire dry cured bacon (Linda McCartney sausages for the vegetarians). Free range scrambled eggs, I cook the mushrooms in butter, not oil, thanks to Julia Childs. Hash browns (grown up waffles) and Heinz baked beans, I may be wrong but I do prefer cheap ketchup and brown sauce with a breakfast, slightly more vinegar-y cuts through the grease better, this might change but for now I am happy. We only offer brown bread at the minute, but you can toast as much as you want, I have seen someone have 8 slices at a go with his breakfast but not everyone can do that! Yorkshire Tea and Fair trade coffee, act local think global and all that. We have found a supplier of lovely big rolled oats for the porridge, super croissants that come in frozen and prove overnight, so they are really fresh when they come out of the oven. Ours breakfast £6 and I am absolutely convinced that for the quality it is a bargain.
I am very soon to become the postmaster of the village post office, which is in the hallway of the hostel, we have to make it work. If anyone is passing through the Kettlewell area and has a large pile of parcels that they want shipping to Mongolia and needs them there tomorrow, look me up! It is a long process taking on even a small post office, but soon I will be playing a bearded Mrs Goggins role that was never in my sights career wise but it is funny how things turn out!
For the future we have plans to open a lovely second hand and new bookstore and gallery space in the dining room to help support the post office. We have also had some great conversations with activity providers to start looking at putting together some really inspiring school trips away; imagine a school residential with horse-riding, fishing, some potholing and maybe a taste of climbing at the amazing Kilnsey Crag, maybe a walk over Great Whernside, but more of this another time…
It has been really good to see the number of Rohanists that have stayed here, it is like seeing old friends! this really is Rohan country.
Till next time Saul Kettlewell Hostel