The Potting Shed, Northallerton

Once restaurant and pub chains get a semblance of a marketable idea, there’s no stopping them. Witness Wagamama all those years ago – who’d have thought that sitting at long benches with strangers splashing flavoured stock all over your clothes would catch on?

National (or international) chains swamp the high street, using their corporate and venture capital wealth to squeeze out the opposition. Van Zeller (so admired by Marina) in Harrogate finally gave up as Ask, Byron, Jamie, Pizza Express, Zizzi, YO! sushi, Carluccios, Prezzo etc etc clog up the town centre – often all in the same street. They move money and support around, cross subsidising new franchises as they sink the locals. Shame on the money grabbing local council for allowing them to move in and remove any semblance of local provision. Well, you won’t find us in them. So there.

A couple of local brands are starting to make their mark in a wholly Yorkshire kind of way. Provenance Inns started with a bang and a Big Idea, buying up failing or closed pubs in North Yorkshire, adding some bedrooms and relaunching. Pretty good for the first two or three, but their eye was rapidly taken off the ball. The Durham Ox at Crayke has gone steadily down hill – raw (and we mean RAW) pate served at the last visit. It hadn’t even been within 50 yards (45.72m) of an oven!!! (A rare example of several exclamation marks, but they are needed). They recently bought the Cleveland Tontine – a whole other story – and the reports are grim. Overextended business model, hubris, whatever – the quality slides. And that way lies doom…

So, the Potting Shed. Northallerton has long been the graveyard of embryonic culinary ventures, being something of a desert since Romanby Court closed many, many years ago. The former Ruston hospital was going to be a Weatherspoons – no, we didn’t want one either, run by that bashful Brexiteer, Tim Martin – but they pulled out (hurrah!). Step in local boys, the Potting Shed group. Well, if you count two as a group. Or three, with Northallerton.

The building was tricky to convert – no outside space to speak of, grade 2 listed and much loved by the community, and a former life as an NHS hospital, much messed about. Well the Potting Shed team has a clear vision and, by and large, the original building survives pretty well, even if the extensions and refurbishment hasn’t been carried out to, say, The Landmark Trust’s exacting standards. Cheap and cheerful, and the basic fabric left alone for future generations. Simple popular food but high drinks prices. Let the evening slide by as you sit in one of the colorful heated sheds outside – only till 9 o’clock though – the outside license expires then!  Watch out world, Potting Sheds are coming…

Pub The Potting Shed

…smart toilets

…those sheds

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