Asked to describe her style of cooking, Frances Atkins cocks her head and comes up with ‘light, fresh, seasonal.’ So it proves, but it’s also much, much more than that. It has classic French influences but is rooted in Yorkshire. It is modern but never up itself. Portions are not too big, not too small. She’s cracked it.
In early spring Mandy and I drove beyond Pateley Bridge into lovely Nidderdale to enjoy one of our very best meals. Needless to say we’ve fired it straight into our top ten. Overdue but never in doubt.
It’s not cheap. Starters are around £12, mains topping £40, the tasting menu is £85, so unless you are on a banker’s bonus the Yorke Arms is a special occasion place, but if you haven’t been then beg borrow or steal because go you must. If you’re still cash strapped then go for lunch: £35 for three courses, £40 on Sunday, is a bargain when eating at this level.
When I first ate here in the 90s I fondly remember generous plates of ham, egg and chips after a long fell walk. It’s moved up a league and a half since then and in 2003 the Yorke Arms was awarded a Michelin star. That it’s held on to that star for the last nine years says much about Frances Atkins’ attention to detail and her refined menu of Yorke Arms Classics: potted beef and ham hock terrine; Wensleydale soufflé with scallops; potage of shellfish with Whitby crab; fillet of Yorkshire beef with foie gras and truffle jus; slow cooked lamb shoulder and gnocchi and sweet potato embers. If that’s not enough there’s a Dish of the Day menu too offering five starters and five mains.
In the comfortable, sofa’d lounge we are looked after by the genial General Manager John Tullett, the smooth front of house. ‘The honeyed quail is very nice, off the bone, easy to eat and I can recommend the slow cooked hare.’ That’s us sorted then.
Very sorted. It’s a quiet midweek night so we are in my preferred small dining room, comfortable, intimate, art on the walls, crisp white cloths, proper service.
We are delivered first of a heavenly ‘amuse’ a little mousse-like thing of Jerusalem artichoke beside a zingy lemon chutney, spiked with an artichoke crisp. Wow. My starter of red mullet, salmon and Whitby crab is fresh and delicate. Clear, clean flavours, spot on for when the snowdrops are pushing through and it’s starting to feel like spring. Mandy’s starter is an arrangement of smoked halibut, artichoke, a perfectly poached egg and some pickled cucumber. As promised: light, fresh and seasonal. Each element tastes of itself but cleverly they all work together on the plate.
Our mains are particularly outstanding. The quail has been boned, stuffed with truffle and then all manner of elements are brought in: walnuts, celery, apple, honey. It’s both sweet and savoury, crunchy and soft and infused with heady truffley flavours. Superb.
When did you last see hare on the menu? This one is deep, dark and tender, slightly gamey. It’s been slow cooked and matched with the softest, most tender black pudding ever then there’s pearl barley in there, pear for sweetness and a spot of mustard aioli, a clever combination of flavours and textures.
And wines? Impeccable again - a beautiful fresh Yalumba The Virgilius Viognier, Eden Valley 2008 with the quail and a soft Bourgogne Pinot Noir Domaine Jean Jaques Girard 2009 with the hare.
Desserts follow the same pattern. A selection of different elements with flavours that contrast, complement and come together in a coherent whole. What about matching basil with lemon? It works a treat in the basil and lemon tart served with sharp blackurrant and lychee and a slick of liquorice. Mmm. And for Mandy, tarragon parfait, pistachio brulee and lemon and roasted fig. It’s all sublime. A truly superior kitchen at the top of its game.
Squidbeak were guests of the Yorke Arms
Ramsgill in Nidderdale, Pateley Bridge, N. Yorkshire HG3 5RLTel 01423 755243
Review by Jill, 5 March 2012blog comments powered by Disqus