“If Simon Rogan can do it in Cartmel, we can do it here in Glossop,” says Paul Sykes. He’s worked for Gordon Ramsay, Michael Caines and Clare Smyth (and Simon Rogan, actually), immersed in Michelin star quality cooking for pretty much his whole career so far.
OK, you’re not getting foams or things being spurted out of soda syphons. But the skills are all here at his place, The Two Hares in Glossop.
It’s a cute deli at the front selling blinding sausage rolls, nduja scotch eggs, cured meats, local cheese, local crafts and craft beers, and a hidden cafe and events space through the back, lit up with string lights – just head through the deli, and you’ll find it.
It wasn’t always this salubrious. Before it reopened about a year ago, it was Club HQ and before that Harley’s, a sticky floor nightclub that had old pairs of socks and tights stuffed into the rafters to stop the leaks. Who’d left them there, one shudders to think.
Paul and his partner Jess have seen much worse, though. Much, much worse. They moved into The Two Hares the day after their last restaurant, the much-loved local bistro Hyssop, burned down.
Fire broke out one night last September, due to a faulty dryer, and tore through the bistro’s upstairs kitchen. Paul and Jess had the next day off, and then they started work on this place.
They quickly found out that Glossop is a town with a big heart. Customers from Hyssop flooded them with donations via a crowdfund to help them through the tough times.
And so, to return the favour, over the last year The Two Hares has become a much-needed community space, providing a warm and welcoming location for local artist collectives and another inspiring group of women in local business, who hold regular seminars here.
Oh, and the food? Well, you don’t work for Gordon Ramsay at the impressionable age of 18 without learning a few things.
Paul, originally from Denton, moved to London on his own after completing his catering qualifications at Tameside College. He wrote to Ramsay, and surprisingly, he wrote back. He spent over a year, working from 7am to sometimes 1am, at Ramsay’s restaurant in the famous Claridge’s hotel.
Ramsay would pop in from time to time, as would the equally Michelin-star lauded Smyth. “The hours were crazy,” he says. “I wouldn’t swap it. It taught me everything I needed to know. Ramsay would park his Ferrari by the side door, come in with his [chef’s] jacket on.
“He’s a nice guy. He made sure he’d say hello to everyone, the pot washers, whoever you were. That’s a good thing to live by. Respect everyone. That’s what I took from there, as well as the food.”
Next was working for Michael Caines at the Abode Hotel in Manchester, cooking two-star recipes from Caines’ iconic Gidleigh Park, and then, as if that wasn’t enough, he went on to chef at The French, under multiple star holder Simon Rogan.
But it wasn’t him. “The higher you get up, they don’t want you to be creative, they need you to follow a script. And that’s not me. It opens doors, and it pays well, but it’s just not me. I need to be free.
“As much as owning your own thing is hard work, and can be incredibly lonely, because the buck stops with you, it means I can cook whatever I want that day. Really let loose. And that’s what I need to do with my life.”
Despite all this highest of high-end experience, this is humble and honest breakfast, lunch and brunch fare, just done stunningly well. The Korean chicken burger is as sticky and spicy as you could ever want, and the double sausage and egg muffin, a love letter to the hangover standard, is a tower of oozing joy, topped and tailed in a (not too sweet) brioche bun.
On the full breakfast, the bacon and sausages are all from celebrated local butchers Mettrick’s, the hash browns are all homemade, and it’s served up with some proper sourdough from Ancoats bakery Pollen.
“The support from Glossop is unreal,” Paul says. “The community has supported us, so we want to support the community. It works two ways. It’s a very Glossopian thing to support each other.”
The Two Hares, 3 High St E, Glossop SK13 8DA
Open from 9am to 5pm, Tuesday to Saturday