Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Sandpiper Inn, Leyburn, North Yorkshire

Last weekend I had a thoroughly enjoyable time showing off some of the finest parts of Yorkshire to AS. Having lived in Yorkshire for over twelve years she probably didn't consider that necessary, but I can't help coming over all proprietorial when it comes to exhibiting God's own county, particularly where southerners are concerned.

I'm a rubbish Yorkshireman at times anyway (favourite northern city: Manchester) so any opportunity to remind myself of its amazingness is a good thing. Take a trip, as we did, to Bedale, then up through Wensleydale via Aysgarth Falls, West Burton and Hawes, then head over the Buttertubs Pass and back down Swaledale, then onwards to Sutton Bank, Helmsley, Rievaulx Abbey, Dalby Forest and finally the coast. Amazing.

Waterfalls in full spate, broad snow-capped fells, lush valleys, handsome market towns, autumn-bronzed woodlands, idyllic mist-clad ruins, the works. Truly wonderful. {Welcome to Yorkshire - please send the job offer to the e-mail address opposite}.

We couldn't cover that lot in a single day so a bed for the night was required. The Sandpiper in Leyburn provided the bed, and dinner and breakfast as well. It's a solid 17th century inn, all wooden beams and cosy fires, perfect for a chilly November night.

Home made breads got things off to a fantastic start. All three were very good, especially a wholemeal roll with an open, chewy crumb and wonderful depth of flavour. The butter and a little dish of hummous served alongside were also top notch.

My cauliflower and cumin soup with queenie scallops was presented rather more artfully than the photo would suggest, as it was taken after the soup had been poured over the scallops at the table. It was pleasant enough but the scallops weren't the best, being on the bland side and a bit gritty.

AS had the tempura vegetables, a good bit of deep-frying skill with some decent home-made sweet chilli sauce.

Duck leg with sauteed potatoes, red cabbage and green beans was a reliable plate of food, solid and satisfying if a little uninteresting. I'm not sure quite what I was expecting, the duck skin was properly crisped and the fat rendered, the veggies all as they should have been, it just seemed a bit underwhelming for £16.50.

AS had the rib steak with mushrooms and chips, which turned out to be the opposite of my dish I suppose. Not so competently cooked (it had to be sent back for extra grill time after arriving very rare rather than the requested medium) but bloody lovely. It was a beautiful piece of meat with rich creamy fat and a dark, savoury crust. Well aged beef and a very hot grill making a happy marriage, luckily for me a fair amount of it found its way onto my plate.

Raspberry and vanilla vacherin with orange and blackberries was almost a really lovely pudding, but the orange slices were too assertive and overwhelmed the other fruits. The frozen raspberry and vanilla stuff (like a semifreddo) on top of a meringue was great though. A vacherin is a sort of fruit and meringue dessert by the way, and not just a sweaty cheese.

The skill with the ices was further demonstrated with a bowl of ice-creams and sorbets. The lemon sorbet was like a slap in the chops, an icy wake-up call at the end of a rich meal, full of acidic, bittersweet flavour.

With a bottle of unremarkable Australian red the bill came to around eighty pounds before service, which was excellent throughout. Professional and efficient but not in the least bit stuffy, with a good bit of dry northern humour thrown in for good measure.

Given that we stayed the night I should also give breakfast a quick mention so here's the lowdown on the full English: Excellent bacon and black pudding. Good sausage, tomatoes and mushrooms. Let down slightly by a watery poached egg, and I'd have liked some beans but maybe that's just me.

We enjoyed our night at The Sandpiper, our experience was of a good restaurant (and I do mean restaurant, this isn't a drinkers pub. The front door was locked by half past ten) with cooking that's very accomplished in parts if a bit inconsistent, and uses some wonderful ingredients. The baking, ice cream making and quality of red meat served were the highlights.


Market Place
North Yorkshire

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