First look inside newly opened Crimple Food Hall

Yorkshire’s newest- and possibly biggest - food hall is now open to the public after a £4m investment from the family that owns it. Catherine Scott paid it a visit .

The 160 seat restaurant at Crimple food hall near Harrogate

Even from the outside, Crimple Food Hall is eye-catching.

The striking design of the building references agricultural buildings through a series of interconnected barn-like forms, giving a jagged sawtooth effect.

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It is clad entirely in timber that will age, says owner and man behind the ambitious scheme, Graham Watson.

Graham and Tori Watson who have invested time and money creating Crimple Food Hall

When I meet Watson, the day before the soft opening of Crimple food hall, he is incredibly relaxed for a man that has invested £4m in the development, adjacent to his Crimple garden centre which overlooks the Crimple Valley just outside Harrogate.

Watson bought the garden centre and antiques centre in 2013 but always had ambitious plans which he has now realised.

“Travelling around Europe I was always really impressed with all the food halls which showcase local produce from butchers and bakers to fruit and vegetables and amazing delis.

“I didn’t see why we couldn’t have something similar here in Yorkshire.”

Pictured at the Robertshaw’s butcher’s counter are Harley Robertshaw, left, and Jack Holden.

His dream was to provide an indoor open-plan artisan farmers market and restaurant

Seeing his dream come to fruition has been a real labour of love for the entire Watson family including wife Tori and their two daughters.

The vision Watson has turned into reality is a 20,000 sq ft food hall on the site of the old antiques centre, incorporating a 160 seat restaurant where much of the produce on sale in the food hall will be used to create the restaurant’s menu - initially during the day but with plans to extend into the evening at some point.

The man in charge of the food hall is Chris Lidgett, who was given the task of helping Watson realise his vision.

Graham Watson, left, who has spent £4m turning the garden centre into one of the biggest food halls in Yorkshire. Pictured with Food Hall Manager Chris Lidgett.

“More than 70 per cent of the produce on sale in the food hall is from Yorkshire,” says Lidgett, who headed up the Local Pantry in Otley for eight years.

Crimple’s team has already sourced more than 50 local and speciality producers for the food hall from curry sauces, coffee beans and cheeses, to speciality gins and vodkas and beers. Customers will also be able to shop at Crimple’s own bakery, with bread, pastries, pizzas, and sweet bakes made freshly on the premises.

Their development has been overseen by chef consultant Stephanie Moon, who is no stranger to the Yorkshire food scene.

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“We’ve been inundated with people wanting us to stock their produce,” he says.

“We really want to give something back to local producers and champion the great produce we have here in Yorkshire.”

Thornton-based butcher’s Robertshaw’s runs the butchers department which includes a dry-aged unit with massive joints of meat on display to customers.

“My team has been searching for the best producers in the region to join us on this amazing opportunity and award-winning Robertshaw’s was an easy decision,” says Watson, who had a career in security before buying Crimple garden centre.

“James (Robertshaw) and his team have over 200 years of butchery and farming experience between them and to have them as Crimple’s butchers is fantastic.”

Robertshaw’s started in 1929 and are fourth generation award winning farmers and butchers. James and his sister Victoria founded Keelham Farm Shop, although the pair went their separate ways in 2019.

James, is grandson of the founder Harry Robertshaw, and he and his son Harley are the new faces at the butcher’s counter at Crimple . They offer a range of locally sourced meats, specialist cuts, homemade sausages, burgers and kebabs and a ready to cook range made using local ingredients

“We have watched the food hall be planned and built over the past few years and knew this was a project we wanted to be involved in,” says James

“To be able to have a shop front in such a prestigious food hall on the edge of Harrogate, offering our best quality products is a fantastic opportunity.”

“Supporting local farmers in the surrounding community reduces food miles which is better for the community,” explains Harley. “The welfare of the animals is the highest and we know exactly where our food comes from. All these factors make a difference to create a better tasting meat.”

And it’s not just the produce that has a real Yorkshire flavour. Many of the tradesmen used to build the impressive structure at Yorkshire-based. Designed by architects Arkle Boyce who have an office in Leeds

Sustainability has been at the core of Watson’s plan. An old restored milk float might be a lovely eye-catching gimmick ,but it also has a serious purpose.

“People can purchase a milk bottle from us and fill it,” explains Watson.

“They can then return it and take another one and take the milk of their choice. We clean the milk bottles ready for reuse.”

The grain store and juice bar work on a similar principle. But that is just a small part of Crimple’s eco credentials.

“All the refrigeration equipment has been designed to maximise efficiency and has been fitted with a heat recovery system which produces 1275 litres of hot water per hour,” he explains.

“This water provides all the hot water for the whole site. In addition, the engineering plant has been designed to balance the refrigeration requirements across the system resulting in further energy savings.”

The distinctive saw-tooth roof form allows for natural ventilation and also hosts PV panels to feedback power to the grid.

In addition, the actuated windows keep the temperature constant without wasting electricity on heating and cooling.

“Even the shopping bags are edible,” says Watson. “Although you may prefer to compost them. We have shopping bags made from potatoes.”

The pandemic might have caused problems for many businesses, but not Crimple, says Watson.

Crimple has been open for the last two weeks but Watson was keen that it was a soft launch to iron out any teething problems. A VIP launch due this weekend has been pushed back two weeks. Like any venture of this scale there was a last minute push to get it all finished on time with staff working pretty much round the clock.

But Watson says it is worth it. Crimple garden centre will remain, the current restaurant will become an events space for weddings and other functions. Watson has a lot invested in Crimple, and not just money.

It has been a labour of love for years and he is determined that it will become a destination venue, with Crimple becoming much more than just a food hall.

Crimple will be hosting the cancelled Harrogate Christmas Market later this month.

The Christmas Market Weekend on November 26 and 27 will feature more than 20 food and craft stalls, tastings, children’s activities, a festive animal farm, wreath making demos and live music from local talent Harrogate Christmas Market is usually held on Montpellier Hill in November and attracts about 80,000 visitors to the town but the event was cancelled by Harrogate Council in August 2021.

Organiser Brian Dunsby OBE, says “I’ve been working closely with Crimple and I am so pleased they have offered a home to many of the stallholders who should have been at the cancelled Harrogate Christmas Market this year. “