We check out West Park Inns’ latest addition to its North Yorkshire venues
Arkendale is new to me, not a place ever visited before, but then, why would I have? With a population of 278 people, up until now its star attractions has been a village hall and a church, but things have just got a lot tastier!
Located 7 miles to the north-east of Harrogate, it’s close enough to the A1 to make it easy to get to but far enough away to suggest that you could be miles from anywhere. It’s a typical small Yorkshire village with an array of narrow bendy lanes which lead to its newest attraction.
The Blue Bell at Arkendale (now part of the West Park Inns collection of North Yorkshire venues) has had a major transformation to create what can only be described as an extremely contemporary look and feel.
Chesterfield sofas and large bookcases mix with bar stools, rustic wooded tables, flagged floors and carpets. It has been well thought out and clearly the idea is to attract locals for a drink while still appealing to those who wish to travel from further afar to dine.
The look and feel to The Blue Bell is outstanding. I admit that last time I was impressed by this level of comfort and décor in a ‘pub’ was when I reviewed The Blacksmiths at Clayworth, an eatery that will always stick in my mind. The real test for me is always, would I take my grandma there? I’m sure she’d feel very comfortable indeed at The Blue Bell.
Food-wise it fares very well too. Both my dining partner and myself opted to start with king prawns baked in garlic butter and then finished off on the grill. These beauties were huge. OK, so they are really messy but who cares? it’s nothing a finger bowl won’t sort and the taste is worth every minute of the de-shelling.
It was a tough choice choosing my main, so instead I allowed the mood of the day decide for me. I’d just finished an off-road driving experience (basically getting a 4×4 vehicle as muddy as possible), it was tipping it down with rain and I then find myself in a pub with Chesterfield sofas… there’s only one dish that ticks all the boxes: pie.
Chicken, Applewood and leek pie. A clever dish because while the Applewood cheese gave an indulgent feel to the pie, it also delivered a hint of smokiness which propels the dish to a new height. First impressions were that the plate looked rather dry but my fears were dispelled once the lid of the pie was cracked open to present a mass of moist chicken drenched in a coating that added moisture to the accompanying mash and vegetables. Well crafted.
My dining partner opted for something completely different to me. My father, normally one to opt for something completely different, bizarrely likes to play a game in which he refuses to divulge what he’s going to have until the waiter arrives to take the order. It’s a game I’ve come to expect and, in a weird way, look forward to.
For him it was the pan fried seabass that would tickle his tastebuds, served with Jersey royals, razor clams, grelot onions, butter sauce and veg. It was a dish he was instantly impressed with, the kind of dish that arrives to the gasps of ‘wow look at this’ – a stunning presented plate of food which I’m told tasted spectacular too.
When things are going this well there is no way you can pass on dessert. I was tipped off by the waiter that the millionaire mille feuille is pretty special, so I take his word for it and opt for that. In culinary terms the word ‘millionaire’ always worries me. My thoughts turn to heavy calories, but thankfully we can delete the word ‘heavy’ with this dessert. It’s light, packed full of flavour and, to be honest, totally dreamy. Served with a homemade caramel ice cream, I have to say this is the best dessert I’ve eaten in a very very long time.
Papa opts for the strawberry and Prosecco trifle, a little feminine I agree, but equally as impressive in its looks as my dessert and again it receives the thumbs up from a very satisfied father indeed, who then declares: “I must bring your mother here”.
Do I need to tell you that The Blue Bell at Arkendale is worth a visit? I’m pretty sure you can guess for yourselves. It’s certainly on my list of places to re-visit!