Owl at Hawnby, Hawnby
Yorkshire chef Sam Varley has already made his mark with his relaxed restaurant Bantam in Helmsley.
Happily, his takeover of The Owl at Hawnby, a handsome village pub nestling in the picturesque Yorkshire Moors is just as assured.
Shane Leadley, who was head chef at Bantam, is behind the stove here, producing confident, generous cooking firmly rooted in local produce, but with innovative twists elevating the dishes. Conventional pub food this is not.
Featherlight cheese gougeres prefaced a meal where every dish delivered. Cured sea trout, cucumber, horseradish and soda bread were fresh with the components sitting happily together. Devilled kidneys on toast were tender but had plenty of poke, and whipped goats cheese, roast beetroots and raspberries had a happy extra crunch of sweetness with candied walnuts.
For the mains, a chunky Barnsley chop came on barley risotto, the freshest cod was accompanied by shrimp butter and salsify, a braised beef pie was brimming with tender meat and roast mallard, a tricky meat to cook with, came tender, rich and generously sized, with red cabbage and chanterelles.
To finish, a sublime treacle tart balancing the sweetness with lemon, and a trio of British cheeses with crab apple jelly graced our table.
If you want the bar menu, the likes of cheeseburger and pork pie are on offer. The wine list is innovative and fairly priced, and beers from Yorkshire breweries like Wold Top and Theakston’s are on the pumps.
The vibe is relaxed, service is smart, and the surroundings, comfortable but chic with polished tables, bare floorboards and wonderful views of the surrounding moors. The terrace will be wonderful in summer.
In short, relaxed civilised dining with wonderful food. Nine rooms are available.