ensure second helpings of the Black Swan bread and dripping butter. I couldn’t get enough
2 trips to one Yorkshire Village in the space of 12 months should be enough to convince you that Helmsley in North Yorkshire is an idyllic location for a weekend away.
With little Pudd being entertained by her grandparents for the weekend, our focus is on some serious rest and relaxation, coupled with a touch of fantastic retail therapy.
As it transpires, our focus is actually somewhat distracted by an abundance of steam engine vehicles that descend upon on the village from the nearby steam engine fair. This helped make our first day in Helmsley even more special and somehow gives a deeper Yorkshire feel to the day.
Our accommodation for the weekend is the centrally located Black Swan Hotel, a hotel with an elegant feel. In stark contrast are the squeaky floor boards on the higher levels that remind you this impressive building comes with both age and character.
The elegant decor continues into the bedrooms and provides an ideal setting to further witness the activities taking place in this stunning Yorkshire village before getting ready for dinner.
The bar area at the Black Swan is a perfect setting to begin the evening with a large glass of red sat in a hugely comfortable sofa while perusing the menu and chatting with my wife is my start to the perfect night away.
The menu is masterfully created, clearly by a chef with service at the forefront of his mind. Impressive displays of waiters carving chateaubriand for dinners to share not only creates a talking point amongst dinners but also relieves some of the pressure off the kitchen, who, in our case, are concentrating on a high level of detail on every element of our 7-course tasting menu with matching wines.
Our first course is served whilst we’re still enjoying the bar area, including snacks comprising of confit of lamb beignet with mint puree with house smoked salmon & caviar toast and white onion & 36 month aged veloute. These snacks are enough to create interest from other diners based on the incredible aroma they give off alone. However, for me, they further increase my excitement at what’s about to come next. If the dishes continue like this, then the Black Swan could be a game changer.
Once seated in the dining room, it’s not long before we’re presented with our second dish of the night, ham knuckle and Foie gras served with a celeriac remoulade caper jam pease pudding and quail egg. What’s particularly pleasing about this dish is the balance of flavours, the caper jam cuts through the richness of the Foie gras beautifully. Meanwhile, the runny yolk of the quail egg is providing a perfect sauce for the ham knuckle. It is an adventurous beginning to proceedings with complex flavours that just work.
The fish course of sea bass with mussels, clams, fresh beans and sea herbs deserves similar praise. The crispness of the fish skin coupled with the slight crunch from the sea herbs gives texture to the dish, the fish is cooked absolutely perfectly, and I’m particularly impressed by the piece of maritime stonework that the course is served in. This is attention to detail at its finest.
Before we get to the main course, we have the small matter of the raw Scottish venison to contend with. Think steak tartare but with venison, served with burnt orange smoked coconut beetroot emulsion and a yolk. While the characteristics of the dish may be off-putting to some, I’m a firm believer in nothing ventured nothing gained. And, as a steak tartare fan of the highest level, I would not let this dish faze me and rightly so. Epic is my response, a fantastic dish that displays the beauty of the gamey venison from where some would consider the best land in the world for deer. The dish is enough to make any Scot proud.
The star of the show, though, goes to the duck that makes its way in our direction next. It comprises of Greshingham Duck with corn sweet potato shiitake tosazu sea lettuce and peanut. It’s no secret that I’m a fan of duck, so from the very start, I had high expectations of this dish, and it didn’t disappoint. Again the balance of textures is amazing, and the duck, well, that’s cooked just perfectly. No amount of words I write can describe the quality of this dish; only photos surface to tell the story.
It’s worth noting that adding wines that match each dish is highly recommended, and I’d also advise you to ensure you get second helpings of the chef’s bread and dripping butter. I couldn’t get enough.
I was asked just last weekend where my favourite restaurant in Yorkshire is at the moment, which is a question I always struggle to answer because it depends on what price point you are prepared to dine at and what at the time you fancy. For example, there’re some awesome burger joints in Yorkshire at the moment, but if you asked me where’s the best restaurant I’ve dined at in the last 12 months that offers diners food cooked on another level, then the answer would be easy, The Black Swan at Helmsley. Chef Alan O’Kane is an absolute genius and a nice guy too.
It’ll take a lot to beat this place!!
Black Swan Helmsley | Market Place | Helmsley | North Yorkshire | YO62 5BJ