Lucie’s Wolds tearoom idyll is no cake walk

Lucie Stephenson runs The Fiddle Drill in Goodmanham. Picture by James Hardisty.
Lucie Stephenson runs The Fiddle Drill in Goodmanham. Picture by James Hardisty.
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Running a tearoom in the countryside is a dream job for many and a year ago young farmer’s wife Lucie Stephenson opened The Fiddle Drill at Manor Farm in Goodmanham near Market Weighton. It has been an educational, invigorating and at times stressful experience after previous roles including as a product manager at Haribo and marketing manager at Costcutter. Lucie’s happy with what she has achieved so far.

“I have learned it’s really hard work and a huge amount of attention to detail is needed. I’m also now developing far more organisational skills than I possessed originally. I’m blessed I have such a brilliant team. Helen (Butler) who runs it with me and takes over when I’m not here is fantastic. She does all the baking.

“People don’t know who owns the tearoom when they arrive and why should they? They’ve come to enjoy something to eat and drink in relaxed surroundings. That’s why we all have to be strong, friendly and welcoming.

“I have two great teenage girls who are top notch and a 17-year-old boy who works as sous chef and looks after me. He’ll come to me on a Saturday, remind me I haven’t eaten and make me a sandwich. And then there’s Maxine who used to work full-time as a buying manager at Asda who works Fridays and Phoebe our Sunday star.

“I hear many people say they’d like to run a little tearoom and get rid of their stress from a current job, but serving customers who walk through the door with a huge amount of expectation, who are going to spend hard earned money with you, when you’ve had very little experience in the sector is I can tell you hugely stressful.

“Trying to gauge how much of everything to buy, make and order when you’ve no idea who is going to come – and customers don’t know what they’re going to order until having seen the menu – means you second guess what will work and learn quickly what doesn’t.”

Lucie’s shift from the corporate world of large-scale business with hundreds of employees to a handful of willing part-time staff has also brought new lessons.

“When you’re a small cog in a big wheel and make a mistake you’re not the one in the absolute firing line, you still get paid at the end of the month. When you’re a big cog in a small wheel you totally bear the brunt of everything. It’s my name as the person in charge and the buck stops there.

“What I learned from Costcutter was that if the volumes you are buying are low and you go to a big supplier you’re not very important to them. That’s why I’ve made the point of going with local suppliers. I have a lovely lady called Lynne Fenwick who runs Wolds Way Pantry and makes our Goodmanham Game Pie using game from our own shoot on the farm. Lynne also makes runny yolk Scotch eggs, they’re always runny, every one. I have no idea how she is so consistent; and she also makes what I believe is the best quiche. She’s been making a chicken quiche using Soanes’ chickens from just up the road. They’re something special that you just can’t get anywhere else. I’m important to Lynne and she’s important to me.

“I get my chicken, ham, beef and bacon from Leakes butchers in Market Weighton. They opened up around the same time as me and we have found our way together. My ice cream is from Dick and Heather Wright of North Dalton and is called Cream of the Wolds.”

The Fiddle Drill’s trade has come from several sources, attracting local customers, walkers and cyclists.

“We are slap bang on the Wolds Way which is becoming really popular as a result of David Hockney, the Tour de Yorkshire and a recent TV series dedicated to the trail.

“We’re big on cyclists as we have plenty of room for them to park up outside; those walking the Wolds Way in stages often arrive here looking exhausted after having completed the stage from South Cave.

“The Goodie (Goodmanham) Arms is just down from us and we have a great relationship with the owner Vito (Logozzi). He reckons we complement each other. People come here for a cake and then go down there for a beer, as we do.”

It is also a family affair with husband Jim helping out, Lucie’s mother-in-law Liz stepping in when needed on washing up duties, Lucie’s mum Sharon (Cawood) also helping out in the kitchen and father-in-law Paul enjoying meeting old friends over lunch.

“Jim’s very good with the customers and loves the business. He made quite a bit of the furniture including the tables and counter, which is made from boxes from my dad’s chicken farm at Givendale.”

Lucie was determined that running the tearoom would not affect her riding.

“I read that there’s social life, work and horses – and that you can have two out of three. I’ve two-and-a-half. The half is the social life. It’s not a bad result.”