Black Swan, Oldstead
I’ve just had one of my best ever meals in Yorkshire. Stand by for a rave review once we get the necessary background out of the way. You know, history, location, log fire descriptions etc.
So. The Banks family farmed these parts for hundreds of years before deciding to put all their efforts into the handsome old village pub next door. That was in 2005. They served such progressively superior food that in 2012 they were awarded a Michelin star, and have kept it ever since.
Tucked back from the roadside at the junction of two quiet country lanes, it’s in a delightfully secluded spot. On a good day, down a pint of well-kept Copper Dragon in the garden sheltered under Sutton Bank. It delivers cosy in winter, too, with open fires, flagged floors and beams, candles flickering against stone walls and gleaming oak tables.
They serve lunch only at weekends but with cooking of this standard three courses for £32 is reasonable value. Otherwise they’re open every night for a five course (£55) or a nine course (£80) dinner. With cocktails, wine and service it’s obviously going to be a big night out, but save up and go because it will be one of the best meals you will ever eat in Yorkshire. Am I swooning? Yes, but not hallucinating.
First there are superior ‘snacks’ in the bar – ever fancied a miniature chicken and smoked garlic dumpling? You would, especially alongside their newly created house cocktails: kale martini, damson sour, fennel fizz. They’ve even put together a soft drinks list to cheer up the gloomiest designated driver. I can recommend the ginger and chilli beer.
Upstairs in the dining room the menu genuinely changes with the season. June kicked off with a gorgeous little construction from the garden: baby turnips, miniature carrots, a radish slice or two, some crunch from toasted hazelnuts and topped off with sheep’s milk yoghurt.
My fish course was trout fillet and ultra-delicate fried squid in a radish broth. Poached chicken is served with an intense leek and hen-of-the-woods mushroom sauce. Pre-dessert is a witty row of three lollipops in a wooden stand ascending from savoury to sweet: mushroom and white chocolate, fennel and elderberry and rosemary and apple. And the dessert proper is an arrangement of honey and flowers. Purple and yellow viola flowers, honey sorbet, honey meringue and honeycomb. It’s early summer on a plate.
This sumptuous harvest of fresh baby veg, fruit, flowers and herbs is the product of their newly planted kitchen garden, a five acre site at the back of the restaurant, one of a number of changes since Tommy Banks took over as head chef. Crucially, he has given the the food an identity that is distinct from anywhere else I know in Yorkshire and it catapults the Black Swan into our Top Ten.
It’s time to splash out on those exotic cocktails, go round the world with one of the most surprising wine lists I’ve encountered, and having recklessly overdone it, check into one of their four bedrooms or the newly opened Villa, a Georgian house with five further glamorous bedrooms. It’s all too good to miss.
In 2019 they opened a sister restaurant Roots, in York.