2013 is a big year for D as her Birthday in July heralds forever 49 and she wanted to be piped into 2013 and piped out. We decided that after a challenging but good 2012 we should have a mini festive break so decided on a 3 night stay, dinner B&B at the Black Swan in Helmsley. This is a change for us as we would normally stay at Th Feversham Arms in Helmsley but they say a change is as good as a rest. The key difference between these two highly regarded hotels is that Fev is probably more Country Contemporary and the Black Swan more Country House.
The shooting party set are very much in evidence but as you would expect at New Year the crowd was eclectic but one thing to note was that other than one young couple we were the youngest guests.
On the first of our 3 nights we had a drink in the well stocked bar (Hendricks was served with lime….. quickly corrected) and were shown around so we were familiar with where the big nights events would take place. The dining room is spacious and has 4 areas each open to the other but easily closed off for private functions. There was a lot of fairly expensive art on the walls for sale ranging from old country scene pictures to contemporary seaside scenes, not really our cup of tea but it does fit in with the style of the hotel.
We were seated at a small table by the window in a row of other smaller tables, the person sat looking into the room was ok but looking at the window meant viewing heavy curtains. I spotted a nicer table in the middle of the room with seats next to each other and perfect for discreet conversation whilst at the same time allowing a great people watching opportunity. We asked if we could move and as with all the service it was no problem at all. This table became ours for the duration of our stay, a really nice touch.
So, on to the food; the menu’s were as you would expect derived from local seasonal ingredients with all the dishes being put together will individual thought and very well presented. First night We both ordered the Ham Hock Terrine as starters and D followed with the lamb and I opted for the sea bass, everything was of a high quality, fresh and flavoursome. As The Lad was tagging long we needed to rescue him from the car so decided to have a 3 Yorkshire cheese selection in the fire lit lounge. A bottle of excellent Gavi de Gavi plus 2 glasses of Taylor’s LBV complimented a nice relaxed dinner.
We took breakfast in the room mid morning which can be made up of most anything your heart desires but we were reasonably sensible except I did have some black pudding nom nom….
After a stroll around the town interspersed by a look around some really interesting independent food and craft/art shops the rain started to pour down as normal so we decided to go back to the lounge, sit by the fire to blog and beer.
D could not help herself so decided on a “small” afternoon tea for one. The Lad and I shared a small bowl of super chips. I couldn’t help laughing as D returned 2 scones, gave away a sandwich and still only managed to get through two thirds of the fabulous selection of amazing treats. If you have skipped lunch and had a good walk then it would be remiss of you not to call in for a Black Swan afternoon tea (actually Marco P-W has had one and recommends it too)!
Well after all that a nap was required before the big night so we retired to our room and eventually got glammed up in Black Tie and posh frock. A live band and champagne reception started off the night and a little daunting but interesting was that everyone was to be sat at large tables to create a party atmosphere. Actually it worked well and our table included poultry farmer, merchant banker, B&B owner so the conversation was very wide and not at all stilted, everyone laughed a lot.
The menu was a 7 course extravaganza outlined in the pic below. The food was superb and all the more so as it was perfectly cooked despite 120 diners.
We did treat ourselves as it was the last night of a good year with a bottle of Puligny Montrachet and a Gran Riserva Rioja and finally a half bottle of vintage Champers to toast in 2013. After dinner there was a dance but we went into the lounge before being ushered outside just before midnight to be regaled by bagpipes. Followed by fireworks and the obligatory Auld Lang Syne. Great fun!!
After a good lie in we went down for New Year’s Day brunch, the menu even included a rib eye steak and chips, for us the night before meant a much more reserved small traditional recuperating affair.
The sun was shining and although cold and a tad breezy we decided to take a nice walk with the lad at Sandsend near Whitby which has a lovely big beach plus the drive across the moors has some of the most dramatic wild scenery in the UK. It’s the way to bring one back to life and appreciate our world.
I nearly didn’t make it for dinner or indeed anything else as the hot shower after the bracing walk resulted in me stupidly slipping and falling on my neck. A little scary but I survived luckily without too much injury other than my pride, must admit once she knew I was ok D did laugh and take the mick. As you would expect of me by now I still made it to dinner and we had “Pea” for starters, pea salad in a pea soup with sautéed tiger prawns which was exceptional. D opted for the duo of pork ( fillet and belly) with beetroot, spinach, broad beans, black garlic purée and port jus which she said was good and I had Monkfish with Parmesan gnocchi, smoked chicken, baby leeks, samphire (my absolute favourite green) and chervil sounds a lot but it wasn’t it was just right.