Profile: Faru’s Laura and Jake Siddle – Our journey
Having reached the heights of Michelin-starred dining in Newcastle, Laura and Jake Siddle have set out on their own – creating Faru in the heart of Durham
Breathing new energy into a space, and two careers, takes a great deal of passion, dedication and skill.
Having seen what 29 Silver Street in the heart of Durham’s historic city looked like when it was a Mountain Warehouse shop – its beauty and potential, along with its stunning stained-glass windows, well hidden – its new energy is testament to the belief and hard work of Laura and Jake Siddle, the husband-and-wife team behind fine dining restaurant Faru.
The restaurant’s name – which means journey in Old English – is fitting for a city which has been a destination for pilgrims for centuries. It also befits 30-year-old Jake and 31-year-old Laura, who married in the summer of 2022 having met at Newcastle’s Michelin-starred House of Tides nine years ago, and have shared so much of their personal and professional journeys.
“Journey was something we kept coming back to, and the Old English word Faru felt perfect for this location,” says Jake on the choice of name for the couple’s first business after rising to head chef and front of house manager respectively at Kenny Atkinson’s House of Tides.
As well as coming up with a name, Jake and Laura had to develop the other elements of the business. Setting off to find a location in 2022, they signed for the space on Silver Street within days of returning from their honeymoon last July.
Following a complete refurbishment – removing staircases and outfitting a dining room and open kitchen with no construction background or contacts – Faru opened in April.
“The journey of developing the food was one of the easier aspects,” says Jake – who had made notes on dishes throughout the building process and finally got to put them into practice in his new kitchen just two weeks before opening night.
“We enjoy fine dining, tasting menus and the whole experience of eating out,” adds Laura. “We also knew we wanted to build on what we’d been doing to a very high level, and share what we’ve enjoyed from our most memorable dining experiences. Because we enjoy it so much, it’s easy to show our passion for fine dining, and I think people have been enjoying that when they visit us.”
As well as the journey of developing their restaurant, the couple have also built a relationship which successfully combines working and living together.
“The early days at House of Tides – both of us coming from working with Kenny in different venues – were amazing,” says Laura. “We had a great team atmosphere with lots of energy and we got on really well. I think because we’ve always worked together, it’s normal for us. That’s not to say there’s not a little look from time to time when the timings are off in service, but I wouldn’t say we ever argue over work.”
Having both studied catering and hospitality courses at Middlesbrough College, starting one year apart and not knowing each other, Jake and Laura would both go on to work with Kenny – Laura at Wynyard Hall before spending time in London and returning to Teesside, and Jake as a kitchen porter before switching to studying part-time so he could work with Kenny at Rockliffe Hall. When Kenny launched his debut restaurant on Newcastle’s Quayside, Jake went with him, while Laura jumped at the opportunity to join the team.
“I got the bug working part-time as a KP at Rockliffe and just wanted to be one of the real chefs,” says Jake on his training. “Having worked with him at The Orangery at Rockliffe, when I got the call from Kenny I jumped at the opportunity.”
“We were a young team, but it was never about your age,” says Laura on the early days at House of Tides. “Kenny always focussed on ability, and I think that created a very successful team.”
Having been at House of Tides for nearly a decade, Jake from January 2014 and Laura from that March, the couple knew the next step in both their careers was to go out on their own.
“I was the one who had got to the point of wanting a place,” says Jake. “But I was also the one that needed the push to do it.”
“Nine years is a long time in the hospitality industry and we both needed a new challenge. We’d thought about going to separate places, which felt really odd. Ultimately, we wanted to run our own place, so why not start now?
“The support from Kenny – who has been there for us all the way through – along with all we’ve learned from working at the Michelin star level, gave us the confidence to get on and do it.”
“Our parents were also so supportive – all the questions about doing it on our own finally got us on the road to creating Faru,” adds Laura.
While Laura and Jake were confident in their ability to deliver the experience they wanted, getting to the day they could open the doors was less easy. Between planning, contractors, suppliers and numerous delays as they converted an empty shell into a 24-cover dining room and open kitchen, it took nearly a year to open. By the time they could begin serving guests – within hours of getting the final plumbing work finished – they couldn’t wait.
“We knew the space would work, the location is great and the stained-glass windows at the back give us so much light, which is really unique in these old buildings,” says Laura.
“When you’ve been through the building work, the arguments over getting the broadband put in, all the spreadsheets and the challenges – getting back to what you know is really reassuring. Being in service, getting in that flow, is what we’ve both done for so long and I’ve loved it these last few months.
“Of course there were nerves, it’s a big adjustment from having a wage to paying them, but once the building work and logistics were sorted and we had bookings, we knew we’d find our feet quickly.”
“For me, the big moment was getting those two weeks in my new kitchen,” says Jake. “That was when we could get the ideas off paper and onto the plates we’d be using, cook in my own space, and really hone what Faru’s food is.
“I started with a real back to basics approach, using techniques I know work. From there, we worked through a process of trial and error, pushing what we could achieve to shape the opening menu and get each dish right.”
“The hard part was pairing wines to dishes which were developing,” adds Laura. “That’s where working together for so long helped – I could see the routes Jake was working down and could pre-empt some of the choices. It might sound a bit stressful, but all the testing and research was really fun.
“Getting a wine to match the Hen of the Woods dish [pictured right], which is mushroom-focussed and comes early in the menu, was a challenge. White wouldn’t work, so I had to find a super-light red which worked with the dish and you could move into and out of again. That was a tough one and I learned a lot working that out,” adds Laura.
At the heart of the 10-course tasting menu – and recently launched five-course lunch option – are seasonality and flavour. In October, that was artichokes and beef, while in November and December the menu will again develop, one dish at a time.
“The hard part about maintaining the focus on seasonality and flavour is upping the game every time you change a dish,” says Jake. “While some dishes are less seasonal and more flavour-led, we’ll see dishes on the menu for just a few weeks when the ingredients and timing are right. That’s a challenge, but also really exciting to develop for myself for the first time.”
Just seven months into their restaurant journey, it’s clear Jake and Laura are enjoying every minute.
“This is a business where you’re always striving for perfection, but you’ll never achieve it,” says Laura. “While you can celebrate those moments when you get it absolutely right, you know you’ve got to do it again and make the next bit better.”
“I never expected to get here so soon,” adds Jake. “Now we’re here, it’s hard to step back and take in what we’ve achieved. The focus is just on moving forward and getting on with the job.”
High praise has flowed in since April, with diners welcoming the addition to Durham’s food culture – yet the couple’s aims remain simple.
“I don’t think you can set your sights on recognition as it takes away so much from what you’re doing for diners,” says Laura. “Ultimately the aim is for people to enjoy our food and the dining experience we’ve created. We enjoy what we do, and hope that comes across when people spend time with us.”
Every journey is different and adds to our overall experience. For Laura and Jake, so many individual elements have culminated in the start of their new journey together at Faru.
“Right now, our focus is all here,” says Jake. “Faru has been our lives for about a year-and-a-half and we’ve enjoyed so much of the journey so far. We’re excited to see where it takes us next.”