It’s a sunny Friday morning and Malton is buzzing: the handmade blackcurrant sorbet is flying out of the door at Groovy Moo; warm loaves of crusty spelt sourdough are cooling on the racks in Bluebird Bakery and chef Francois Strydom is pulling trays of perfectly charred red peppers from his wood fired oven ready to make pizza.
It wasn’t always this way. Ten years ago, Malton was just another market town on the wane. Help came in the shape of Tom Naylor-Leyland, heir to the Fitzwilliam Malton Estate, which owns over 60% of the town’s commercial property. With a passion for locally sourced food and a desire to invigorate the town, he’s largely responsible for its reputation as Yorkshire’s food capital.
Malton’s location is key to its new-found status — it’s on the edge of the rolling Howardian Hills and the chalky Yorkshire Wolds with the coast beyond. The river Derwent flows through the town providing fertile arable lands, while the grassy flanks of the surrounding hills produce exceptional beef, lamb and dairy. The town itself is a warren of alleyways, its charming market square is lined with honey-stoned Georgian and Victorian shop fronts inhabited by quirky independent shops, many food related.
Naylor Leyland’s first initiative was to create an annual food market to bring together local producers. The first, in 2009, had 30 stalls, while this year’s saw more than 30,000 people pack Market Square to graze on goodies from 150 Yorkshire producers. Today, the town has a calendar crammed with foodie events including a monthly food market and several culinary festivals.
In 2015 the estate renovated Talbot Yard, a derelict former coaching stable, creating six new shops and food production units set around a charming cobbled courtyard. The yard has become a foodie destination in its own right, thanks to its impeccably curated mix of artisan producers — more or less everything here is made on-site.
One of the yard’s first tenants was Food 2 Remember, a butcher and fishmonger run by ex-farmer Paul Potts. All his produce is from within 12-mile radius of Malton, with beef, pork and hogget sourced from the surrounding hills, fresh lobster, crab and scallops from nearby Filey and herb-fed chickens raised in neighbouring Pilmoor.
Last year French patissier Florian Poirot quit his job as a development chef at Nestlé in York and opened a pretty shop in the yard. After running a popular stall at the food market, Poirot already had a fan base for his delicate macaroons with creamy indulgent centres. There are 14 varieties, including a coffee macaroon flavoured with freshly roasted beans from Roost, the artisan roaster next door.
The yard is also home to the Rare Bird Distillery, which makes a delicious citrusy gin on-site and operates a gin school upstairs. The nearby Bluebird Bakery is loved for its handmade sourdough loaves, baked using organic flour and traditional long fermentation methods, while there are often queues out of the door at Groovy Moo, a tiny gelato shop, which uses milk from local dairy St Quintin’s Creamery to make its 24 flavours fresh each day.
When it comes to dining out, La Pizzeria is an authentic Neapolitan-style pizzeria owned by Jamie Oliver-alumni Francois Strydom, the pizzas baked in a wood fired oven imported from Naples. Elsewhere, Yo Bakehouse serves excellent home-made scones from its cosy tearooms on Market Street. In short, you’ll never go hungry in Malton.
Published in Issue 3 of National Geographic Traveller Food.