Ten years ago the charming rural market town of Malton in Yorkshire was eerily quiet, its high street shops empty. Today it is a thriving destination for foodies and locals, thanks to the entrepreneurial vision of Tom Naylor-Leyland, 37, heir to the local Fitzwilliam estate. Three days a week Tom lives above the local pet shop and is a hands-on estate manager. The rest of the time he spends at the family home in Cambridgeshire, where his wife Alice and their three children, Billy, Nancy and Felix, are based.
“When I lived in London, I’d go to Borough Market and hear stall owners shouting about their Yorkshire lobsters, Yorkshire grouse, Yorkshire cheese, Yorkshire beer and it seemed silly we (Tom’s team at the Fitzwilliam estate) weren’t celebrating our amazing local food in Yorkshire itself. So we started a food festival in Malton. We had 25 stalls in the first year and over 1,000 people turned up. At our last May festival we had 180 stalls, mainly with Yorkshire produce and 30,000 people visit over two days.
But we still needed to solve the problem of what to do the other 51 weeks. We started Malton Monthly food market with about 40 stalls and a crucial injection of an extra 4,000 people each time, and we slowly built up a reputation and a USP as the town celebrating local food.
The late Antonio Carluccio coined the phrase ‘Yorkshire’s food capital’ so that’s how we branded Malton. I’m delighted that now it’s even on the council signs!
The most exciting phase has been the last few years when we approached local food and drink producers and invited them to relocate to Malton. I’m delighted that 26 new food and drink businesses have opened here in the last five years.
When you come to Malton, you must visit Talbot Yard, the old coaching yard and home to six fabulous artisan food and drink producers. Roost Coffee roasts delicious coffee on site using a mix of speciality beans. Bluebird Bakery is renowned for all their different sourdoughs as well as sweet treats. My personal favourite is their spinach, chickpea and cumin pastry.
Rare Bird Distillery makes the most delicious gin using their beautiful copper still called Florence. They have a gin school school upstairs where you can make your own bespoke gin, like rhubarb and ginger flavour.
Groovy Moo Gelato makes the most amazing ice cream. I love the salted caramel and the bakewell tart gelato. The Walker family took a risk basing themselves in Malton before anyone else, rather than at a traditional seaside, but there are queues coming out the door every day. Their son studied at the Universita di Gelato near Bologna – yes there really is an ice cream university! - and when students visit they are amazed by our wonderful creamy milk, thanks to all our rain and plentiful grass.
Probably our most critically acclaimed on-site producer is Florian Poirot, who’s a former UK pastry champion and makes the most sensational macarons, chocolates and desserts. He used to work as a development chef at Nestlé in York, started to sell his macarons at the monthly market and opened up two years ago.
The Brass Castle Brewery makes the most fantastic range like Bad Kitty, a vanilla almost chocolatey flavoured porter, and Sunshine, a citrusy IPA. Their famous Helles lager was named national UK lager in 2015.
A new vegan deli called The Purple Carrot opened about six months ago and it’s been hugely successful. There’s a new bar opening in the old town hall shortly called Stew & Oyster, serving stews and a few other posher dishes.
I’m enormously proud of The Talbot, a beautiful 17th century coach inn which has just reopened. It used to be a bit too stuffy and formal but now Sam and Georgie Pearman, co-founders of The Lucky Onion hotel and restaurant group in the Cotwolds, have come on board and it’s a different place. It’s about really great food in a relaxed setting – dog-friendly, open fires, where people can all pile in together – and there are 26 rooms which have all been refurbished.
The food is glorious. You have to try the mutton scrumpets (deep fried with a herby mayonnaise), scotch eggs, Yorkshire buck (our version of Welsh rabbit) and the double rib of beef with gravy. My absolute favourite is on the bar menu and called a French dip – a brioche bun with beef brisket and cheese which you dip in turn into mustard and Yorkshire gravy.
During your stay you can do a cookery course at Malton Cookery School run by the lovely Jilly. Our seafood courses are the most popular, probably because people are most nervous about cooking fish but because the sea is just 18 miles away it’s super fresh. You can also book a place on the Malton Food Tour, visiting 12 different foodies places in three hours and stopping to taste and drink, with myself as the guide – one of my favourite jobs.
There’s also a rather lovely interiors and antiques scene in Malton. I’d recommend Hare & Wilde, Nine to 11, a collection of antique shops called The Shambles and a new one called Tallboy Interiors, where we bought a lot of furniture for the Talbot refit.
It’s definitely worth checking out upcoming events before you visit. Last year we launched the Marathon du Malton – Britain’s Tastiest 10K. You can join 1000 runners in August making stops for locally brewed beer and snacks like miniature Yorkshire puddings. The combination of alcohol and endorphins is amazing.”
Main image credit: Visit Malton