York, The Yorkshire Dales & East Yorkshire

The Pipe & Glass, South Dalton, East Yorkshire

August 2021

Just the other week we had another ‘staycation’ in Yorkshire, on this occasion we decided to visit the east of the county which we had never seen before. If I’m honest, this corner of Yorkshire has less to offer than its counterparts, but we were attracted to the area for the reputation of one restaurant in particular…The Pipe & Glass, a Michelin stared gastropub. Indeed just after I had booked our visit, I was pleased to see its appearance in an article in ‘The Times’ which featured the 25 best UK pubs for a staycation – admittedly we weren’t staying there (with hindsight we wished we had!), but the point was that the article was celebrating the food the Pipe & Glass offered…

The Pipe & Glass, a former 17th-century lodging house, can be found in the pretty village of South Dalton, near to the larger market town of Beverley. Husband and wife team, James and Kate, bought the pub in 2006 and by 2010 had acquired a Michelin star. These days it is recognized as one of Yorkshire’s premier gastro pubs; it prides itself on being first and foremost a proper pub, it’s possible to turn up just for a pint, however, the food really should not be missed!… The menu, which you can eat in both the bar or restaurant area, features traditional comfort food with subtle, inspired touches; there is nothing too complex, it’s just great, good British food. We ate at the pub twice on our recent visit, once for a light, impromptu lunch and the following evening for a proper full-blown meal. On our lunchtime visit we managed to nab a table outside and enjoyed a brief spell of sun, I chose the fish pie which had a lovely, crunchy cheddar crust and on the side a pickled fennel salad with brown shrimps – it was this little touch that took the traditional fish pie to a higher level. Nick chose the Roast Pork Loin, again it was the small additions that made this dish sing – the black pudding sausage roll and sage and cider gravy. When we returned for our evening reservation, we made sure we were hungry so we were able to enjoy three full courses!…This time we dined inside, the restaurant has a homely, unpretentious atmosphere. We both started with the ‘Proper’ Prawn Cocktail’, it was certainly a great prawn cocktail, generous in both size and flavour. Nick also had a couple of ‘Lindisfarne Oysters’, which were deliciously fresh and flavoursome. Moving on to our main courses I enjoyed ‘Roast Chicken Breast with Braised Peas & Lettuce, Champ Potato, Pickled Baby Mushrooms, Smoked Bacon Veloute & Summer Truffle’, it was well executed; what really made this dish was the pickled mushrooms and shavings of summer truffle – it was definitely not your average ‘pub grub’! Nick chose ‘Rump of Lamb with Beer, Barley and Broad Bean Risotto, Summer Vegetables, Mutton Belly Fritter, Nettle & Mint Sauce’, again everything was cooked perfectly, but it was the little extras – the fritter, the risotto and the nettle & mint sauce that lifted the dish to a higher level. Finally desserts, well naturally being a ‘pub’ there was sticky toffee pudding, which Nick couldn’t resist, but this of course was a step ahead of the traditional fare with a stout ice-cream and a little glass of stout(!) plus some walnut brittle – it was all extremely good. I chose the ‘Cinder Toffee Ice cream with Dark Chocolate Honeycomb Bites’, this was a deliciously creamy, slightly salted caramel ice cream with their gourmet version of the ‘Crunchie bar’ on the side – it was fantastic!

We very much enjoyed the traditional menu with its sophisticated twists, the portions are generous whilst the flavours are honest – this is the type of food every gastropub should be serving!…Next time we visit The Pipe & Glass, Nick and I have promised ourselves an overnight stay…perhaps it can be the starting point for a gastro tour around Yorkshire…

The Rattle Owl

June 2021

The Rattle Owl is the type of place every town needs – an independent, casual dining restaurant offering quality and value. Set within the historic walls of York, housed in a restored 17th century building, The Rattle Owl has a lovely relaxed interior that is at once welcoming. Their seasonal menu has firmly established itself in the hearts of both the locals and tourists, and it is particularly renowned for its Sunday lunches. So on our recent visit to York, before heading home to London, Nick and I decided that we had to sample their Sunday lunch!…

On the Sunday we visited, the menu offered Roast Beef Sirloin or Roast Mutton, both were served with roast potatoes and vegetables, and of course with Yorkshire Puddings. There was also a fish and a vegetarian choice. Before our chosen main courses we ordered starters – we both opted for the ‘Cured Trout, Wild Horseradish, Dark Rye, Fennel & Gin’. It was an elegant starter, wonderfully light, but beautifully flavoured with a horseradish ice-cream and gin jelly.  Moving on to the ‘main event’, Nick followed the traditional route choosing the Beef Sirloin; the beef was cooked to perfection, the roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings had just the right amount of crisp without being heavy with fat, and the vegetables were lightly dressed in butter with a touch of garlic. We were both impressed with the clean flavours of this roast. Having eaten out on the previous two evenings, and having rather overindulged (reviews below!), I felt the need for a lighter main course, so ordered the ‘Cod, Mussel and Thornbourough Cider Sauce, Wilted Spinach, Shetland Mussels & Asparagus’. This dish particularly confirmed the ability of The Rattle Owl’s kitchen – the cod was cooked beautifully, and the mussels gave a subtle, salty flavour which was cut by the delicate cider sauce. Finally desserts, following the tradition of Sunday roast menus, there was a wonderful Sticky Toffee Pudding, which Nick chose, whilst I opted for the ‘slightly’ lighter option of ‘85% Ecuador Single Origin Chocolate Delice with a Coco Nib Tuile & Rapeseed Ice Cream’! As its name would suggest, the chocolate in this dessert was incredibly flavoured, rich and intense, however it was beautifully cut by the creamy rapeseed ice-cream.

The Rattle Owl gave us a wonderful end to our weekend in York. Their Sunday Roast is one of the best I have had at a restaurant. It demonstrated the flare of their chef, Tom Heyward, and I will definitely be returning on another day to try their à la carte menu!…

Arras, York

June 2021

Last weekend I was back in one of my favourite cities, York. This time not only did I get the chance to eat at Meltons, which was once again fabulous (see my review below) but also at Arras. I had been wanting to eat at Arras for some time, having heard good things about it, plus I was intrigued by their story. Owned by Lovaine and Adam Humphrey, Arras was originally opened in Australia – yes, you read that correctly – Australia!…But, the British couple, eventually felt the pull to return home, and they chose to bring Arras to York! The experience of cooking in two continents can’t be a bad thing, indeed Arras strives to deliver ‘thought provoking and interesting food inspired by their travels’…I was hoping I was in for a treat!…

On the evening we dined at Arras it was a warm, sunny evening, but unfortunately, it was a little too chilly to eat outside on their small, pretty terrace however, it would have made the perfect spot for lunch. Inside, the restaurant’s dining room is a modern, light filled space, which I felt could have benefited from lower level lighting to make the room a little more intimate, although it did enable us to see very clearly the beautiful courses we were eating!…Our meal began with some delicious canapes, including a selection of gluten free ones for me plus homemade gluten free bread! It isn’t very often that I get the treat of gluten free bread as good as this; they also own ‘Little Arras’, a French inspired bakery in the centre of York! Throughout our meal, I was not only impressed by their attention to my dietary requirements but also by their obvious enthusiasm for the food that they served.

After a delicious amuse bouche (a light potato & garlic soup served with asparagus) we enjoyed our first courses. I chose the ‘Quail, Beetroot, Game Ragu & Spiced Sauce’, the sweetness of the quail was perfectly complemented by the earthy flavour of the beetroot and subtle spice – it was a great dish. Nick’s ‘Cured Haddock Cocktail, Lettuce, Cucumber & Pink Grapefruit’, was also good, however, we felt that the sharp flavour of the grapefruit rather overwhelmed the dish. Moving on to our main courses, we chose the ‘Cod, Young Vegetables, Mussels, Saffron & Chickpea Veloute’, this was superb, the cod was enhanced by the beautiful fresh flavours of the root vegetables whilst the mussels were unusually pickled – they really gave the dish a subtle punch. We also chose the ‘Sirloin, Beef Olive, Celeriac, Sauce Bercy & Marrow’, this was cooked well, but we did find that there was a lot ‘going on’ in the dish, almost too much…the flavours were competing rather than complementing each other. However, saying that, it was a tasty dish, just a little overwhelming. Finally desserts, a fantastic ‘Lemon & Liquorice’, which was a mousse and ice-cream combo, here, both the two flavours and the textures beautifully complemented each other! We also shared the ‘Rhubarb & Burnt Butter’, you can’t really go wrong with rhubarb in my opinion, and this dessert was a great success!

Arras, delivered its aim to present ‘thought provoking and interesting food’. On the whole, the meal was a success, I did feel that a couple of the dishes were a little contrived, however, this showed that they were willing to take risks and present their guests with a meal which would be tasty, memorable and different – which it was. And for that reason, I will definitely be returning to Arras in the future…

Meltons, York

December 2020

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!…

The Blue Lion, East Whitton, Yorkshire Dales

December 2020

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!

The Angel at Hetton, Yorkshire Dales

December 2020

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 complementing 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’!…

Yorebridge House, Bainbridge, Wensleydale

December 2020

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!