York is perhaps one of the UK’s most perfect cities, with its beautiful Minster, ancient city walls and medieval ‘Shambles’, it manages to combine a vibrant history with contemporary attractions such as independent shops and restaurants. Since my son, Felix, has been studying at the University of York, I have been fortunate to have the excuse to visit on a few occasions, and can definitely vouch for its wonderful selection of restaurants. Recently, at the end of our trip to the Yorkshire Dales, we spent our final night there and revisited one of my favourite ‘York’ restaurants, Meltons.
Chef Michael Hjort and his wife Lucy opened Meltons in 1990 and have since continued to serve high quality modern British food to much acclaim. On our first visit a year or so ago, we were extremely impressed by the standard of the food and presentation of the seasonal dishes, in fact, we expressed our surprise to Lucy, who runs the front of house, that they didn’t have a Michelin star. She rather refreshingly admitted that they had decided some time ago that they would not concentrate of this accolade as they were fortunate to have a successful business and did not need it to encourage more custom, indeed it would only have put more unneeded pressure on the chef and staff (a complaint often cited against the Michelin star system). Perhaps it is this decision that gives Melton’s that extra edge, the dining room is relaxed and informal, whilst the fact that Lucy is still very much front of house reflects the personal investment they have in the business and ensures the high standard of service.
On our recent visit we were once again impressed by the food and service, admittedly the position of our table, upstairs, was not ideal (I would recommend trying to book a table downstairs in the main restaurant), but we managed to make our own atmosphere. It was a wonderful dinner out, in fact, it was our last for some time, as on our return, London moved into tier four…and now, of course, we have national lockdown.
Our meal started with some delicious canapes before we enjoyed our starters, ‘Hand Dived Scallop with Salsify, Chicken Wings and Maple Vinegar’ and ‘Pigeon with Panisse, Blackberry, Chive Emulsion, Hazelnut and Pickled Shimeji’, both had subtle sweet and savoury flavours and were perfectly cooked. Moving on to our main courses we enjoyed ‘Longhorn Beef, Sirloin, Shin Croquette, Kohlrabi, Maitake, Onion, Persillade Emulsion’ and ‘Pork Fillet, Shoulder and Belly with Cauliflower, Jowl Bon Bon, Burnt Apple and Watercress’ these dishes were generously flavoured with interesting elements and a combination of textures – all really delicious. Finally, desserts ‘Dark Chocolate Delice’ and a ‘Caramelised Pear and Brown Butter Tart’ – both exquisite.
Our dinner was the perfect ‘last supper’ before returning to London and discovering we were to be confined to tier four and thus a restaurant hiatus!…Hopefully, with new vaccinations on the horizon and the chance that life will return to a new normal in the not too distance future, you too will soon be able to enjoy a meal at Meltons. If you are a Londoner like me, remember that it is possible to visit York for the day, by train it takes just an hour and fifty minutes(!), so Meltons would make a great lunch excursion!…
If you have read my blog recently you will know that in early December, just after the second lockdown, we managed to take a short break in the Yorkshire Dales. Before going away I researched restaurants in the area, this is something that I love to do; I trawl through various websites, comparing reviews before finally compiling a shortlist. I get great satisfaction trying these restaurants, especially when I know I have chosen a winner!
The Blue Lion, made my shortlist, but I was a little sceptical about it as I had read some negative reviews on TripAdvisor, at the same time I am always rather sceptical about reviews on TripAdvisor, as I often find them irrational! Fortunately, I went with my gut instinct; having read reviews from other websites, I made the decision to visit The Blue Lion.
Originally an 18th century coaching inn, The Blue Lion still retains a lot of character with a roaring fire, flagstone floor and sturdy oak tables, it is a proper English pub but one which serves restaurant quality food. We visited The Blue Lion for lunch, having enjoyed a lovely, somewhat cold walk on the nearby Dales, it was wonderful to enter this cosy pub, with its roaring fire and comforting smell of wood smoke. Apart from four other customers it was just us, and we were fortunate to have the table beside the aforementioned fire. The chalkboard menu had some great, seasonal dishes, many inspired by local Yorkshire produce. We decided to share a starter – ‘Blue Wensleydale, Cos and Walnut Salad with Croutons and Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing’, it was a nice, light yet tasty start to our lunch. The main courses definitely confirmed that we had been right to choose to visit The Blue Lion… I had ‘Rack of Yorkshire Dales Lamb, Rosemary Fondant Potato, Yellisons Goat Curd, Piccolo Tomato Confit in Aged Balsamic & Rosemary’, it was a generous plate of food, the lamb was cooked perfectly pink and was super tasty, and surprisingly light – the tomato confit gave it a lovely fresh flavour. Nick opted for the ‘Roast Crown of Yorkshire Partridge, Confit Leg Bon Bon, Liquor of Blackberries & Sweet Potatoes’, a wonderful, seasonal, meaty dish, particularly flavoursome with the blackberries. We chose traditional desserts – Nick couldn’t go wrong with the delicious Sticky Toffee Pudding, whilst I enjoyed the ‘slightly’ lighter Crème Brûlée – wonderful!!
We could have stayed in the snug bar of The Blue Lion all afternoon, in fact I did have a sneaky, relaxing Irish Coffee at the end of my meal! It was a really perfect lunch. Whilst we relaxed over our coffees we wondered about the negative reviews it had received, they mainly complained about the service (unfriendly and slow) and that the food was overpriced. Whilst it is true that the food is expensive by ‘village pub’ standards (more ‘London loaded’), the quality of the food and the portions, in my opinion, justified the prices – the food is restaurant standard thus priced accordingly. When we visited, the pub was very quiet so it is difficult for me to say how the speed of service would be under busier circumstances, but our service was good, not too slow or fast, whilst our waitress was friendly, although admittedly not particularly animated.
So, if you are in the region of Wensleydale, I would definitely recommend a visit to The Blue Lion – if you have anything like our experience you will not be disappointed!
My recent ‘foodie’ travels in the Yorkshire Dales, took me to the wonderful Angel Inn at Hetton. Any self-confessed lover of fine food could never visit the Dales and not visit this renowned Michelin starred gastro pub, so unsurprisingly it was on my restaurant list! The Angel is widely regarded as the UK’s original gastropub – it has origins which date back to the 15th Century! In recent years, it has been regarded as a destination establishment for fine food whilst the arrival of patron chef Michael Wignall in 2018 has taken it to a legendary status. Wignall and his wife have not only taken the food to an outstanding level but they have also redesigned the interior of this old pub; they have sympathetically brought modern to the old, introducing a stylish, contemporary, clean oak interior whilst keeping the original oak beams and some of the fireplaces – it totally suits the beautifully plated food that they serve.
Having just finished a rather bracing walk (and having changed out of our muddy boots!) entering this pub was like being hugged – the warmth of the fires was inviting whilst the modern interior was very comforting after getting lost once or twice on the damp Dales! Seated in front of one of the wood stove fires, we decided that we deserved a glass of champagne – I have since decided that all walks should end like this! We then had the joy of reading the menu, everything seemed delicious…
In the end we opted for starters of ‘Scallop with Oscietra Caviar, Dill, Apple & Frozen Buttermilk’ – this was in my opinion flavoured to perfection, a real joy, and ‘Sweetbread with Artichoke, Sunflower Seed Purée, Winter Truffle & Vin Jaune’, was similarly executed wonderfully. For our main courses there was ‘Loin of Venison, Butternut Squash, Pumpkin, Teryaki Shitake, Pak Choi, Cocoa & Brioche’ and ‘Steamed Turbot with Salsify, Sea Leek & Smoked Pike Roe Butter Scented with Kombu Vinegar’, both of these dishes were exquisitely presented and all the flavours were combined masterfully. Finally, dessert – ‘Bergomot Set Cream and Curd, Olive Oil Cake, Candied Pistachio, Yogurt & Pomelo’ and ‘Caramelised Pineapple, Bitter Chocolate, Indonesian Coconut & Marigold’, both were faultlessly flavoured. The whole meal was a carnival of flavours all cleverly complimenting each other.
It was without doubt a wonderful lunch, however at the end of this exquisite meal we were left just a little ‘unfulfilled’. The courses at the Angel are beautifully presented (picture perfect) and without doubt absolutely delicious….but they are very small. Admittedly this goes hand in hand with this type of rich food, however, normally, a restaurant of this calibre, and one which serves this type of cuisine would serve amuse bouches and palate cleansers between courses, and this is what our meal at The Angel missed – that small gift from the chef which brings the meal together and the dining experience to a higher level. Even with our coffees, we didn’t receive the normal small plate of petit fours – instead just one, tiny, jelly each.
I am perhaps being harsh as despite this slight disappointment, I would still recommend The Angel at Hetton; food and chefs of this excellence don’t appear everywhere, especially in the Yorkshire Dales – there is no denying Michael Wignall’s talent. So, yes, I would certainly return, and perhaps I would enjoy this restaurant more second time around, knowing not to expect ‘ those extra gifts’!…
If you have read my blog recently you will know that last week we managed to escape to the Yorkshire Dales for a short break. It was so refreshing to get away from ‘reality’ for a few days, even if we were masked up and still in tier two! Before going, the weather forecast was rather miserable, but in actual fact we managed to have some beautiful walks, and we didn’t get too damp. It was wonderful to be in the middle of the fields surrounded by sheep and the odd hare – Covid seemed out of sight for at least an hour or so. The highlight of our break was the food, although, as you know, I love cooking, it is always a treat to be cooked for, especially when the quality of the food is high. We had chosen our hotel not just for its location but also for its reputation for food…and it did not disappoint!…
Conveniently situated in the heart of Wensleydale, Yorebridge House is a former schoolhouse that’s now home to 11 individually designed rooms. Our room, Carabeo, was beautifully appointed and overlooked the river Ure and the ‘sheepy’ Dales. For me the beauty of Yorebridge House was that after a refreshing walk around the Dales we were able to return to its warm, relaxing interior, and in the evening enjoy its cosy bar where we could have a cocktail before a great gourmet meal – I felt totally spoilt. The service for our entire stay was fantastic, friendly and relaxed yet totally professional.
The food was in fact better than I had expected(!), not only was it was elegantly presented but adventurous and full of flavour. One of the problems with staying for four nights in one place is that often the menu doesn’t change, and so you are stuck with the same choices. Although this was the case at Yorebridge House, it was not a problem as all the choices appealed to me, and each evening I looked forward to trying each and every one of them(!), in fact, the one evening that we did venture to eat out was a disappointment. Before our dinners, each evening we were presented with a different velouté (a mushroom, a goats cheese and a sweetcorn), all were perfectly light and creamy, the perfect amuse bouche before our meal. Starters included a’ 62’ duck egg with Butternut Squash & Chorizo Jam’ – slowly poached to perfection, ‘Cured Scottish Salmon with Mooli & Exmoor Caviar’, a particularly memorable dish, subtly sweet with just the right amount of saltiness from the ‘caviar’, whilst ‘Beef Carpaccio with Kohlrabi & Pickled Shimiji’, was unusual and pickled to perfection!…For our main courses we enjoyed ‘Gigha Halibut with Cauliflower & Hazelnut’, this was cooked beautifully with a crunchy nut crust whilst the cauliflower was lightly spiced, ‘Gressingham Duck with Red Cabbage & Puy Lentil’ was cooked ‘sous vide’ and was incredibly tender, finally ‘Pork Belly with Pigs Cheek & Peas Pudding’ – was ‘delicious’ with perfect crackling! To end our meal, after a refreshing pre-dessert (a Lemon Posset with Fennel and Blackberry), we enjoyed a ‘Christmas Pudding with Meejool Dates & Courvoisier Sauce’ which was more of a light sponge, so delicious that Nick decided to have it two evenings on the trot! There was also ‘72% Chocolate with Honeycomb & Manadarin’, which was a lovely, rich chocolate dessert cut by the subtle, bitter ‘marmalade’ flavours from the manadarin, and finally a ‘Passionfruit Cheesecake with Mango & Ginger’ which was fabulously creamy yet light and refreshing.
I would definitely like to revisit Yorebridge House in the spring/summer to enjoy a different seasons menu and to experience the beauty of the surrounding dales in the warm, fine weather. Although I would recommend a stay at this beautiful boutique hotel, you don’t have to stay at Yorebridge House to enjoy its food… so if you are visiting the Yorkshire Dales you must book a dinner at its wonderful restaurant!