Star Inn The City

IMG_6108

Lunch in York this week with an old friend was taken at Michelin-starred chef Andrew Purn’s new venture, Star Inn The City. It’s the city outpost of the famous North Yorkshire Star Inn at Harome. I don’t live in York but I understand the city has been abuzz with excitement in advance of the opening getting a table after it being open a few weeks was a bit tricky.

The lunchtime we were there it was very busy—and with 300 covers that takes some doing in a city the size of York. Of course there is a massive tourist crowd to tempt and an underserved local dining population, starved of real quality with only a handful of other contenders. Surprising for an affluent city like York. So if Andrew Purn and his team get this right, it’s a no brainer. Great food, excellent service, superb river front location? You got it!

On the day we lunched tree was a steady stream of lunching ladies and affluent older retired folk but i suggest this reflects the midday trade. The vibe was pleasant, if slightly disorganised at the arrivals desk (or whatever they call it). The staff are well drilled and we sat down at a superb table overlooking the River Ouse with pale winter sunlight filling the airy and modern glass construction.

I went for the market menu—to be fair all of the menu looked great—and for two courses it was a very impressive £14.99. I was certainly expecting the price point to be higher given the provenance of the chef and indeed the food. Prices rise steeply as you’d expect through the steaks but that’s to be expected these days.

photo photo1 photo2 photo3

We both had the chicken terrine starter with bread served in a flat cap, which was an original ironic twist on our Yorkshire heritage which is sure to confound the hordes of Japanese who visit the city. Flavours and colours were bright and fresh.

I’d eyed up the calves liver earlier on the menu and it arrived in a generous slab, served with juniper infused kale and a spanking fired egg. Perfect lunch, on a plate. My fellow diner had the special Brill with belly pork on the side (don’t ask) but he declared it a triumph of alternative surf and turf.

Service was cheerful, efficient and best of all, fast. Wine is reasonably priced, although you could spend a few bob—as we flat cap wearing Northerners would say—on pricey plonk. No need I say as the basic wine is very competitively priced. The room was buzzing with contentment as we left and my lasting impression was one of leitmotif dining without pretence but delivered with consummate skill.

Star Inn The City (I still can’t make up my mind about the pun) will thrive in York I think , if the district dining community welcome it—which they seem to have already—and the tourists can find it tucked away user a bridge, in a park, by the river.

The Talbot, Malton

Readers of Globetroffers will know D and I are fans of North Yorkshire and James Martin so a trip to Malton for a weekend stay at The Talbot where James Martin is the Executive Chef was inevitable. The Hotel has been refurbished to a very high standard and is on a par with the excellent Feversham Arms in Helmsley. In line with most higher end Country Hotels The Talbot takes dogs so The Lad was very happy to tag long! Our room was very spacious and enjoyed a great view over looking the river.
Malton is only an hour from Leeds so we were easily there by lunchtime and enjoyed a lovely Sancrerre Rose accompanied with the very best simply presented piece of cured smoke salmon I have ever tasted anywhere, D had cheese which was all local artisan fare and well presented.
After a nice wander around the town which has some nice shops and an eclectic cultural “local” vibe with various events we decided to just chill in the room before dinner.
The decor is traditional country style which is set off well against high ceilings and just the right lighting. The service was good and the staff are knowledgable.
After such a brilliant experience with the salmon at lunchtime I decided to try it again for a starter as it had a twist, home cured organic with pickled ginger chaired cucumber ketchup and spring onions….. Posh or what? D decided on Gressingham duck smoked breast with foie gras which she said was very tasty.

20130414-124904.jpg
For mains D had Waterford Farm Pork with soured cabbage, caper and white raisin dressing and I stuck with fish and opted for North Atlantic Seafood with wilted spinach plus young vegetables which was good but not as nice as anticipated.

20130414-125035.jpg

The wine list is very extensive but we stuck with a the Rose.
As you would expect of James Martin the desserts were highly rated and did not disappoint just take a look at D’s crisp chocolate cylinder with blackberry mouse, creme fraiche sorbet and pistachios!!

20130414-125150.jpg
Great place to drop in or to stay.
G&D

The Courtyard Dairy

IMG_2904

If you love cheese then you’re going to love this next post.

I received an email out of the blue from a chap called Andy Swinscoe who, after years of experience in the cheese industry in the UK and France, has opened his own specialised cheese shop called The Courtyard Dairy just outside the dales town of Settle. Andy invited us up to come and taste some of his wares and as we were in the market for some New Year’s cheese action we had a little ‘run out’. We didn’t expect the dales to be awash with flood water either, but it made for an interesting drive I can tell you.

Andy and his partner Kathy have a wonderful little shop in an up market development called The Courtyard. It’s a super little collection of food and lifestyle outlets – a nice brasserie, a cheeky wine shop, an art gallery etc. He has selected his location wisely although for personal reasons I wish he was closer to Leeds!

We bought far too much (that happened to get eaten btw) and here’s what we bought, for the unpasteurised record:

Stichelton – essentially a traditional Stilton, not made by the Stilton mafia

Dale End Cheddar – wonderful, powerful, crunchy, mature

Gorgonzola Dolce – our favourite: unctuous and velvety

Old Winchester – aged gouda

Selles sur cher – aged French goats cheese, a delight

Aged Gruyere – definitely not like the stuff in plastic in the supermarket

 

IMG_2905

There is only one phrase to describe Andy and that is cheese geek. I’m not sure that is ever been used to describe anyone but he really does know his fromage. Inside out and back to front. He purposefully keeps the selection small – around thirty cheeses, mostly unpasteurised – to keep them fresh and turning over. We tasted so many interesting cheeses that after a while we had cheese blindness – you really need to go and have a dibble yourself.

It’s wonderful to meet people who are so passionate about what they are doing that it shines out. The Courtyard Dairy deserves to be a huge success.

IMG_2909

Black Swan, Helmsley, New Year Festive Break

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)!

20130107-181237.jpg
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.

20130107-181625.jpg
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!!

20130107-181807.jpg
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.

20130107-182143.jpg
All in all a pretty perfect to end/start 2012/2013.
G&D.

The Hare at Scawton

On our way to The Black Swan we decided to nip in to The Hare at Scawton. Once you have climbed Sutton Bank it is a left turn off the main road to Helmsley and just a mile and a half down a country lane. The views across the Dales are magnificent when driving to The Hare, worth a look on their own!
We did pop in a few years ago just for a drink and the place was rammed which is to be expected due to the excellent reputation for great local food.

20121231-134817.jpg
As soon as you walk in the old country pub real fire atmosphere just get’s you. The staff are very friendly but we were surprised and pleased that it was quiet due probably to the Xmas/New Year in between period. We ordered a pint of Black Sheep and a glass of Rosé which the Lad accidentally knocked over, my cat like reactions saved the pint but not the Rose…..
There were two other couples in the bar and we were kindly asked if we wanted to swap with one of them for a “dog friendly table” which we did. One of the couples were from Leeds and the lady actually went the same school as our kids did, small world….
We were looking for a light bar lunch and opted for starter portions of Parsnip soup and a bowl of mussels. The soup was sweet and creamy, the mussels were juicy, fresh in a lovely creamy sauce. If it wasn’t for the fact that we were driving and dinner was booked we could have easily settled in for a long long lunch, perhaps next time, in fact definitely next time. Top place a must go.

20121231-134923.jpg
G&D.

The Devonshire Fell

img_1018

A couple of weeks ago we spent the weekend in the Dales, in the great company of D&G, at The Devonshire Fell Hotel. This hotel is the sister hotel to the rather grand Devonshire Arms at Bolton Abbey and although it doesn’t have the old world charm of the Devonshire Arms, it does its own thing very well indeed.

The hotel occupies a wonderfully lofty perch on the hill above Burnsall, a charming lower dales village on the river Wharfe. The location has many advantages – it’s relatively short distance from Leeds is one of them: in a very short space of time you’re in the splendour of the Dales but only forty minutes from the city.

The hotel is excellent throughout having recently enjoyed a refurbishment – it has a chilled out, relaxed air that encourages the guest to feel at home. We enjoyed a light lunch (mindful of our dinner booking that evening) and set out on a not too strenuous meander along the banks of the river to Appletreewick. A couple of pints later at The Craven Arms (another dales jewel) and we’re back off down the river bank back to Burnsall.

Lovely.

After a brief snooze in the very nicely appointed bedroom, it was time for dinner. The food on offer was high quality, country house food. A commendably short menu – always a good sign of a chef confident in their own ability – all of local provenance and simplicity of cooking. I opted for the 24 hour cooked beef which was delicious but fell short of spectacular (high standards and all that). Everyone else enjoyed their food and we could hardly get out of the snug fitting chairs by the time we’d polished off the cheese.

Breakfast was, as you’d expect, excellent with top notch Lishman’s meat produce on show and poached egg perfection. Breakfast taken in the sunlit dining room was a splendid way to start the day and set us up nicely for the return journey via Bolton Abbey to Leeds.

All in all, we would highly recommend The Devonshire Fell and although we all felt the food didn’t quite scale the dizzying heights of some other hotels we’d visited, looking back on our visit it’s actually very hard to fault it. The service is excellent too with friendly, attentive and informality the order of the day.

We will return!

img_10171

Malton Food Festival

img_2358

img_2364

img_2369

img_2374

img_2376

We spent a very enjoyable day at The Malton Food and Drink Festival last weekend. Opting to start the day in style, we had breakfast at Leeds Bar and Grill (superb, by the way) and then hopped on the train to Malton. Rather than drive we fancied letting the train take the strain. In the end we had to stand all the way to York due to a short train and racegoers. This did not dampen our spirits in any way and we hopped off the train in Malton on a bright and breezy day.

The Festival itself was very well put together with plenty of local producer stalls all set in the picturesque town centre. There were a couple of large demo tents and an excellent beer festival in the local concert hall. Sensibly, near the beer was the hog roast and artisan sausage butty stands to soak up the local ale so we were set for a great afternoon.

One of our favourite producers were there – Sand Hutton Asparagus – and there were a couple of tempting Pimms and Pie stalls that caught my eye and wallet. all in all we felt it was a great event, basking in good weather and very well attended.

Oh, and there was a tank. Well not quite a tank but a reconnaissance vehicle. Still it looked cool and trundled noisily back to base at the end of the day.