As the world began to wake up again, the late summer months brought a cool new addition to the pretty-as-a-picture market town of Stokesley. And it’s one that takes its inspiration from some of the coolest corners of the world, inspired by hip coffee shops, swanky cocktail bars and laid-back Mediterranean vibes. There’s nothing like it in the area.
It pulls its inspiration from café hopping around the globe and it really is an escape from the everyday. It’s a place you can go on your own to get lost in a book over a cup of coffee, it’s a place you can socialise over
sundowners with friends, it’s a place you can grab a quick bite to eat over a bottle of wine, and it’s a place you can get dressed up and dine out for date night.
You really get that feeling of wanderlust here. You could be anywhere. It’s effortlessly charming and oh-so chic. It’s a total gem, and we’re so excited to find it sitting right on our doorstep. As the business brings new life to Stokesley, Elysia Fryer checks in with Laura Hall, to find out how she’s bringing a taste of the Med to the market town.
“I wanted to create somewhere that had a cool menu and was a little bit different to what everybody else was doing,” Laura explains.
“I also wanted to focus on the interiors because that is a big love of mine – and people love to find themselves in cool new surroundings. I went for something that works really well at night, with a really nice glow to it, but also somewhere laid-back with a luxe twist – somewhere that felt a bit like you were in a chic café in Ibiza or Morocco.
“I’m a real tourist when I go abroad. I sit at coffee shops and cocktail bars and I take it all in. I always think, ‘oh, I’d love to recreate that moment in that bar with an Aperol Spritz in hand’. I wanted to recreate that
for people, and so far, people really like it.”
The coast is home for Laura, so market town life is very much a new thing – that, and putting her roots down to work in one place.
“I’ve done stacks of work in cities all over the UK,” she says.
“My background is not in hospitality. I’ve always worked in senior project management roles in large software and technology houses. Until I took the keys for this place in February, I was doing a lot
of travelling – working with very large teams.
“I’ve very much become accustomed to city life. Even though I live in Redcar, I love the buzz of life in the city – hopping from one place to the next.
“I was always torn between the rush of city life and the absolute bliss that comes with a slower pace of life in the North East – that laid-back, beachside vibe. Life is too short to live out of a suitcase five days a week. It was time for me to come home and spend a bit more time with family.”
And so The Truffled Hog was born…
“My previous roles were very strategic and business-focused, so I already had the management experience, but I was itching to do something with my creative side,” Laura says.
“I wanted to merge everything I love – food, interiors, coffee, meeting new people – and create something really special.
“And as I was working from home and brainstorming for new business ideas, it dawned on me that I couldn’t find anywhere in the North East that I wanted to go for coffee, work, socialise and simply just enjoy the space.
“I’m one of those people that can’t work in silence – I need a buzzy atmosphere around me. I need noise. I used to work at home a lot when I was consulting. On a Friday if I wasn’t with clients, I’d go and work in Costa Coffee in Redcar – and it just didn’t have the vibe.
“I was looking at buildings in Saltburn to begin with, because it has a great mix of creative businesses. It’s really indie – I have friends that run businesses there – it’s great.
“I viewed the building on the off-chance because my fiancée, Chris, was doing the accounts for the people who were buying it.
“I came to view the building last September when Stokesley Fair was on. There was a huge ride in front of it, so I had to climb over the fence and peek through the window.
“It was the only building that I’d looked at that really excited me. It was a big enough space for me to be a bit creative and do my thing.
“I love my interiors. I like to think I’ve got some kind of flair. So I just wanted to create somewhere that we didn’t have in the North East. I love nothing more than getting out for a good coffee – it’s my hobby. Sitting and people watching, flicking through a magazine and enjoying a good cup of coffee – it’s a lifestyle for me, and that’s exactly what I wanted to do with The Truffled Hog – create a space that can become a part of people’s lifestyle.”
That is what is so special about this place. Yes, it’s a deli, wine bar, restaurant, café – but it’s also a hive of activity. A creative hub for supper clubs, family gatherings, networking events, crafts workshops. It’s a place packed full of opportunity. A place you can imagine new ideas being born.
“I’m very much new to this business,” says Laura.
“So I’m learning all of the time. I was working away from home for a long time, so getting this place has been the perfect opportunity for me to put down some roots in the North East. I wanted to have something of my own in the region. I want to build on the brand – to build a portfolio of businesses.”
The Truffled Hog enjoys a beautiful, south facing spot on College Square, just a stone’s throw from Stokesley’s buzzy high street and Market Square.
“Stokesley is completely new to me,” Laura says, with an excited smile.
“I love it here though. The people are so friendly and welcoming. Customers have literally wrapped their arms around us.
“To have been busy everyday since we opened, particularly in the current climate, is just incredible. People have been so patient and understanding, because we are new, we are going to have teething problems now and then – but I guess that’s just what it’s all about isn’t it?
“I’ve tried to slot us in in a way that we compliment other businesses and we don’t step on anyone’s toes – but we offer something that’s totally different. Hopefully we’re an asset to the area and we can continue to work with our neighbours to create something really special in Stokesley.”
The Truffled Hog’s original brief was based on a working deli – a place for people to prop up at the bar for five minutes to grab a quick coffee and perhaps a bite to eat. Laura’s creative desires, paired with ability to pivot during a global pandemic, meant the model changed slightly, and boy has it worked wonders for the business.
“Over time, we’ve naturally formed into more of a restaurant with a deli and a wine bar, which it wasn’t supposed to be, but it just works.
“I don’t think I’m the only one who can say my plans have changed since setting out my goals at the beginning of the year,” Laura laughs.
“I took the keys in February and then I started to get down to business, renovating the space, but things were of course put on hold because of COVID.
“It was half finished for a long time and, because I didn’t know how long it was going to be before I could open the doors, I decided to start trading from the kitchen, as it was the only space I could work with
at that time.
“I was used to being so busy, working 60 hours per week, living out of a suitcase, so I started trading with grazing boxes. It wasn’t designed to be profitable, it was just to keep me occupied, help me get to know the
products and introduce people to the brand.
“It was so popular I had to get all of my family involved, then eventually, I had to take on a junior chef.
“When things started to get a little bit more flexible, I decided to turn my attention to the restaurant, so that I could get it ready for opening.
“It took us about four weeks to get ready, then we opened in early August.”
So, what’s on the menu?
“Our menu incorporates everything from breakfast and brunch dishes, to small plates, light bites and larger, more substantial meals. The idea is that you can visit with a group of friends at any time of day, and you can all order from different sections of the menu.
“You can come in, grab a table, share a cheese board and a bottle of wine. You can have a more traditional, formal dinner, or you can come in for chic, grown-up drinks, choosing from our small but specially-selected cocktail menu.
“Uncomplicated but good quality, that was my mantra really.”
All of the above perfectly embodies the restaurant’s mood board – Mediterranean vibes with a British fare feel. Celebrating a love for local people, produce and hospitality, but whisking customers away to happier times and warmer climes. Bliss.
“My Mediterranean mood board came to life after a lot of research and help from local creatives,” says Laura.
“Much of the interior decor came from Morocco, sticking to colours that were in-keeping with each other and just having fun with it.
“I decided I wanted to pull the interiors together myself. It was really fun to go it alone – I have a real passion for it. I ordered way too much stuff and was constantly sending parcels back to various destinations across the globe, but I really enjoyed the process, and it has been wonderful to see all of my ideas come to life over the months.”
The space itself is beautiful. A Pinterest board brought to life in effortless style.But for Laura, it’s as much about sustainability as it is about looking good.
“One of the brands I was really keen to work with was Huskee – a reusable coffee cup business, created using the ‘husk’ waste left over from the production of coffee.
“I think it’s so important to ensure, as a business, we’re being as environmentally friendly and as sustainable as possible, and this brand is a great way to encourage customers to do the same.
“We use them on site, but we also sell them as takeout cups. The HuskeeSwap is something I’ve seen happening in big cities across the globe. The idea is that you return your takeaway cup, we send it back to Huskee to be refurbished, and you get a new one. Your Huskee cup is yours to keep. Take it to your local coffee shop every day, get a refill and do your bit for the environment, all while enjoying great coffee!”
Great food, check. Good vibes, check. Sustainable living, check. Coffee culture, check.
As The Truffled Hog’s ‘Queen Piglet’, Laura has managed to tick all the boxes for a prosperous business in the region. Another big box ticker is her love for all things local. Much of her inspiration is taken from far-flung destinations across the globe, but The Truffled Hog very much has a sense of place in its hometown on Stokesley, too – whether that’s through the support from local customers, suppliers or produce.
“We like to support other local people and businesses by offering our venue as events space for talks, workshops and guest chef nights,” she says.
“We’ve hosted one guest chef night so far, Jake Simpkins, a local chef currently working at Riley’s Fish Shack in Tynemouth. He’s from Stokesley and is super impressive.
“It’s very weather dependant, but I’d really like to do Spanish paella nights in the summer. We’re also going to be hosting wine and cheese pairing events, which are perfect for this time of year.
“The idea is that we do something different every quarter. Something a little different to offer to our customers – and a great way of supporting other flourishing businesses and individuals in the region. If it works, we can increase the frequency.
“I’d really love to host some really relaxed networking events. For us, it’s just about hosting people and giving people a good time. We’re always open to ideas and suggestions.”
The fun doesn’t stop there for Laura. She has big plans to grow the business.
“Here on Stokesley high street, I’m trying to ensure we’re in-keeping with the general feel of the place, so it’s definitely got a traditional, market town feel from the outside. But hopefully when people step inside, they realise that we’re offering something completely different.
“I would love to take on a bigger space at some point, I’ve got plans for a beautiful Mediterranean courtyard.
“One of the things that I really want to do – but it’s more part of a five year plan – is to set up a space where I can work with other women in business, empowering them to take the plunge and kickstart creative ventures. It’s the sort of support network I wish I had when I was brainstorming ideas.
“I think it’s exactly what we need in the North East, because there’s some great things going on here – and some incredibly inspiring people, too.
“We have a lot of start-ups and one-person businesses in the area, and from my experience, it’s a really lonely place sometimes. When I have my admin days, if I could go and do it in a hub surrounded by other likeminded individuals, I would get so much done and have so much support.
“My vision is to create a really cool network – a community of people who can support one another and really allow business to grow and flourish on Teesside.
“The Truffled Hog is my platform in the North East now – and hopefully, many more exciting things will follow.”