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Parkin. Fat rascals. Chippy teas. Yorkshire Pudding. And gravy. For goodness’ sake, don’t forget the gravy.
So goes the typical perception of the food cooked and eaten in the north of England, a land of sweeping hills, soulful industrialism and (supposedly) simple cuisine.
“Yorkshire cuisine is all about pride, heritage and history.” I’m speaking to Tommy Banks, the unofficial culinary king of North Yorkshire whose first two restaurants – Roots in York and The Black Swan at Oldstead – have been awarded a Michelin star apiece.
“Fat rascals from Bettys in Harrogate, parkin wrapped in greaseproof eaten from a biscuit tin, Henderson’s relish splashed onto cheese on toast, a proper brew made with Yorkshire Tea…”
Banks is part of a growing group of North Yorkshire-based chefs transforming the north into a powerhouse for modern British fine dining. At this year’s National Restaurant Awards, The Black Swan – which also has a Michelin Green star – joins The Angel at Hetton in being awarded its first Michelin star in 2022, taking places 44 and 27, respectively.
The ingredients for success were always there. Stretching from the western Yorkshire Dales to the easternmost coast of the North York Moors, North Yorkshire has enough geographical variety to grow belting British produce – something its chefs have known for years.
“We are lucky in North Yorkshire to have miles of coast, beautiful farmland and an abundance of woodlands and hedgerows for foraging,” Banks says. ‘When I think of Yorkshire cuisine, I think of asparagus grown in Thirsk, Bridlington lobster, crumbly Wensleydale cheese and forced rhubarb from the Yorkshire triangle.”
Michael Wignall of The Angel at Hetton agrees. “I think it would be fair to say that the north is becoming more and more of a ‘foodie’ destination. Now North Yorkshire can offer visitors the best of both worlds: a beautiful destination with some of the best culinary experiences in the United Kingdom,” he says.
Such experiences aren’t flashy, like your Amazónicos or Bacchanalias or Lucky Cats (although, incidentally, Lucky Cat has just set up shop in Manchester).
On the way to snoop around Banks’ newest pub, The Abbey Inn, we wind past stone-edged lanes and kale-green trees before a ruined abbey appears like a painting, its crumbling cloisters cast against purple-tinged thickets and clouds blooming in the sky like milk into tea. A few meters to the left stands the pub, where you can eat smoked beetroot, dry-aged steak and huge, bacon-stuffed burgers.
However, it’s down the road at The Black Swan that Banks’ innovation is at its best. Despite looking deceptively like a standard country pub (albeit with flagstone floors and ‘Mouseman’ furniture), the tasting menu showcases the upper potential of Yorkshire cuisine.
Everything we eat, from a deceptively meaty beetroot bathed in beef fat to a plump scallop topped with waifs of turnip, is pulled from the kitchen garden, local landscape or the Banks family farm. Interest, depth and contrast are created through a wide array of pickled and preserved ingredients, which are kept in huge jars lining the walls. If you want to taste modern Yorkshire, this is it.
“Fine dining has become a lot more relaxed.”
I’m now speaking with Liz Jackson, half of the husband-and-wife team behind The Hare – another wonderful restaurant with rooms marooned on a country road near Scawton.
“It’s more accessible now, and I think it’s because of more and more people wanting to know where their food comes from.”
The Hare feels like a place for those in the know. It’s mostly filled by regulars and, like The Black Swan, its dishes are seasonal and plucked from the local landscape. However, what sets The Hare apart is its intensely personal touches.
“Our menu is driven by personal tastes,” she says, referring to the regularly changing menu devised by her husband, Paul, who is himself entirely self-taught. “We aren’t restricted to classic combinations of flavors; we do what we enjoy. So some things might be a little bit different to what people might be expecting.”
After being greeted with a hug – this is Yorkshire, after all – we settle down around one of the handful of tables littered among the dining room, still styled like a 12th-century coaching inn. We eat strips of crab twirled with pink lady apple, a rather genius pairing of Longhorn and Chardonnay, and at one point tuck into a treasure chest packed with delicate eel-stuffed wafer cigarettes. It’s fresh and friendly, comforting and creative.
And while there’s not a Yorkshire pudding in sight, there is more than a dash of Yorkshire soul. You know what they say: it’s gourmet up north.
Move fast for a booking at The Hare. It’s only open Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings and tables are often filled months in advance. Everything from the table settings to the wine pairings is dreamed up by husband-and-wife team Paul and Liz Jackson, and the menu changes often enough for this to become a regular haunt.
One of Yorkshire’s first gastropubs, every round of The Angel’s tasting menu showcases the exceptional quality of North Yorkshire produce. You can also stay over in one of 20 rooms, which include family and dog-friendly suites.
This is what you think of when ‘fine dining’ and ‘Yorkshire’ fall in the same sentence. Case in point: the opening course arrives with a teapot of beef tea. The setting is also spectacular; all courses of the Michelin-starred ‘taste of home’ menu are served in Grantley Hall’s grandiose old music room.
This gloriously countrified restaurant is housed in a thatch-roofed cottage that’s not really on the road to anywhere – which is precisely its charm. Whitby-born chef-director Steve Smith makes full use of Yorkshire produce, whether dressed Whitby Crab, lamb hotpot or elderflower-laced Lindisfarne oysters.
The flagship of the Banks culinary empire, this Michelin-starred restaurant also has nine stylish guest rooms – ideal if you want to make use of the wine pairing. Kick off your meal with a cocktail infused with locally foraged botanicals before heading upstairs for the 12-to-14 course tasting menu.