APPETITE FOR CHANGE
It started with a bottle of gin and a pop-up supper club. Now Eddy Lascelles reveals his latest plans for the Harewood Food and Drink Project.
T here are two things Eddy Lascelles remembers most about the childhood holidays he spent on his grandparents’ Harewood estate. First, he’ll talk about the snow. Then he’ll tell you about the spoons.
“It must have been winter because when I look back it was always super cold and always snowing,” says the 35 year old who until recently worked as a head hunter in the City. “It felt like the world’s biggest playground, a place where you can get up to so much mischief – and I did.
“They were good times, but whenever we went up to the big house for dinner I was always worried I might use the wrong spoon. No one would have minded, but I definitely felt the fear of complete embarrassment.”
For Eddy, whose father is the great grandson of King George V and 58th in line to throne, even the advantage of a little blue blood didn’t make the often-opaque rules of social etiquette any easier to grasp. However, the odd crisis of confidence around the dinner table didn’t stop him falling in love with Harewood House or its Capability Brown-landscaped grounds.
So much so that three years ago he quit his day job and headed to Yorkshire, determined to play his part in the history of the estate, which has been in the Lascelles family since 1738.
Now along with brother Ben, an expert in conservation, and Leeds chef Josh Whitehead, the trio are on a mission to showcase the produce which grows just a short hop from the grand entrance to the 18th century property, from the Hebridean sheep to its annual crop of oil seed rape.
“We had talked for a long time as a family about doing something along the foodie lines,” says Eddy, of the Harewood Food and Drink Project. “The estate is fortunate to have an abundance of great produce and we knew we should be doing more to promote it, but the question was, how?
“Eventually it got to the point where Ben and I decided we should stop talking and start doing.”
Early on there was a collaboration with the people behind Whittaker’s Gin to bottle a spirit exclusive to the estate. Greystone’s Gin, named after an ancient stone on the estate, uses home-grown Harewood botanicals and the experience set the project’s benchmark for quality.
Since then they have worked with local breweries on beers flavoured with everything from Harewood rhubarb to elderflowers and another is in the pipeline.
One of the project’s big successes to date has been Hidden Harewood, where diners are led on a magical mystery tour of the estate, sampling a different course in a different location. It was a logistical nightmare in culinary terms and even now when Eddy talks about that first event last summer, it’s preceded by a sharp intake of breath.
“If we had realised how complicated our idea was going to be to execute we would probably have never done it. Thankfully we just ploughed on blindly and the end result was brilliant.”
More chef table style evenings are planned, but the Lascelles are also taking the Harewood Food and Drink Project to a wider audience with the opening of a new café.
“A ticket for Hidden Harewood is £75,” says Eddy. “We know that’s top dollar and we want what we are doing here to be accessible. It has taken a while but having secured a property in the main Harewood village we want that to become a real hub for the community around here.
“The produce we use in the kitchen will be the same as that on the Hidden Harewood menu, the only difference is the dishes will be stripped back and simpler.
“We also want to expand the amount of land we are using to grow our own fruit and vegetables. Up until now Harewood’s natural larder has just been an added bonus for the estate, but now we want to really shout about it.”
It has been a steep learning curve for Eddy, not least because of the many and various legal obstacles he’s had to negotiate.
Harewood House and the immediate grounds which surround it are run by a charitable educational trust on a not-for-profit basis. That means the property can’t be referenced by the Harewood Food and Drink Project, which has been set up as a commercial enterprise. However, while they operate as entirely separate entities Eddy hopes they will ultimately complement each other.
“Our aim was always to appeal to a different demographic than the one which visits the house,” he says. “Yorkshire has an amazing heritage when it comes to food and drink production. The building blocks are here at Harewood, now we just have to bring them all together.”