That first post-lockdown treat - excellent pub grub in Yorkshire
A few years back I wrote a piece for Condé Nast Traveller China about how Yorkshire was at the forefront of reinventing the British food scene. Long gone were the days of overcooked meat and soggy veg, and chefs around the county were delivering exceptional food made lovingly from exceptional produce, scooping up a handful of Michelin stars in the process. Yorkshire is well on the foodie map these days, and with good reason. As Brits struggle through another lockdown, it's worth counting down the days until you'll be able to find yourselves once again in the warm embrace of a country pub. Perhaps one of the silver linings of lockdown is that when you'll be allowed out again it will already be the bleak midwinter, which is one of the cosiest times ever for a good meal in a friendly pub. With that in mind, I thought it might be a good opportunity to revisit a couple of highlights from the article featuring two of my favourite pub restaurants in the world, The Star Inn and The Pipe and Glass. Hopefully it gives you a bit of inspiration for that first post-lockdown treat. Apologies to both chefs if anything here is a little outdated - the below extract is from an article that featured in the April 2015 issue of Condé Nast Traveller China.
London may pride itself on being the darling of the country’s dining scene, but if you want to eat well (and affordably) in England, it’s to Yorkshire you must go. From the Rhubarb Triangle of West Yorkshire to the frigid waters of the East Coast teeming with fish, Yorkshire’s rich lands and staunchly proud farmers throw up an array of produce that’s the envy of the rest of the country. The county is awash with superb ingredients, and since it’s also home to some of the most creative chefs in the country, there is nowhere better to eat. Our Yorkshire food journey starts with local food hero Andrew Pern who captains the kitchen at The Star Inn at Harome, a “pub with rooms” dating back to the 14th century, located on the edge of the North Yorkshire moors. The Star is wonderfully cosy, enormously friendly and slightly eccentric, an echo of the chef’s own personality. Step through the front door, trying not to bump your head on the thick overhanging thatch of the roof, into the warm bar with its cellar dating back to the 9th century. On a cold day you’ll be greeted with a crackling log fire; on a warm day the windows will be open to let in the fragrance of the flowers growing outside. The low-ceilinged bar room is a snug little place, decorated with a jumble of family photos, horse brasses, sketches, old books, taxidermy, a cricket bat, and awards and certificates, of which Andrew holds many – including a Michelin star. There’s a sense of fun here that pervades everything.
The bar is the perfect place to begin at The Star, perhaps with a pint of Two Chefs bitter made in collaboration with Andrew’s friend and fellow chef James Mackenzie, another Yorkshire food hero and former head chef at The Star Inn (more on him later). If you happen to be visiting in spring or summer, go for the Honey Beer, a refreshing brew made with honey and lemon thyme, but if your visit coincides with the colder months the warming Winter Spice beer with nutmeg and cinnamon is the tipple of choice.
The Star’s bar is also home to furniture made by one of England’s most renowned carpenters, Robert “Mousey” Thompson, who used to drink at the pub and, as a local joiner, ended up carving the oak furniture that’s still a feature today. The tables, chairs and bar stools date back to the 1930s and are all Thompson originals, each featuring a carved wooden mouse, rumoured to have been created by “Mousey” to show that he was “as poor as a church mouse”. Playing spot-the-mouse is a great way to while away a couple of hours in the bar here.
Before we get down to the serious business of eating, Andrew takes us for a walk around his kitchen garden. His enthusiasm is infectious, and we bounce around the planting beds, looking at his fifteen varieties of Yorkshire apples with names such as Dog’s Snout and Hornsea Herring, as well as nine types of Yorkshire rhubarb, getting our hands dirty and our shoes muddy. There’s a big wooden table in the centre of the garden where Andrew holds children’s cooking classes (The Star breathes family, from the portraits of the chef and his kids, to the whimsical woollen fox head hanging above the fireplace in the dining room) and menu tastings on sunny days.
We walk back through the main kitchen, and I spot a sight I wouldn’t have expected to see in the kitchen of a Michelin-starred chef – a Fray Bentos pie tin. These infamous mass-produced pies would often be found on Britain’s dining tables in the 1970s and '80s in the days when British Food was synonymous with Bad Food. These pies were a quick and convenient mealtime solution, coming in a metal can that could be opened and placed straight in the oven. Not the most sophisticated of culinary inventions, but certainly an easy option for a busy housewife or lazy cook. I ask Andrew why the can is in his kitchen. “I grew up in a family of farmers and my Mum had Multiple Sclerosis. As the youngest son, my dad told me to stay at home and help her. We had a lot of those Fray Bentos pies, but I hated them so much that there was nothing for it but for me to learn how to cook. And that’s how I ultimately became a chef”, he laughs.
But back to real food. We start with a dish that Andrew is rightly proud of, his “Loose Birds” of Harome chicken liver pâté “Petite Truffe”, made into a ball to resemble the form of a black truffle. I asked if he’d ever heard of anyone trying to grow truffles in Yorkshire as I certainly hadn’t, to which Andrew replied “these are from down the road in Kirbymoorside” as he grated a generous helping of earthy fungus onto my plate. Yet another of the great Yorkshire food secrets just waiting to be discovered. The rich gamey flavour of the pâté, made from village-reared chicken, is offset by tart Ampleforth apple brandy jelly. The monks at Ampleforth Abbey a few miles away have been making brandy and beer since the early 1800s. Crispy toast that cries out for a smear of pâté and a perfectly pretty herb and flower salad made with nasturtium, coriander, cornflowers, violas, sweet peas and marigold, all from the kitchen garden, complete the dish.
Next, we try “Stark’s Frimlington-grown beetroot with Bobbin goat cheese”, a colourful dish that blends retro and modern. Pickled beetroot, a staple of my diet in the 1980s when my Grandpa would grow an entire garden’s worth which my Nan would then spend days boiling and pickling and putting in old jam jars, is combined with a pressed beetroot terrine and beetroot sorbet. The beetroot is grown by the Stark family near Malton on the edge of the Yorkshire Wolds. The Bobbin goat cheese comes from the nearby town of Beverly, and is adorned with fuchsia stamens, again from Andrew’s garden. It’s a great example of farm- and garden-to-table dining.
But the dish that Andrew is most excited about is the heather-roast Bransdale Moor grouse, hunted locally, that he serves with brambles from the village hedgerows and a jelly made from his own homemade elderberry wine. “I love game. The rich scent of the first-of-the-season grouse cooking in the ovens in the middle of August gets the adrenaline and the juices flowing,” says Andrew. The heather infuses the meat with a faint fragrance of the nearby moorlands.
After a feast of the sort that The Star offers, it’s comforting to know that the restaurant’s guest rooms are located just across the road in Cross House Lodge. All nine rooms are decorated individually and often quirkily, with one having its own snooker table and another its own piano. They’re all cosy and comfortable, and an easy stumble home to bed after what must surely be some of the best food in Yorkshire.
Our journey next takes us east to meet Andrew’s former chef and partner-in-beer James Mackenzie at The Pipe and Glass Inn who’s flying the flag for East Yorkshire. The Pipe and Glass has offered food and lodging to visitors since the 15th century, and parts of the pub’s current building date back to the 17th century. Another Michelin-star holder, The Pipe and Glass manages to remain unpretentious, friendly and welcoming, and it also remains exactly what it is at heart – a good country pub.
On the day we visit sunlight is streaming through the windows into the dining room where little tubs of purple heather sit atop tables made of reclaimed wood. It’s unusually warm for this time of year, and there’s nothing that makes us Yorkshire folk happier than a sunny day. We step out into the garden to soak up the sun’s rays, and James tells me that he loves working with the seasons and what’s available at different times of the year. When the wild garlic starts growing in the garden in March he knows it’s a sign that spring has finally arrived. Originally from the town of Filey on the east coast, James loves to cook with fish and shellfish, and the first dish on our menu today is diver-caught scallop with Lincolnshire smoked eel, heritage potato, squid ink mayonnaise and nasturtium. Although James tries to use as many locally sourced products as possible, he also looks further afield to ensure that he has the best possible quality and consistency. The scallops we’re trying today have been caught by Guy Grieve who dives in the cold waters off the Isle of Mull in Scotland, and are accompanied by nasturtium and blue borage flowers freshly picked from the garden.
Next we try a cheesecake made from Yellison goat’s cheese with beetroot macaron, golden beets, candied walnuts and watercress. With a playful presentation it looks like a classic English cheesecake that would be the crowning glory dessert piece at a 1980s suburban dinner party. The crunchy texture of the walnut base, the crisp macarons and the smooth texture of the delicately flavoured cheese complement each other perfectly.
When dining at the Pipe and Glass, make sure you save some space for dessert. The Trio of Apples includes an apple and bramble crumble made with apples fresh from James’ garden and local Yorkshire brambles. Or perhaps try the East Yorkshire sugar cakes made from a 200-year-old recipe that only recently came to light when the council archives were being moved and the recipe fell out of an old accounts leger. The recipe found its way to James who gave it an update to suit the modern palate by reducing the large quantities of mace and ground cloves, but it’s still fundamentally the same as it would have been in the early 1800s. Or try the lemon and rosemary posset, originally a medieval drink but these days served as a delicious creamy citrusy dessert.
Like The Star Inn, the Pipe and Glass also has rooms available for replete diners to retreat to after dinner.
Magazine images by Shinsuke Matsukawa, other images by Nicola Chilton. Article extract reproduced with permission from Condé Nast Traveller China.