The Pickled Sprout is quickly becoming a foodie hotspot in Harrogate. Absolutely Yorkshire meets Head Chef, Darren Danby, to find out what makes it tick
For Instagram lovers out there, The Pickled Sprout will put a smile on your face. The restaurant, based at The Yorkshire Hotel, is one of Harrogate’s most photogenic locations, complete with a secret garden with a suspended floral ceiling bringing the outside in. The food is pretty damn good too.
For Head Chef, Darren Danby, The Pickled Sprout marks something of a homecoming. “I left school quite young,” he recollects, “and went to work at The Imperial Hotel, which is now The Yorkshire Hotel. I have come full circle!” There’s been plenty too in the middle of that circle: he worked with Neil Perry at The Rockpool restaurant in Sydney, and at some two AA Rosette restaurants back here in the UK, before opening his own restaurant, Southbank, in Boston Spa – and making an appearance on series two of Masterchef: The Professionals too. It’s clear that The Pickled Sprout is in safe hands.
Returning ‘home’ in March of this year, Darren has overseen a menu that’s a bone-fide crowd pleaser. “I like to mix cuisines,” he says on his approach to cooking. “Pan-Asian, Italian, modern British… For me, the taste is number one. I would rather a dish tasted great than looking like an oil painting. I like quirky, but without pretence.”
With this in mind, how has he approached the menus? “Seasonality and ingredients are very important to me,” Darren says. “I change the specials two or three times a week, so that there’s always something new on offer. That also allows me to get a little feedback from diners, so I can easily see what’s popular and what might be less so. I like to put the food that I love on our menus, dishes that I know diners will love too.”
Darren mentions some favourites that are currently on the menu when we speak – “My personal favourite is Beef Carpaccio,” he says. “We use the best Yorkshire dry aged beef, and serve it with Harry’s Bar dressing, truffle croutons, parmesan and rocket” – and this autumn we can expect some new additions too. “There are some fantastic dishes coming on to the menu,” he grins. “Confit Duck with Valpolicella sauce, roasted pears and blackberries; a Malaysian Prawn Curry; and Moroccan Lamb Koftas, with flatbread and honey hummus. We also have some new ‘superfood’ dishes coming on the menu, including a Vegan Buddha Bowl, and a Halloumi and Pomegranate Salad with fennel, crispy seaweed, spinach and fennel dukkah.”
On the ingredients themselves, Darren stresses local is best. “We source as much as we can from the north,” he states. “We are lucky to have some of the most fantastic suppliers in this part of England. I am a big advocate of supporting the smaller suppliers. If I can source from the smaller fishing trawlers than the big boats, for example, I will.”
He says this is something that rubs off on to Harrogate locals in general. “As a general rule, Harrogate people love to support the smaller, independent establishments,” he says. What does he make of the area’s dining scene? “It’s great. It has that old culture with classics like Betty’s, a stalwart of the Harrogate dining scene. We also have some wonderful independent restaurants. There’s something for everyone here.”
With its eye-catching interior design and hearty menu, The Pickled Sprout is certainly a crowd pleaser. One last question, though: why the name? “It’s a bit of an inside joke!” Darren laughs, simply adding to the quirky appeal.