Ruth Hansom: “You don’t want to go to a chef’s restaurant and they’re not there cooking”

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Chef Ruth Hansom on opening her own modern British fine dining restaurant Hansom in North Yorkshire

Related tags Ruth Hansom Restaurant Chef Fine dining Modern British Michelin

The first ever female winner of Young National Chef of the Year has launched her debut solo venture – a 16-cover, modern British fine dining restaurant in Bedale, North Yorkshire.

Tell us how the site came about
Mark [my husband] and I have always had this idea that one day we would get a restaurant. I had been working at Swinton Park hotel in Masham and we were keeping an eye out for sites nearby, and then this one came up. It was only about a five-minute drive from us, so we went to have a look. I fell in love with the space the moment I saw it. It’s a two-storey site in a Grade II-listed building with a thatched roof and these incredible wooden beams. We put in an offer that day and got a call the next morning offering it to us.

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Did you already have a plan for the restaurant’s concept?
I’ve always wanted to do something quite small. Experience is everything. Previously I’ve worked on projects that have become too diluted as they’ve grown and expanded. This is a 16-cover space that I can control. We have two tasting menus [regular and vegetarian] and on Sunday we’re doing a roast. The restaurant will be downstairs, and we’ve created a wine bar for the first floor that’ll serve small plates and snacks.

What can people expect from the menu?
We source most of our ingredients from small, local suppliers and so work with them to use produce at its best, which means moving quickly with seasons and using alternative cuts of meat to ensure whole animals are used. For the launch menu we’ve got a heritage beetroot dish on with smoked cheddar, granny smith apple and foraged herbs; salt-aged mallard with salsify, cep and blackberry; and Yorkshire rhubarb with yoghurt and marigold.

How much will it cost?
It’s going to be £75 for a seven-course tasting menu, which I think is quite reasonable. The idea isn’t to make lots of money, it’s something we both really wanted to do. We’ve both had jobs in London that have paid a lot more than we’ll be making here, but you realise after a while that unless you’re getting fulfilled at the end of the day and you’ve got that happiness and drive, the money doesn’t matter. Our focus is on covering our overheads and paying our staff well, and charging that price allows us to do that.

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Tell us more about the wine bar
It’s designed both for restaurant guests and for locals. There isn’t a wine bar in the area and so it’s a great way of giving our neighbours a place to visit regularly. It also allows us to support some smaller suppliers in the area. The produce in Yorkshire is incredible. Masham Pigs on the Swinton Estate has just begun producing its own charcuterie, for example, so that’ll be on the menu. In the future we may look to turn the wine bar space into rooms. We would like to make Hansom a bit more of a destination in time, and to do that you need accommodation.

Modern British cuisine has long been a gastronomic focus for you, why is that?
I really enjoy history and that’s a part of it, learning about food and why certain countries cook certain things. I love travelling and one of the most important things when trying a new cuisine is learning why they use certain ingredients and their heritage. Being British, it’s naturally been a big part of my development as a chef, and that feeds into my cooking. For example, Yorkshire used to be a massive supplier of oats, and so I’m going to be utilising local oats for a savoury porridge in a dish with gurnard, celeriac, carrot and lovage. 

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What’s been the biggest challenges ahead of Hansom’s launch?
It sounds silly, but honestly, it’s setting up the till system. I usually go into restaurants where that’s already sorted, so having to do it ourselves has been very stressful. It’s one those things you just wouldn’t expect to cause so much anxiety. We did a couple of test services before Christmas and it would be working before we opened, then it just stopped and we’d have to revert to handwritten checks. There’s also the need to ensure our costs remain manageable. Staffing is a challenge as it’s the biggest cost and so we’ve had to work that into our business plan. We’re only opening three evenings a week and for lunch on Sunday. If you reduce the hours you serve you obviously need less staff, and this approach allows us to have one consistent team working each day. Plus, it means I’ll be cooking every service, which is important. You don’t want to go to a chef’s restaurant and they’re not there cooking.

Is a Michelin star something you’re aiming for?
It’s not the be all and end all, but it’s definitely something to work towards. And if you do then you automatically tick the box of standards that you’d want to achieve for yourself.

Related topics Restaurant Openings Fine Dining