This weekend the Luxx magazine's Best Places to Stay 2021 guide is published and The Alice Hawthorn in Nun Monkton is a regional winner.
The Alice Hawthorn is owned by HomeServe plumbing boss Richard Harpin and his wife Kate, who live at nearby St Mary's Priory and took over the village's last surviving pub in 2013.
Initially, their investment was slow to reap rewards - the Huddersfield-born businessman propped up the tenant at the time, but the Grade II-listed inn - named after a famous racehourse - went into liquidation a year later. There was then a more successful collaboration with Josh Overington and Vicky Roberts, who also run French restaurant Le Cochon Aveugle in York city centre, before the couple left to focus on the latter.
Head chef Mike Taylor, who worked under Michelin-starred Frances Atkins at The Yorke Arms, briefly managed the business before stepping back to the kitchen, and in 2017 gastropub operators John and Claire Topham, who previously put The General Tarleton at Ferrensby and The Angel at Hetton on the map, took a stake and became the Harpins' partners.
Harpin's original vision was for a locals' meeting place, but he later realised that the business would only be profitable if it extended its appeal beyond Nun Monkton, which suffers from a lack of passing trade as it is surrounded by two rivers, the Ouse and Nidd. A major refurbishment began with a focus on creating guest accommodation to keep customers in the area for longer.
The renovations were centred on the 18th-century courtyard, with former agricultural buildings including a field barn, stables, tack room and shed all converted into bedrooms. There are now 12 guest suites and staff accommodation.
Luxx deputy editor Lisa Grainger said: “The food is the star at this fabulous 18th-century pub with Scandi-style rooms. Since Richard Harpin, the millionaire co-founder of HomeServe plumbing, bought it he has transformed the historic drinking hole (named after a prize-winning racehorse) into Yorkshire’s version of the Wild Rabbit (the Oxfordshire pub run by Lady Bamford): a smart, polished gastropub with food as assured as its Oka-inspired interiors.”
Grantley Hall, near Ripon, and the Queens Hotel in Leeds city centre are also included in the guide's top 100.