For us, Christmas in North Yorkshire could only mean one thing, another self-indulgent lunch at The Black Swan. It had a lot in common with our trip there last year; the weather was terrible and the meal was satisfying.
Since our last visit (scroll down for review), there have been a few changes up there. Tommy Banks has taken over from Adam Jackson as head chef, making it a real family business. His brother James heads up front of house and their parents own the place. They’ve also just been promoted to 3 AA rosettes, as well as retaining their Michelin star.
At lunchtimes, they offer a 3 course set menu (£28), a 6 course tasting menu (£35) and a number of á la carte options. We opted to go down the 6 course route. It’s a snip at £35 so we thought we’d treat ourselves.
After an amuse-bouche and some tasty fresh bread, the first course arrived.
Squid: It wasn’t quite what we were expecting because most of the ingredients were diced and served in a stone bowl. However, everything worked well together and the delicate flavour of the squid came through. The batons of crisp apple added a nice sweetness and texture.
Ox Tongue: It’s always great to see restaurants doing interesting things with unheralded ingredients. This was one of the stand out dishes of the meal. It really did taste every bit as good as it looked.
Halibut: This dish had a touch of indulgence about it with English truffle grated over the top of the perfectly cooked piece of fish. The portion size was also ample to say the least. It was served with an onion gravy which worked surprisingly well with the fish. I’m not convinced the cheese dumpling belonged on the plate but I enjoyed eating it.
Venison: Much like the Halibut, this was a very generous portion for a tasting menu. We certainly weren’t complaining though. The saddle was lovely and rare and while it tasted gamey, it wasn’t overly so. The venison and black pudding sausage was similarly flavour packed and the sweet pear and creamy celeriac worked together brilliantly.
Earl Grey: This was a nice little surprise in a teacup. I was half expecting a hot drink but instead, underneath a layer of froth, we found a deliciously creamy Earl Grey panacotta and lemon curd.
Carrot: We finished off with a delicious slice of warm carrot cake with creamy mascarpone ice cream, candied carrot and carrot sorbet. I’m on the fence regarding the carrot sorbet but the cake was very moist, almost like a steamed sponge and I loved the combination with the walnut.
This was another cracking meal at The Black Swan. Although we only had a couple of drinks, the fact that all this cost just a little over £90 (excluding service) makes it sensational value for money. They may have had a change in the kitchen but we’re pleased to say the food seems to be getting better and better.
We actually broke down in their car park and counted ourselves lucky to be there and not on the road. Let’s face it, there are worse places to wait for a recovery truck than the front room of a pub. Thanks again to James and the team for looking after us during our extended stay. It was much appreciated!
(Re-opens after winter break on Jan 23rd)
Address: Main Street, Oldstead, North Yorkshire, YO61 4BL
Phone: 01347 868387
December 2012 – They Can Cook Up North
The Black Swan was the only restaurant in the North of England to enter the Michelin star club in 2012. On a rainy Saturday afternoon just before Christmas, we found out exactly why.
We were in Yorkshire over the holidays and this place had been on our radar for quite a while so it was the perfect opportunity to see what all the fuss is about. It’s probably a bit of an understatement for me to say that it was “rainy” because we had to drive through what resembled a stream to get there, but get there we did. Have no fear though, our aquatic experience was squarely the fault of Google Navigation.
When we finally arrived, we were warmly greeted and shown down to the bar where we opted for the lunch tasting menu. Six courses in a Michelin Starred restaurant for £35 is an absolute bargain and you know how we feel about bargains. Before being taken to our table, we enjoyed an amuse bouche. An espresso cup filled with warming butternut squash soup and topped with tomato and goats cheese. Just right for a cold, wet December day.
The building dates back to the 16th century and the bar area in particular has managed to hold onto a certain rustic charm with an open log fire and a traditional (if somewhat refined) country pub feel. They offer accommodation too so it’s a definite option for anyone visiting North Yorkshire or Teesside.
Anyway, back to the food. The first course was Japanese salmon tartare. It looked very elegant but was a bigger portion than we were expecting. Welcome to Yorkshire. Our waiter told us that this is one of the most popular dishes on the menu and although it was deliciously creamy, we expected more of a punch from the wasabi cream. I know it’s not to everybody’s taste but I’d have really loved the zing of a few bright green spots of wasabi on my plate.
Next came the ham hock terrine with cauliflower and piccalilli. Simple cooking at its best. A tasty, meaty terrine in perfect balance with its accompaniments.
Soon after, another treat arrived in the form of the the fish course; coley with with leeks, gnocci and salsify. This was the first time I’d tried coley but it won’t be the last. It was succulent, white and flaky with a lovely crispy skin and was in no way inferior to cod. At first we thought the fish needed more seasoning but when combined with the saltiness of the leeks and salsify, the the balance was just right.
The main course was yet another top notch dish. Moist, juicy pheasant served with duck fat potato, Brussels sprouts and a deep, rich jus (or gravy as it’s known in Yorkshire). Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with a good, old fashioned roastie but that’s not what they mean here when they say “duck fat potato.” Instead, we received a wonderfully crispy, fried potato terrine interspersed with shards of black pudding. The pheasant was the star though. It’s great cooking with fresh, local ingredients. I’d have liked a touch more jus but then again, I always say that.
The next two courses were both of the sweet variety so we were really getting into “Piggy” territory. First there was honey parfait, filo, almond and plum. I thought this was a great combination too. Intense, sweet honey and creamy parfait with crunchy filo and almond. Boy was I full.
With one course to go, I could happily have headed home for a nap but instead I was presented with a gorgeously gooey chocolate fondant with mascarpone and amaretto. It was as good a fondant as I’ve eaten and a great way to round off the meal. Needless to say, we passed on the cheeseboard.
We each only had a glass of wine and a couple of soft drinks but to get all this for a mere £92 reminded us that we definitely weren’t in London. The Black Swan is sensational value for this standard of food.
Oldstead is easily accessible from the A19 at Thirsk and is set in picturesque countryside on the edge of the North York Moors. The Banks family and Head Chef Adam Jackson should be very proud of what they are doing up there. If there’s a better restaurant in Yorkshire right now, I’d like someone to let me know, because I honestly can’t think of one.