Middlethorpe Hall, York
Now and again, Squidbeak likes to get out the posh frock and head for somewhere swanky. Recently it was Middlethorpe Hall, the beautiful Queen Anne mansion in manicured grounds, close to the racecourse, and not shy of the busy A64. Social climbers that we are, we like to swan around as if we own the place, and indeed we do in a way. Middlethorpe Hall belongs to you, me and all of us having been bequeathed to the National Trust in 2008 by the former owners.
Not that that stops them charging £43 plus for dinner, £69 for the tasting menu and £29.50 for full monty afternoon tea with champagne. But enjoying your sandwiches, scones, cakes and tea in a silver teapot in the grandest of grand drawing rooms overlooking the clipped hedges and a majestic Cedar of Lebanon must be worth 20 quid of anyone’s money. And if you shop carefully there are deals to be had like the £28 luncheon (yes, they still call it luncheon here), or the £139 pp midweek dinner, B & B package. No bargain basement, we grant you, but not bad for such an illustrious setting.
The menu is grand but without the fiddly, miniature cuisine we call Squidbeakery: excellent pumpkin veloute with a sublime chestnut ravioli and crisp sage; halibut fillet, langoustine tail and a warm potato salad, wrapped in a slice of crisp deep fried leek and a red wine sauce; blood orange soufflé with orange Madeleine and chocolate orange ice cream; all exemplary (and a significant return to form since my last visit.)
As ever vegetarians are short changed with only the veloute and mushroom risotto on offer, though they do undertake to provide alternatives ‘on request.’ And while it’s assumed ‘ladies’ know how to dress men are requested not to wear shorts and trackies to dinner. Quite right. Show some style, guys.