The New Cafe Reading Room – How we did it.

We just love the new reading room addition to our cafe.  We had always planned to develop the space, but we anticipated tackling it around 12 months after opening the initial part of the cafe.  However, the popularity of the cafe has outstripped capacity and we made the decision to push on with it.


We had a good idea of the type of room we wanted to create and what was required.  We took inspiration from this wonderful Ikea Billy bookcase hack from The Makerista.   This would be the focus of the room and set the overall tone, so we spent some time planning how to adapt it for the space.

A quick trip to Ikea and three Billy bookcases were assembled, these would fit across the end wall.  Although they width did not work out exactly, we planned to centre the three bookcases and panel out equally on either side.

Assembling the bookcases that will stand against the purple wall.

Assembling the bookcases that will stand against the purple wall.

The height of the room meant that the proportions of the bookcase would look shorter so we added extension pieces (also available from Ikea) to take the top to within 12cm of the ceiling.

Extensions were needed to raise the overall height of the bookcase

The proportions were wrong for the standard height of the bookcase.

Extensions were needed to raise the overall height of the bookcase

Extensions were needed to raise the overall height of the bookcase

The bookcases were then secured together and a frame was constructed to fix the complete assembly into place.  The frame work would also provide the fixing for the side panels.

Framework in place to fix the bookcases to the wall and floor.

Framework in place to fix the bookcases to the wall and floor.

Side panels were then fitted, a crown moulding secured along the head of the bookcase frame and 34mm reed mouldings were fixed to mask the join between each bookcase face.

Moulding and trim was used to mask the join and make the bookcase look seamless.

Moulding and trim was used to mask the join and make the bookcase look seamless.

The walls were painted a darker grey than the main cafe, the aim being to reduce the light levels from the large room window.  Wall lights were fitted and the main ceiling lights removed.

Wall lights fitted and the walls painted a darker grey ('Storm' by Leyland)

Wall lights fitted and the walls painted a darker grey (‘Storm’ by Leyland)

Finally the chairs and tables were added, along with additional standard lighting.

A bit more dressing of the bookcase required, but almost there.

A bit more dressing of the bookcase required, but almost there.

More books needed!

More books needed!

The view back towards the main cafe.

The view back towards the main cafe.

Our aim has always been to create a relaxing and inviting space and we think we’ve achieved it. Now all that’s left is to come and try some of our fabulous coffee, pick up a paper and relax.

See you soon.


Summer Culture Fix – 5 Local Events To Visit This Summer

Each summer English Heritage sites host a variety of events, many of them designed to work with their specific locations. We’ve selected 5 that appeal, of course a search of the English Heritage database will reveal over 500 to choose from.



DATE Sun 23 Aug 2015    TIME 6.45pm – Late evening

LOCATION  Mount Grace Priory  SUITABLE  Families

Young governess Jane Eyre arrives at the mysterious Thornfield Hall deep in the Yorkshire moors and meets enigmatic Mr Rochester. So begins this most unforgettable of love stories. When a secret from the past returns to haunt them, can Jane and Rochester’s passion survive the forces that might tear them apart forever?

Doors open at 6.45pm, performance starts at 7.30pm

Full Details


DATE Fri 31 Jul 2015   TIME 6:45pm – 11pm

LOCATION  Mount Grace Priory  SUITABLE  Families

In the magical Indian jungle a new arrival changes the animal kingdom forever. Your favourite animal characters are brought to life to create an enchanting and fun-filled musical show for children of all ages. Join Mowgli on his wonderful adventures with the loveable and wise Baloo the Bear, the powerful panther Bagheera, and not to mention mischievous monkeys and the terrifying tiger Shere Khan!

Doors open at 6.00pm, performance starts at 6.30pm

Full Details


DATE  Fri 31 Jul 2015  TIME  6:45pm – 11pm

LOCATION   Mount Grace Priory  SUITABLE  Families

A tremendous tempest causes a shipwreck and scatters a cargo of noblemen across a mysterious island. Little do they know that Prospero, the banished Duke of Milan, is at the helm of all magic and mystery. In Shakespeare’s last and most magical tale, fairies and spells unwind villains’ desires, tie lovers together, and unknot past wrongs.Shakespeare’s glorious tale of magical creatures, love and forgiveness on a faraway island is sure to captivate audiences.

Doors open at 6.45pm, performances starts at 7.30pm.

Full Details


Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 21.39.55

DATE  Wed 05 Aug 2015  TIME  6.45pm – Late evening

LOCATION  Mount Grace Priory  SUITABLE  Families

Join one of Jane Austen’s favourite heroines on her journey of self-discovery. Doors open at 6.45pm, performance starts at 7.30pm.

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DATE   Wed 22 Jul 2015  TIME  6.45pm – Late evening

LOCATION  Helmsley Castle  SUITABLE  Families

The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes








Detective Sherlock Holmes has a mysterious new case to investigate when summoned to a nunnery deep in the English countryside. Holmes and his companion Dr Watson join the search for the most elusive piece of treasure known to mankind. With a missing novice, a death in the convent and some very suspicious nuns, Holmes’ newest case promises to be his most terrifying and challenging yet. Doors open at 6.45pm, performance starts at 7.30pm.

Full Details


Mojito Watermelon

This spiced up watermelon makes everyone’s favourite summer treat even better.

Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 20.56.35Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 strips lime zest, sliced, plus 2 tbsp juice
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 small watermelon, rind discarded and sliced
  • 1/3 c. torn mint
  • Flaky sea salt


  1. Whisk together oil, lime juice, and sugar in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Serve watermelon topped with dressing, lime zest, mint, and sea salt.

Avocado Caprese Salad

Avocado Caprese Salad

This delightful summer salad is just a whole bowl of freshness.

Avocados are full of magnesium and potassium, they’re the nutrients that help reduce blood pressure. Tomatoes are filled with lycopene and help thwart colon cancer. Arugula and basil are antioxidants and helps with anti-aging and carry anti-cancer properties. And mozzarella…protein, calcium and just plain


To remove the pit out of the avocado, cut it in half and with one firm chop of a large, sharp knife, embedding the knife into the pit until it sticks. Wiggle the knife back and forth and twist the pit out of the avocado half while holding the half in your hand.  Twist and pull the sides apart. Cut the avocado into slices. Take a large spoon and scoop the avocado slices away from the skin and layer on top of the vegetables.

  • 2 cups fresh arugula
  • ½ avocado, pitted and sliced
  • 3 slices fresh mozzarella cheese
  • fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (I prefer the fruitiest, lightest flavored)
  • 1½ teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • generous pinch of sugar or dollop of honey
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Assemble the arugula, avocado slices and mozzarella in a serving bowl. Top with torn or slivered basil leaves. Whisk the extra virgin olive oil in a small bowl with the balsamic vinegar, sugar or honey and season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and pour over the salad. Toss to coat and serve.

4 Benefits of a Lunch Hour AWAY From Your Desk

4 Benefits of a Lunch Hour AWAY From Your Desk

In our busy, hardworking culture, it can sometimes be hard to step away from the desk to take a full lunch break. However, there are many benefits to taking a break and stepping away from your desk. Consider the following:lunch.at_.desk_Taking a picnic break helps boost your mood. By stepping outside, you get a chance to break up your day and enjoy some sunshine (if there is some) and boost your mood. It also helps re-center you and focus you for the rest of the day so that the rest of your tasks have your full attention and creativity.

It helps your health to not sit all day. Folks who have desk jobs or sitting jobs run a higher risk of long-term health problems due to a lack of physical activity. Taking a break to have lunch off site helps increase your daily steps and adds some variety to your physical routine.

Your brain needs the break. Even the most focused and hardworking individuals need time away to recharge their minds and refresh their creativity toward different projects, tasks, and information. Taking a lunch break away allows you to engage with other environments and people so that you have a fresh perspective when coming back to your work.

You will be more mindful about your food. Multi-tasking by eating lunch and working produces poor results in both. Your food does not have your full attention so that you are likely to eat more than you need, and by not giving your meal your full attention, digestion often suffers.

These were some of our favourite tips when it came from taking a lunch break. What are some of your favourite things to do during a lunch hour away?


How To Make The Perfect Gin & Tonic

How To Make The Perfect Gin & Tonic

We all have our own ideas about what makes a great gin and tonic – whether it’s Gordon’s with a slice of lemon or Masons Yorkshire Gin with a wedge of lime

gin-tonic-sl-xNow, however, the question of how to make the drink perfectly has a concrete answer.

Drinks scientist Stuart Bale was commissioned to analyse the science of the ideal G&T.

He concluded that the perfect tipple should be 14 per cent ABV (alcohol by volume), which is usually about to one part gin to two parts tonic, once dilution from ice has been taken into the equation – though the exact amount of tonic to use depends on the strength of the gin.

And, although most bars in Britain serve their G&Ts in tall glasses, he believes that a large, wide glass – like the balloon glasses the drink is often served in in Spain – is actually the best way to appreciate the flavour.

“Eighty per cent of what you taste comes through your nose. A lot of the aroma and flavour compounds are carried by the bubbles, so the bigger the surface area, the more bubbles you get coming to the surface,” he explains.

As for the lime versus lemon dilemma, Mr Bale sits strongly in the lemon camp: “Lime is very fashionable now, but most gins have lemon peel in the mix, so why would you put lime with it?” However, he admits that sometimes, a G&T tastes best with a garnish that contrasts the botanicals in the gin, rather than one which mirrors them exactly.


As for ice, he recommends plenty of it, because if the temperature of a drink is low, the carbon dioxiode molecules which create the bubbles find it harder to escape, meaning your drink will stay fizzier, and more aromatic for longer. “So keep your tonic in the fridge too,” he says.



The Perfect Cucumber Sandwich

The Perfect Cucumber Sandwich

Yes, we really will consider the best way to make this simple summer sandwich. I make no apologies for the fact, because, when done right, this simple classic really is fabulous.

The whole point about cucumber sandwiches is that, unless done really well, they can be really dull.28352_l

The cucumber

Peeling is mandatory, in case some pesky fibre creeps in and ruin the refined taste, remove the seeds and allow some of the moister to seep out by laying the slices on a piece of kitchen roll.  You can also sprinkle a small amount of salt over the cucumber pieces to help but take care not to over salt.

The bread

A soft white, the softer the better, is the order of the day – this is definitely not the place for chewy sourdough or wholesome wholemeal. It should almost melt in your mouth once you cut the crusts off, but not quite.

The butter

Although a school of thought concedes you could use mayonnaise instead, there doesn’t seem much point: butter and cucumbers are a winning combination. As any experienced sandwich maker will know, it also acts as a handy seal between filling and crumb, protecting the latter from any dampness that threatens to make it soggy.

Some use salted butter, but most people specify unsalted, with good reason, this is one place where its creamy sweetness comes into its own in contrast to the salty, refreshing slices of cucumber.


No further salt required, obviously, after treating the cucumber, but pepper is very welcome. White pepper is preferable here: it delivers the same spicy hit as black pepper, but without the accompanying aromatics, which compete with the cucumber for flavour.


Some use chopped mint in the sandwiches, which seems to be a popular choice in the States. It is an excellent partner for cucumber – I’d say together they sum up the taste of a British summer – but again, too dominant here.

Soft cheese is a timeless accompaniment and works well with the crunch of the cucumber.

Quarters v triangles v fingers is quite a debate, the only thing to say is that fingers, the most time-consuming and dainty of the lot, are the most suitable here. Press the sandwiches down firmly as you cut: it will make them neater. And where a cucumber sandwich is concerned, neatness is really rather important.

The perfect cucumber sandwiches

(Makes 9)
1/2 cucumber, peeled
6 thin slices of good white bread
Unsalted butter, at room temperature
White pepper

Cut the cucumber into slices as thin as you can make them, and put in a colander or sieve. Sprinkle lightly with salt (don’t go overboard) and leave for 20 minutes. Taste to check you haven’t oversalted them: you can rinse them at this point if so.

Lay out a few pieces of kitchen paper on the work surface, place the cucumber slices on them, and pat dry with more paper.

Lay out the bread and butter each slice generously. Arrange the cucumber on half the slices, overlapping each round, and sprinkle with ground white pepper. Top with the remaining slices.

Pressing down firmly, cut the crusts off, and then cut into neat fingers, triangles or quarters of roughly equal sizes. Serve immediately, with good tea.

Cucumber sandwiches: are you a fan, or are they a silly Victorian affectation that deserves to go the way of the top hat and the whalebone corset? And if not, what do you like to do with this most refreshing of summer crops?