Eddy Lascelles remembers well the school holidays and weekends that he spent playing in the garden while visiting “Grandpa’s house” in Yorkshire. It sounds ordinary enough until you realise that Grandpa’s home is Harewood House, seat of the Lascelles family since 1738.
Despite that long history, Eddy is a relative newcomer. He was born and brought up in Bath and worked for a while in London in recruitment, but the estate is in this 34-year-old’s blood and a couple of years ago he returned to his ancestral home to launch the Harewood Food and Drink Project.
“Food has always been an incredibly important part of my life. Growing up we would always eat together and I started cooking when I was really young. I always wanted to work in food but it didn’t happen, Then a couple of years ago I was talking to my wife Sophie and we decided that the time was right for me to give my passion a go.”
The original intention hadn’t necessarily been to base the business in and around Harewood, but when the couple rented a cottage on the estate after selling their London flat, the idea started to evolve.
“There is so much to Harewood that people just don’t know, so many special things going on that we need to shout about,” says Eddy. “They know the house and the bird garden, the penguins and grounds, but I wanted to create a project that made the most of everything we have here from the gardens to the deer and highland cattle, and to work with local artisan producers to show them off at their best. What we do here is very special but I am not sure that we have really promoted that before.”
However, using the abundance of produce at Harewood is not as straightforward as it might appear. The house itself is owned and run by the Harewood Trust and the estate headed up by Eddy’s father and the current Lord Harewood, David Lascelles.
It means that the family cannot make any commercial gain from association with Harewood House. In short, if the Harewood Food and Drink Project uses produce from the walled garden Eddy must buy it and none of the branding can reference the house.
Although a seemingly complicated arrangement, it is one that Eddy seems to embrace as a necessary factor if he is to promote the fruits of the estate which he has clearly taken to his heart.
His first collaboration was with Toby and Jane Whittaker of award-winning Whittaker’s Gin. “Jane and Toby share my passion for local small-scale artisan production and they agreed to make a Harewood Gin for us,” he says.
It took the Dacre-based couple more than 20 attempts before they arrived at a Harewood Gin that everyone was happy with. It is made from water from their own borehole and includes botanicals from Harewood, including mulberries and elderberries from a 120-year-old tree that Eddy used to play on as a child. The end result is called Greystone after a little known ancient stone in the grounds, which is believed to be more than 4,000 years old.
“We are so pleased with the end result,” says Eddy. “It epitomises everything we are trying to create here. Far older than Harewood House, way earlier than Harewood Castle, the Greystone rock features a series of concentric circles which were pecked out of the rock with a deer antler.”
Those circles form the distinctive label of the gin which is being sold in independent wine shops across Yorkshire and is also available at the William and Victoria restaurant in Harrogate. Eddy’s second collaboration is with an independent microbrewery in Garforth called Quirky Ales. Their first beer is called Spring and the second, perhaps unsurprisingly, Summer.
“One of our main aims is to use seasonal produce and we want to produce a seasonal range of beer. Brewed in small batches, our spring bitter is subtly flavoured with our own rhubarb, grown in Harewood’s walled garden,” says Eddy.
Other seasonal flavours will include elderflowers, hops and plums all grown, of course, on the Harewood Estate. As for the next step in the Harewood Food and Drink Project, Eddy wants to make better use of the produce and livestock on the estate.
“The Walled Garden is full of the most amazing produce including a lot of unusual heritage varieties, I really want to see more made of that,” he adds.
The same goes for the livestock on the estate which includes Highland cattle, a flock of more than 100 Hebridean sheep and a 300-acre deer park.
“I would love to produce smoked venison all with the provenance and heritage that is Harewood,” says Eddy, who is about to embark on what he is calling phase two of the Harewood Food and Drink Project.
This week, he will launch a supper club with a difference. Hidden Harewood will be an immersive dining experience with the opportunity to discover some of Harewood’s hidden corners whilst enjoying a tasting menu from acclaimed Josh Whitehead, sous chef at the Ox Club, recipient of a Michelin recommendation for 2017.
“We are really excited about the collaboration with Josh,” says Eddy of the chef, who was also a contestant on MasterChef: The Professionals 2016 and is regarded as one of the brightest young talents in Yorkshire.
“He has created a taster menu which showcases the best of Yorkshire, inspired by Harewood’s heritage and the produce grown onsite – it will include seasonal vegetables from the kitchen garden and game and livestock from the estate grounds.
“It will be an immersive dining experience. It will take a minimum of three hours and groups of up to 25 people will embark on an incredible journey through the hidden parts of the Harewood and enjoy wining and dining at secret locations amongst extraordinary surroundings.
“Some of the locations will be outdoors so diners are recommended to bring a sense of adventure…and some wellies. I want people to see beyond the house and just what we have on offer here.”
Eddy is also working with the chefs behind Home, the newest fine dining restaurant in Leeds. Liz Cottam, was a finalist on Masterchef and Mark Owens formerly of the Michelin-starred Box Tree in Ilkley.
“I am very excited about what Mark and Liz are planning to do at Home,” says Eddy. The pair recently held a press viewing of their menu at Harewood and more collaborations are planned.
“What is happening on the dining scene in Leeds and across Yorkshire is incredibly exciting at the moment.”
And the project doesn’t end with phase two. Eddy has big plans and he hopes that phase three will involve the development of a farmshop and cafe.
“That is a long way off but I think there is huge potential for it and is a way of people seeing the amazing produce we have here.”
But Eddy isn’t the only Lascelles returning to his roots. His half brother Ben, an award-winning environmentalist, shares an office with Eddy and is helping to run the estate, especially the impressive biomass plant.
Although Ben is the eldest of David Lascelles’s sons, he will not inherit the title as he his father was not married to his mother. The title will in fact go to Alexander, Eddy’s older brother, who is a chef in London.
“It is interesting that we both ended up in food,” says Eddy who says he has no interest in moving into the stately home where his step-grandmother has a flat.
“Sophie works as a physiotherapist in Bradford and while we love living on the estate, we can’t see ourselves living in the house itself. I am just excited that we have the chance to continue the legacy of this incredible estate and all it has to offer.
“There is a sense of responsibility which comes with the Lascelles name I suppose, but it is something I am very excited about.”
Hidden Harewood, a pop-up dining experience with the Ox Club’s Josh Whitehead, will be held at the Harewood Estate, from August 31 to September 2. Tickets, which are available for two sittings at 6.30pm and 7.30pm on August 31 and 6pm and 7pm on the following two evenings, cost Â£60 and are available from https://harewood.tocktix.com.
For more information about Harewood Food and Drink Project visit www.harewoodfoodanddrink.com