Five minutes with ... the Crescent Hotel's head of restaurant Denise Horbury - cuddles, roses and grandchildren

Denise Horbury
Denise Horbury

Owners have come and gone, guests and diners change with the seasons  –  but there is one constant at the Crescent Hotel in Scarborough and that is Denise Horbury.

She has worked at the Regency hotel and restaurant for 40 years and, aged 71 and full of joie de vivre, shows little signs of wanting to retire.

Her title is head of restaurant and staff trainer – but to regular guests and patrons of Reflections, the upstairs restaurant, or the carvery downstairs she is Denise.

Unabashed kisses and cuddles are exchanged as Denise greets and seats them.

“Coming to work gives me the will to get up in the morning,” said Denise.

Born ‘by accident’ in Melton Mowbray, Denise was brought up in Scarborough from the age of three weeks. She is a scion of the Moseley family who owned bakeries in Scarborough and was brought up comfortably off.

Her grandmother sold the business when her grandfather died.

Denise lived in Eastfield with her mum until she was 11 and then the family moved back into town.

Denise started bar work as a teenager at Pickwicks in Huntriss Row – now the Dickens Inn – when it was part of the fabled Bernie Inn chain – famous for its steaks and speciality coffees.

She worked there for eight years before moving to the Everley where she stayed for four years.

She was also a barmaid at what was 2Bs before going to work for Les Carter at the Crescent.

A few years on and the hotel and pub was then bought by Paul Gridley and Denise stayed on.

“We were known for our carvery and giant Yorkshire puddings. It was a great time,” she said.

“I started in the carvery and then was asked to come upstairs to help serve breakfasts. I was sent on training courses and became staff trainer.”

The Crescent changed hands again five years ago and is now a family run business with a reputation for smart rooms, excellent dining, afternoon tea, functions and one of the best value for money Sunday lunches in town.

“I get passed on. The buyers get fixtures and fittings and I come with the package,” said Denise.

She is a ‘glass half full’ person.

Denise was married to her second husband Brian, who worked for Yorkshire Coastliner, for 20 years. He died several years ago.

“When people ask me how I cope and keep smiling I say ‘I embrace what I had, not what I lost’.

“You do have this idea that you will walk off into the sunset together but sometimes life does not work out like that.”

Denise has two children, Lee and Nicola, nine grandchildren, aged 34 downwards, and six great grandchildren, aged 14 to two.

Spending time with the grandchildren and great grandchildren gives her the most pleasure.

“The most important thing to give children is time, they soon grow up.

“The lovely thing about being a grandparent is you can always give them time.”

She also has two Lhaso Apsos – Lottie and Belle – and looks after her daughter’s Cockapoo – Rufus whom she calls the Mo Farah of the dog world.

If she is working the morning shift at The Crescent she is up at 5.10am, walking the dogs by 6am and serving breakfast at the hotel by 7.15am.

She trains the youngsters at the restaurant – giving them confidence and watching them blossom. She teaches by example and encouragement.

Behind the black uniform and warm smile, though, there is a sharp mind. Denise reads people like some of us read a book. She knows how “to work people”.

“I know as soon as someone comes through the door if they are going to be difficult and I know how to ‘work’ them,” she said.

She knows those up for a bit of fun – including the gentleman dining on his own for Valentine’s Day.

“I went to his table with a rose between my teeth,” said Denise.

Most customers are appreciative and often request Denise for events or want to book a table for when she is on duty.

“That’s nice,” she said.

Each Christmas a group from Queen Street Methodist Church book a meal and then have a sing-along. They invite the staff in and sing to them.

“I don’t fill-up any more but I warn the youngsters that they are going to.”

She has also had standing ovations from appreciative diners.

Denise does eat out and likes fine dining and good service – like that offered at James Mackenzie’s Pipe and Glass neaer Beverley.

“When you work in a place where you can have anything on the menu it is sometimes like working in a chocolate factory and being given a box of chocolates.”

She also embraces how Scarborough is moving on and striving to improve itself with attactions like the Open Air Theatre.

She saw Jose opera greats José Carreras and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa perform at the opening gala of the venue in 2010.

She was also in the audience for Alfie Boe and Michael Ball when nothing short of a deluge hit the town.

Like the duo, she knows how to deal with a crowd.

“I have had a lifetime of ‘working people’,” she said.

Retirement does not seem to be a word in her vocabulary which is good news for those who frequent the Crescent hotel and dining room hoping to see her.

“The secret to enjoying your work is to like it,” she said, “and I love working here.”