The Alice Hawthorn: a complete thoroughbred?
Let me tell you a story about a wealthy business owner, an exquisite little Yorkshire village and a pub named after a famous racehorse that was on the brink of the big glue factory in the sky.
A little research into Huddersfield-born Richard Harpin reveals a man who clearly leads a busy business life, but despite being the founder of the UK’s largest home emergency business, he’s not at home in some London penthouse overlooking the Thames, nor is he stood in some trendy bar in London’s West End in a pinstripe suit.
Instead, Richard is at his home in Nun Monkton in Yorkshire. He could have an extravagant way of commuting between home and work, but clearly being at home in Yorkshire, ideally within walking distance of his local pub, is the way he likes to live his life.
Imagine the dilemma then when all that’s about to change and the local (The Alice Hawthorn) is about to shut its doors for the final time. What do you do? For Richard and his wife Kate that’s simple. You buy it.
Today what you see at The Alice Hawthorn is a pub that has clearly gone through major refurbishment, and to be honest it’s hard to believe that Kate Harpin is not an interior designer.
The look and feel to The Alice Hawthorn is simply stunning. It’s the kind of place that you take pictures of to give you inspiration for your own home. It’s got a very clean, modern, yet traditional, feel to it which is extremely well lit. It’s inspiring that Kate has managed to keep the feel of a high end pub stretching throughout the bar and restaurant area. It’s very warm and it’s very comfortable.
As well as creating an fabulous interior, the exterior hasn’t been forgotten either. It’s everything you’d expect in terms of plenty of parking, outdoor seating area for dining on warmer days, but then at the back of this area is The Alice Hawthorn’s very own vegetable and herb garden.
As well as being tended to by the chefs, the garden is also home to vegetables and herbs that have been grown by children from the local school, providing an area in which local kids can learn, explore and witness the fruits of their labour. What an amazing idea!
As it should be it’s the food for which I have the biggest praise. Any chef worth his salt will tell you that creating a great dish is all about outstanding produce that is simply cooked well – no faffing, no messing, just a mix of flavours that complement each of the perfectly sourced ingredients.
We start with an amuse bouche of carrot and coriander soup, and every ingredient in the soup has been grown in the vegetable garden. We’re off to a great start. It’s a simply stunning soup, the sort that inspires you to immediately get the ingredients to make your own.
Both starters are wonderful. My foie gras is extremely rich and buttery but very delicate at the same time and it complements the meaty ham hock fantastically, the chutney takes the dish to a whole new level cutting the richness of the dish perfectly.
The parfait is equally silky smooth. It’s the first time I’ve tried curried parfait and it works perfectly. The curried flavour is delicate but evident, again the chutney works well to swiftly extract the richness of the dish.
The range of dishes available for mains is interesting. Five dishes present a choice between classics, vegetarian and comfort. Translated, that’s everything from grilled lemon sole to vegetarian risotto to fish and chips. Something for everybody. I’m enjoying the humble feel to this menu.
I opt for the taste of Yorkshire lamb while my dining partner takes another recommendation of the manager, the whole grilled lemon sole.
My lamb is probably the best example of uninterfered food, a grilled cutlet, a slow braised breast and seared neck are served with the freshest broad beans, carrots and roasted new potatoes and served with a gravy, sauce – jus – call it what you like, that is packed with depth of flavour the chef tells me it’s the Girolles that take the flavour of the gravy to whole new heights. For me it’s a perfect lamb dish.
The produce is also doing the talking at the other side of the table. Lemon sole accompanied by brown shrimp mussels, new potatoes and lemon butter. My dining partners has similar praise for her dish.
We have just about enough room left for dessert (as we pretty much always do), and for me a favourite is there on the paper staring at me once again, shouting “go on, resist me if you can”. It’s the return on the chocolate fondant.
Attend a dinner party at my house and you’re guaranteed a chocolate fondant. It’s my favourite thing to make and I’m pretty good at it too. You only have to check out my YouTube channel to see that, so come on The Alice Hawthorn… give me your best shot, beat me if you can!
Served with muscavado cream and walnuts, it would appear this dessert is better than mine. I always serve it with pistachio ice cream, but to be honest walnuts deliver a greater punch, muscavado cream delivers an elegant touch and I’m in chocolate heaven. An amazing dessert.
For my dining partner it’s a classic lemon tart. I have a feeling even Mary Berry would want the recipe for this. It’s got an incredibly thin crispy base with a topping that is packed full of a zesty citrus pleasure.
And to my final thoughts on The Alice Hawthorn. Prior to this review I had two restaurants that are my absolute favourites; Nutter’s, located on the hills above Rochdale (on the worse side of the Pennines) and Eric’s, a restaurant located in Lindley near Huddersfield. We now have to add a third to that list: The Alice Hawthorn in Nun Monkton near York, a restaurant that delivers everything; great staff, amazing location, a great story and truly amazing food!
The Alice Hawthorn | The Green, Nun Monkton, YO26 8EW | Tel. 01423 330303