Avondale Drivers’ Club Member’s Evening – Here’s what happened…

Avondale Drivers' Club Evening

On Tuesday 17th May, Bowcliffe once again threw open the doors to its sumptuous Drivers’ Club for the latest Member’s Evening. This time, 50 Drivers’ Club members were welcomed to broaden their vinous horizons with a wine talk and tasting hosted by Johnathan Grieve of Avondale Wines – who had flown all the way from South Africa for the occasion.

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It was a beautiful evening on the Estate, and the warm weather meant guests were able to sit outside and mill on the glorious south-facing Drivers’ Club Terrace, giving the whole evening a relaxed alfresco appeal.

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Johnathan gave a fascinating insight into the world of biodynamic wine and agriculture used on his vineyard. Biodynamics is an alternative form of agriculture that takes a holisitic, ecological and ethical approach to all agricultural methods and the handling and processing of the fruit post-harvest. This system of agriculture shuns chemical inputs in the same way that other organic farmers do. In addition it incorporates lunar and cosmic rhythms into the timing of the application of special biodynamic preparations designed to benefit both soil and plants.

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At the end of the evening Johanthan gave an intriguing demo of the spiritual side to biodynamics, dowsing energy using dowsing rods and inviting a willing volunteer to have a go.

A wonderfully entertaining host, Johnathan’s stories were full of fantastic little facts and interesting titbits from his South African vineyard. Our favourite has to be that he has a flock of 100 ducks that are transported round to different sections of the vineyard in a ‘Duck Mobile’. The ducks then disembark and graze in the vineyards removing pests from all the vines before getting back onto the mobile and going back to their hut before doing it all again the next day!

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The tipple of the evening for most was, of course, wine, and whilst they were all superb, particular mention must be made of La Luna 2009 and Jonty’s Ducks 2009, both of which were show stealers.

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To soak up the alcohol was an array of exquisite food prepared by Bowcliffe executive chef, John Topham. It was impossible to conceal the audible sounds of delight as Drivers’ Club members tucked into an unbelievable duck confit and a soul-warming hot smoked salmon veloute which John had spent hours smoking on the BBQ in preparation. It was only appropriate that he came out and talked guests through the dishes at the end of the evening.

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Take a look below to see what guests enjoyed eating and drinking on the night…

Drinks Reception

Armilla Blanc de Blanc 2009

Hot Smoked Salmon, Jersey Royals & Watercress Veloute

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Anima Chenin Blanc 2013

Salt & Pepper Squid, Asian Dressing Spiced with Paprika Garlic Chilli & Lime Vinegar Dressing

Cyclus 2013

Confit Duck

New Seasons Garlic, Truffle Mash, Truffle Garlic

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Jonty’s Ducks 2009

Roast Loin of Lamb, Rocket Pepper Pesto

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La Luna 2009

Strawberry Crumble

Kirsch Infused Strawberries

Strawberry Sorbet

Camissa Rose 2013

The lovely, laid-back work-meets-play atmosphere was a great way to spend an evening, and we hope those of you in attendance enjoyed it as much as the feedback suggests!

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Not just any old telephone box.

Red K2 Telephone box

Many of you who have cast your eye across the Bowcliffe Estate recently may have noticed a striking red addition to the otherwise luscious green horizon. Get closer, and you’ll see that Bowcliffe is indeed the proud new owner of its own red telephone box.

For those of you with furrowed brows, don’t worry! We’re not about to make your swap mobile office phones for loose-change draining calls, and for those of you from the ‘more spritely’ generation – please feel free to ask for an explanation as to how these age-old tardises work!

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But this is Bowcliffe Hall, and as the DNA of the estate binds us to provide nothing short of extraordinary, so this is – of course – not just any old telephone box.

Akin to the unassuming wardrobe that led to Narnia, the new red box is, in fact, a K2.

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For none phone-box enthusiasts, let us explain; The K2 kiosk was Britain’s first red Telephone Box. It was the winning design from a 1924 competition to find the design for a national kiosk. Designed by British architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the K2 was introduced in 1926 and over the next nine years some 1,700 examples were installed, mostly in London. The design of the K2 features many influences of classical architecture and with just over 200 examples remaining on British streets, these have been given Grade II listing status by English Heritage.

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We asked Bowcliffe Chief Executive, Jonathan Turner, how he got his hands on such a brilliant piece of British history.

The K2 is very rare and very special, I wanted one as it epitomises that everything we do or have at Bowcliffe that has to be the best of its type. So I thought to myself, ‘how on earth do I get hold of one?’ They really are like hens teeth, so I asked my great friend James Calvert, esteemed Member of the Drivers’ Club and fellow lover of all things quirky. As usual he knows a man who knows a man who knows where there might be one and just like that, hey presto! It arrived.

Red k2 telephone box

But that was only the beginning, I wanted people to see it from the counter in the Drivers Club just between two trees, and from the balcony on the Wing. As is always the case with these additions, it fell to Bowcliffe Magician, Maintenance Mal to set about positioning it with the aid of a large empty cardboard box! Mal must have been at the end of his tether by the time I was happy, ‘a little to the left, a little to the right… put it on your head’ but now it’s in the perfect place – I’m really chuffed with it!”

Design means an awful lot to us at Bowcliffe (take a look at the Blackburn Wing if you don’t believe us!) and the K2 is amongst the most iconic designs out there.

5 minutes with Helen Moncaster, Bowcliffe Drivers’ Club Manager

A private members’ club with decor inspired by the glamorous 1920’s and the Golden Age of Motoring, original motoring art and artefacts from artists including Gordon Crosby, Bryan de Grineau, Russell Brockbank, Geo Ham and Yorkshire’s own Alan Fearnley, the sumptuous Drivers’ Club is one of the most special places on the Estate. Serving up delicious, seasonal food and holding host to everything from breakfast meets to corporate events, birthday’s and weddings, it makes sense that such a huge part of the Estate is looked after by an equally wonderful hospitality team.

This month’s five minutes with comes from the lady at the very heart and helm of the Drivers’ Club. We grabbed some time with Manager, Helen, to find out about her high-flying career, her love of exceptional service and her favourite parts of the Bowcliffe Estate…


Helen Drivers Club

Job title at Bowcliffe?

Bowcliffe Drivers’ Club Manager

How long have you worked at Bowcliffe?

1 year 6 months – as long as the Drivers’ Club has been in existence!

Can you tell us a little about your career to date?

My first job was working for a Skiing Operator – In the winter I travelled to the Ski Resorts all over Europe and worked as a chalet girl and in the summer I worked as a tour operator selling the skiing holidays. After 4 years I left to work for British Airways as I officially had the taste for travelling and wanted to explore further afield than Europe!

Helen on the slopes

I worked for British Airways for 20 years doing long haul flights and one of my favourite parts was getting the opportunity to work in first class for many of those years. My favourite part  was seeing so many amazing places, including seeing all the 7 wonders of the world.

After globe-trotting for most of my working life I then changed career completely and worked in interior design for three years before coming to Bowcliffe! It has been a journey, goodness knows how many miles I’ve covered.

Helen at the Taj Mahal
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Helen in her globe-trotting years

Tell us a little more about what a day in the life of Helen looks like…

Aside from work, I look after my two lovely girls aged 14 and 19 and love walking my gorgeous dog Henry in Bramham Park. I regularly entertain my friends and family with lovely food and enjoy catching up with friends with a nice glass of red!

Favourite part of your job, why?

Getting to know our lovely tenants, alongside Laura (who also works in the Drivers’ Club), many of them have become good friends. Being a part of some very special events with the Michael (Gledhill – Director of Events) and the hospitality team is also something I really relish.

Helen and Laura in the Drivers' Club

Helen and Laura in the Drivers’ Club

People often comment on the atmosphere and great service in the Drivers’ Club – why do you think customer service is so important?

In such an exclusive environment people should feel relaxed when they arrive in the Drivers’ Club and bring their clients with them whether it be for a meeting, lunch or even fine dining. Service with a smile comes naturally to both Laura and I and a high standard of service is always part of your visit to the Drivers’ Club. I think 20 years of working in first class for BA has also helped!

What’s the toughest part of your job?

Although it can be challenging when the Drivers’ Club is buzzing and there are events on at the same time, we always work as a team to deliver exceptionally high service and the feedback makes it well-worthwhile!

Favourite room / place in Bowcliffe Hall, why?

I know I should say the Drivers’ Club but I absolutely love the Blackburn Wing. The architecture is unique, possibly the fact I worked for British Airways for so long makes me so drawn to it, especially the bar.


What do you believe makes the Drivers’ Club such a special place? (to eat, drink and do business)

I think it’s the variety of what we offer in the Drivers’ Club; from coffees, to working lunches to private dining – there is something for all of our tenants and outside members to utilise. Plus, at this time of year the terrace is a glorious sun trap!

Tell us something about Bowcliffe that not many people would know…

Due to Laura being 4ft 10 we have had a little step made next to the coffee machine so she can reach it – this way she can create perfectly velvety milk each and every time!

Laura on her specially made coffee step!

Laura on her specially made coffee step!

Favourite part of the whole estate, why?

The chapel – it is romantic and quaint, hidden in a stunning part of the estate and such a special place to have a blessing.


Current favourite dish on the Drivers’ Club menu?

The Warm Duck Salad – a new dish for the spring menu.

What sorts of produce and dishes can we expect to see appearing on the menu in the DC in coming months?

John (Topham – Bowcliffe’s Executive Chef) changes the menu seasonally and with summer approaching there are lots of new dishes coming on to the menu – a Salt and Pepper Squid served with a bell pepper & coriander salad, rice wine vinegar and a palm sugar dressing is one of my new favourites. We also grow our own vegetables in the Potting Shed now so lots of fresh produce will be coming from there.

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Over the past few years there have been lots of changes and additions to the Bowcliffe Estate, which parts have been your favourite to watch come together?

It’s not finished yet but seeing the transformation of The Ballroom has been astonishing and I can’t wait for it to be finished!

The Bowcliffe ball room is currently mid-restoration

The Bowcliffe ball room is currently mid-restoration

Hobbies and interests outside of work?

I love flower arranging – I have assisted on a few weddings and love to have a house full of fresh flowers from my garden, especially when entertaining family & friends who I love to cook for, and enjoy a nice glass of red with!

Tell us a secret about yourself…

I once got myself in a sticky situation when a few colleagues of mine at BA persuaded me to tell a white lie about how experienced we all were when white water rafting in Vancouver – this resulted in a terrifying ride down some tremendous rapids as none of us had actually ever done it before!

Anything else you want to add?

I’m excited to see how the Estate continues to develop, especially the gardens – Anna and her team are doing a fantastic job.

To find out more about the Bowcliffe Drivers’ Club click here.