In February we reported our dismay at the expensive signing of James Martin as executive chef at the newly refurbed Talbot Hotel in Malton. Despite assurances to the contrary, we couldn’t help thinking this was a PR stunt rather than a commitment to real food, especially disappointing when owner Tom Naylor Leyland had declared his commitment to Malton as a food town.
So it was very gracious of them, in the circumstances, to invite me to their opening on Thursday. We were served drinks and canapés and given a tour before the public opening at the weekend and I have to declare the £4million looks well spent.
Twenty six bedrooms a couple of suites, bar, atrium, drawing room and dining room, all tastefully done out in English country house style.
There was good fun quizzing the young receptionist who was here in its Fawlty Towers heyday. The atrium where you can now enjoy a lavish afternoon tea was remembered by her as being open to the elements with a rusty fire escape where the staff went to have an illicit fag.
The canapés were delicious: pea and watercress soup, fish goujons, sticky toffee pudding, and a white chocolate and whisky croissant bread and butter pudding. And yes, the man himself was there, not swanning about like a celeb, but actually looking hot and sweaty and nervy in the kitchen.
Putting my head into the lion’s mouth, I buttonholed Naylor Leyland. He admitted JM won’t be in the kitchen all the time – ‘though he has bought a house up here,’ he told me. ‘And he’s been in the kitchen for the last two weeks’. The restaurant menu had yet to be finalised but N-L promised just good food without dips and drIzzles, for which much thanks.
He knows there’s much riding on the Talbot, particularly on its restaurant. It could and should be the place in Malton to eat well, not just for hotel guests but more especially non-residents and especially if N-L wants to achieve his food-town ambition. To his credit he is putting his money where his mouth is.
Besides the starry Martin, they’ve appointed Craig Aitchison from Swinton Park as head chef so it’s a strong team. Furthermore, they’ve challenged me to come and eat here and report back – and promise to take note of what I have to say. Can’t say fairer than that. Watch this space. I may yet have to eat not only my fish goujons, but also my hat.