Rebuilding The Star Inn at Harome after the fire
- Credit: Nicky Rogerson
Andrew Pern's The Star Inn at Harome was gutted by fire last year - but the big rebuild is underway at a pace.
The restaurateur hopes to reopen his Michelin-starred restaurant later this year - which will please the foodies who were devastated to see the 14th thatched building reduced to a shell last November.
We catch up with Andrew surrounded by paint colour charts and fabric samples as he gets to grips with what are some of the more pleasurable aspects of bringing The Star Inn at Harome back to life.
From his Harome HQ in the old estate manager's house, the task at hand looms large. The building that was known, loved and feted as his Michelin starred restaurant dominates the village covered with its vast crust of scaffolding and white weatherproof sheeting.
What lies beneath is what Andrew describes as the ‘sad skeleton’ that was left after he watched the building burn last November.
But he’s not a man to look to the past and is sanguine about the life of this 14th century building.
'This is just another chapter in history of The Star, albeit quite a memorable chapter', he concludes.
Andrew watched as the fire took hold on the thatched roof, fanned by the high winds of Storm Arwen that night in November last year.
Across Yorkshire diners who had made the place their go-to for celebrations and great food during the past 25 years were left reeling by the fire and felt like it was the end of an old friend.
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But that’s not how this Pern operates.
‘It was a massive shame’, he says, somewhat understatedly.
‘I saw the whole thing unravelling in front of me. From a small smouldering fire above the doorway to the whole thing going up over 10-12 hours but for me it wasn’t a shock.
‘It happened in front of me and afterwards it looked like a sad, charred skeleton smouldering away and still now, six months later, it smells of smoke in there so we are reminded daily of what happened.
‘When it happened, I was over the road and my head chef called me and said the thatch is on fire. It seemed to be under control. Within seven minutes the fire brigade was here but it took hold – the thatch is four or five foot deep – the wind was fanning it and we saw it unfold in front of us but were helpless to do much.’
For the Star team they now find themselves in what feels like a third lockdown in many ways.
‘The world has moved on and we’re still locked in a void in Harome, which is a bit odd,’ says Andrew. Police are still investigating the cause of the fire and there have been no criminal charges.
Some staff have gone to work at The Pheasant Hotel in the village - which is owned by Andrew’s ex wife Jacqui Pern; others have travelled and developed their skills and some are still running Cross House Lodge, close to the The Star Inn, which is currently operating as B&B with dining at The Pheasant.
‘But it has given us time to reflect on a lot of things – it’s not the way I would have liked to have celebrated 25 years of being here but we will regroup and go again – we are resilient Yorkshire folk and it’s given us a chance to move with the times a bit,’ says Andrew.
The rebuild task is a huge undertaking because of the scale of damage.
‘The kitchen is OK but it was the ‘middle bit’ - the old dining room, private dining room and thatch took the bulk of the fire damage.
‘Downstairs was more water damage and smoke damage which is quite severe – it was like a thick tar. The humidity in the building and pressure of water in the hoses blew corks out of wine bottles. In a weird way it is quite interesting.
‘We learned a lot about the building because we’ve been able to see how it was built from centuries gone by – the materials that were used and that’s why it’s nice to be able to work again with local craftsmen.’
Serendipity came into play on the awful night in November though. As the Storm Arwen took hold across the UK, just a couple of miles away at Dunscombe Park in Helmsley a huge oak tree was blown down. This is being given its own new lease of life thanks to the craftsmen at Ampleforth Sawmill and Woodhouse Barry from Sheriff Hutton carrying out the Harome rebuild using the oak. The roof will also undergo re-thatching
Andrew is also working with The Mouseman of Kilburn - ‘Mousey Thompson’ - to use the oak for new furniture for the restaurant.
‘We want to make the The Star bigger and better and celebrate all things local, which we’ve always done, be it craftsmen, producers or suppliers.
‘For some it is a privilege to be working on what is an iconic and historic building – a lot of people know of it and for customers it’s quite an emotional time for a lot of people because they have stories to tell about being here – birthdays, christenings, celebrations with people who are no longer here – it (the fire) was quite a poignant event for a lot of people.’
Andrew admits he is merely a guardian of this building.
‘I said from day one, what’s done is done and this was an unfortunate chapter in The Star Inn’s history but that’s the luxury of owning a 14th century thatched pub with lots of wood and lots of straw - it’s a risk that you take and it is quite ironic that people used to smoke inside in the coffee loft and the dining rooms.
‘We served up to a thousand meals a week with flames and lots of heat inside.’
Andrew is hoping The Star Inn will reopen in autumn – a year since the fire.
‘It will be about a year – as long as I’ve made up my mind about all the wall colours!’