Kevin Tickle - Michelin star chef reveals the details of his new pub and restaurant

PUBLISHED: 08:51 29 September 2020

Kevin and Nicola Tickle in the doorway to their new venture together

Kevin and Nicola Tickle in the doorway to their new venture together

Archant

When Kevin Tickle left one of the region’s most prestigious kitchens to focus on his family, little did he realise he would be getting a new baby along with his new pub and restaurant.

Kevin and Nicola chat with new supplier and friend Adam Crowe at WitherslackKevin and Nicola chat with new supplier and friend Adam Crowe at Witherslack

I think people must think we’re mad for taking it on,’ laughs Nicola Tickle, as she stands in the centre of the shell of what was The Crown Inn in High Newton, near Cartmel. ‘We’ve been pulling everything out so we can get the building work done. We’ve uncovered some gems, like packets of sugar under the seating units that were older than me.’

There have been genuinely wonderful discoveries at this 17th century coaching inn – the new venue taken on by Nicola and husband and super chef, Kevin Tickle, which we can exclusively reveal will be called Heft. Original stone floors, buried under years of dirt, have come up to a sparkling shine and much elbow grease has breathed new life into a striking fireplace in the centre of the pub.

There is no denying this former 17th century coaching inn needed someone with talent to whip it into shape. And Kevin and Nicola have it in spades. Kevin spent almost a decade at Cartmel’s much-lauded two Michelin star L’Enclume and later opened Grasmere’s one-star Forest Side, producing exciting menus that impressed everyone from discerning diners to some of the world’s top food critics. Nicola, who will oversee front of house and the guest accommodation at Heft, has worked at several highly regarded Lake District establishments including the Drunken Duck at Barngates.

The couple, who met as children, will now combine those years of experience to create a new dining destination. Once renovated, there will be a bar, a restaurant for Kevin to create the stellar food he is known for and six guest bedrooms. There will be a healthy nod to local breweries, carefully selected wines and the bar will serve small plates and snacks, many of which will provide guests with a clue to the restaurant’s menus.

‘I’m looking forward to trying more of the pub-style food and the small plates,’ said Kevin. ‘It will be done in my way but it’s not food I’ve ever tried before so I’m looking forward to that challenge. It might be ham, for instance, but it will be the best Cumbrian ham you’ve ever tasted – proper food, done well. I want to ferment my own food, too, to serve behind the bar and make cordials. It is going to be fun.’

Foraging and food provenance has never been about the latest foodie trends but a way of life for Kevin. As a child he would spend time exploring the land near his Kirkby in Furness home and he is passing that onto his own children now as four-year-old daughter Elsie joins him foraging and char fishing. That dedication to the region’s larder will, unsurprisingly, play a big part in his menus. Nicola’s grandad Gordon Wilkinson, a retired farmer, has also donated his garden and polytunnel for them to use for growing.

Kevin and Nicola are on the threshold of a new venture (c) Jenny Jones PhotographyKevin and Nicola are on the threshold of a new venture (c) Jenny Jones Photography

‘It’s not quite up there with a Victorian walled garden, but there is nothing my grandad doesn’t know about growing vegetables or flowers so it’s wonderful to be working with him and his 90 years of experience,’ said Nicola.

And Kevin continued: ‘I’m passionate about the ingredients we have, literally on our doorstep, and can’t wait to get behind the stoves to create something interesting. We are lucky to have access to such great produce.’

One of the new list of producers is Adam Crowe, who keeps Devon Closewool sheep and native breed cattle on land at Whitbarrow and Witherslack Orchards. Meat from the animals he rears will be served at Heft. Kevin hopes apples and damsons from the same orchard, which are made into juice for Witherslack Hall Estate, will also feature along with breads from Lovingly Artisan.

The couple are overwhelmed by the support they have received from friends in the hospitality industry and from the village locals. Four-year-old Elsie has been a great help too.

‘Alex Brodie (formerly of Hawkshead Brewery) has helped us massively with advice and hooking us up with the right people,’ says Nicola. ‘He’s been a great sounding board throughout and it means we’ve got a pair of the best eyes in the industry looking over our cellar. Catherine Connor and Aidan Monks from Lovingly Artisan have also been great champions of what we are doing, they are fantastic and their breads will form part of the menus in the bar.

‘The village has just been fantastic, too. Lots of people have been popping in, while we’ve been ripping everything out and making the old beer garden a useable outdoor space again. Everyone is excited which is a bit scary in one way because we really want to get it right, but it is just fantastic. Elsie has been at the front helping us weed too – she’ll be behind the bar trying to pull pints if we’re not careful,’ laughs Nicola.

Nicola and Kevin Tickle will open Heft this autumn (c) Jenny Jones PhotographyNicola and Kevin Tickle will open Heft this autumn (c) Jenny Jones Photography

It is an exciting time for the couple and in particular Kevin who, after leaving Forest Side to spend more time with Elsie and new addition, baby son Rory, will have a place with his name over the door.

‘It’s something I’ve always wanted,’ says Kevin. ‘It’s something every chef wants, isn’t it? But to be able to do it with my family is fantastic. It feels special to have had this time with them, which was extended with lockdown, and with this venture we are determined to make it work for our family and the people we will eventually employ.

‘This is a great opportunity for us and I’m keen to take what we’ve learned over the past 20 years and create our own dining destination. There’s a lot of work to do before we open, but we’re looking forward to building a great team and making it a real success.

‘It feels like coming home for both of us, I worked in Cartmel for years and Nicola grew up in Rusland, and we both have family close by, we are very rooted here. The potential is huge and we both know we can really make it something special. We can’t wait to get the doors open and have customers in here.’

For more information on Heft, visit hefthighnewton.co.uk, or contact info@hefthighnewton.co.uk.

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