Simon Midgley

The owner of Harrogate’s CAMRA Pub of the Season 2018 explains the secret behind their success.

How did the idea for Starling come about?
With a solid background of 20 years in the licensed trade, I set out on my own for the first time to create a relaxed cafe bar with equal emphasis on amazing craft beer and stunning specialist coffee, alongside simple but great quality homemade food. The challenge was always going to be achieving all this in
the same place. Hunting out high quality artisan food and drink partners with provenance and a shared ethos has been a key foundation of our offer. Then it’s up to us to make sure we deliver those awesome products/ingredients consistently at their very best every time.

Why the name Starling?
If you’ve seen a murmuration of Starlings in person or on the TV then you know how magical it is and it’s all about community and teamwork. Those values are the backbone of our vision and goals too. We put a lot of time and effort into recruiting like-minded, passionate individuals to join the flock.

What does your average day in charge of Starling involve?
It’s really varied. With a single site you’ve got to be a jack of all trades – be just as happy to jump in the kitchen, behind the bar or perfecting the latte art as barista on the La Marzocco. Sometimes I even have to stick my accounts hat on or my PR game face if we’re hosting a networking group. It’s a balance of getting stuck in with the guys whilst trying to keep a good handle on the overview stuff and direction of the business too.

You work with lots of local breweries and other suppliers, do you have any personal favorites?
It depends on the mood I’m in. In terms of beer sometimes it’s a rich silky dark beer like the Hazelnut Salted Caramel Imperial Stout that we have on at the moment from the 5 Barrel Project. If I’m feeling like something more refreshing and sessionable then maybe a Pilsner Urquell or Hawkshead Windermere Pale. If I need a hop hit it’s hard to look past Roosters Baby Faced Assasin.

You were voted Harrogate CAMRA Pub of the Year for 2018 – what are the key rules for serving good beer?
It’s all about quality over quantity and doing the basics right. We’ve got sound routines and practises to keep everything scrupulously clean and in tip top condition from delivery to dispense. And that goes for glassware and equipment as well as the liquid itself. Ultimately it comes down to having a passion for decent beer and taking pride in making sure it’s the best pint it can be.

Harrogate is rightfully proud to have a strong community of independent food and drink venues – what does it mean for you to be part of that and how important is it for the town?
I’m very proud to be part of it and I’m certainly one of many. There are various indie networks, groups and initiatives being led by passionate individuals within the indie Harrogate scene. I believe this is a vital for Harrogate both in terms of draw as a tourist destination and as a regular haunt for people from the local area, rather than hopping on the train to York or Leeds.

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