Jack and Hannah Woodruff from newly-opened The Disappearing Chin were travelling and the conversation, as it always seemed to do, turned to the name they would give the bar they were planning to open. The way Jack tells it makes you pause for a moment. According to Jack, he said: “What am I going to call it?” and Hannah said: “Name it after me,” and he said: “The disappearing chin?” – as if launching yourself into a business wasn’t risky enough.
It was an old joke they shared based on a wedding photo featuring Hannah’s very happy smile but the idea stuck. And happily for Harrogate, The Disappearing Chin has joined the growing list of drinks venues that are independent, unique and reflect the trend in the town.
A long and substantial wooden bar dominates the narrow premises at the Cheltenham Parade end of Beulah Street. There’s seating at either end of the room but it’s the act of standing at the bar that matters because Jack believes it contributes to the sociability of the place.
It’s an idea the couple brought back from Australia. Jack explains: “It’s a big long bar because that’s the focus. You get to meet someone because you’re standing at the bar and you get into conversation with them.” He adds: “And you get to know me and Hannah and we love that.”
Their time in Australia was an important part of the journey they have taken to get to where they are now. Like many people, Jack and Hannah weren’t sure what they wanted to do. And being in a country where having a drink is part of the way of life, they thought of setting up a bar themselves.
Deciding it was possible with a lot of work, Jack got a job in the business and began to learn the trade. He says with a smile: “It was a dive bar, the last bar open at night but you learn from everything.” He repeated the process in Newcastle upon Tyne when they returned from Australia, but this time for a chain, spending 18 months as a duty manager, ordering the drinks and maintaining the equipment. By the time they moved to Harrogate so that Hannah could take care of elderly grandparents, they felt ready and the unforgettably-named The Disappearing Chin was born.
There’s an attractive lack of pretension about The Disappearing Chin. The drink on offer is predominantly beer as Jack acknowledges but nevertheless there’s options for those customers for whom a craft ale is not necessarily their first choice. That said, some of the ales on rotation come from familiar local breweries, Harrogate Brewing Co., Roosters, Cold Bath Brewing and Daleside. But there’s a couple of other names behind the bar which may be less familiar – Beartown Brewery based in Congleton in Cheshire and Three Brothers Brewing from up the road in Stockton on Tees.
And for those who do prefer something else, The Disappearing Chin offers what Jack describes as a “seasonal cocktail”. “Those four cocktails took a lot of testing,” he laughs. “We wanted to produce something which matched the seasons and gave the feeling of the time of year.”
He continues: “We have different cocktails for different people. Sweet, savoury, spicy – we have the range for anybody who drinks cocktails,” he says, adding pointedly: “That’s cocktails not fruit juice with alcohol in it.”
The vodka and gin are locally produced too as are the food offerings; scotch eggs and sausage rolls from Dan at Thug Sandwich and the vegan sharing board, salads and tapenades from Tracey and Peter at Cold Bath Deli.
Just as some of the brews might be familiar to Harrogate’s indie-loving population, so too will be Jack’s experience of opening an independent bar in a town which already has some fabulous independent bars.
“Amazing support,” he exclaims. “Other indies were so helpful when we were getting open. We swap information about beers and all sorts.” And he has got his regulars coming to the bar, which is on a street unlike many others in the town because it’s pedestrianised. “This street is a really nice one to be part of. Like everywhere, sometimes it’s bustling and busy and sometimes it’s not.”
And like many independent bars in Harrogate that offer a great range of drinks and food to their customers in unique and stylish spaces, The Disappearing Chin certainly won’t see disappearing faces.
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