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The Yorke Arms review

The Yorke Arms review

by Nancy Anne Harbord 25 June 2015

Set in one of the most stunning locations in Britain, The Yorke Arms offers beautiful, traditional rooms, immaculate kitchen gardens and creative, highly seasonal cuisine.

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Specialising in vegetarian food, Nancy has cooked her way around Europe and now writes full time for publications and her blog, Delicious from Scratch.

The Yorke Arms

The Yorkshire Dales is one of my favourite places in the whole world, verdant from the misty Yorkshire rain and quiet enough that you can easily escape the roar of busy roads and the chatter of busy people.

I have wanted to visit The Yorke Arms, run by one of Britain’s top chefs Frances Atkins, since I heard of its existence. Nestled in the Nidderdale valley, about 40 minutes’ drive from the elegant spa town of Harrogate, it is one of only a handful of buildings in the tiny village of Ramsgill – named after the wild garlic that grows in abundance in the area.

It was the peaceful location, but also Frances Atkins’ food, that attracted me to the place. Creative, colourful and happy, it is food born of the Yorkshire landscape with its rolling green hills and moors. Fruits and vegetables grown in the extensive gardens of The Yorke Arms, wild plants and flowers that pop up over the seasons and gorgeous cheeses and dairy products from the cows and sheep that litter the pasture.

The Yorke Arms – a ‘restaurant with rooms’ – is housed in a cluster of eighteenth century buildings (a former coaching house) with trees and fields and birds all around. The feel is traditional, but there are touches of contemporary flair that reflect the vibrancy of Atkins’ cooking and personal taste.

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View from The Yorke Arms
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Bird and butterfly wallpaper

The handmade flapjack that awaited me in my cosy room may well have been the best flapjack I have ever had. Not a semblance of healthiness about it, but redolent of butter and caramelised sugar in all the right ways. The brownie was pretty good too.

Lunch for the day was a delicate, gently oozing Wendsleydale soufflé – made with cheese from the nearby Wendsleydale Creamery – served with a skillful vegetable tartare and various sprigs, shoots and leaves from the gardens. Tidy little bread rolls, that reminded me very much of small puffball mushrooms, rounded out the light, fresh meal.

 
 
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Welcome gifts: flapjack and brownie
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Wendsleydale soufflé

Sitting on the sunny terrace (yes, there’s sun from time-to-time in Yorkshire), looking out over the lush hills, the soundtrack to my lunch was emphatic birdsong from the many, many sparrows that live inside the ivy that covers the buildings.

I used to think that sparrows were boring birds, but really taking the time to appreciate their darting energy and the shades of glossy brown that cloak them, my opinion was changed. I found their presence at The Yorke Arms utterly enchanting.

 
 
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Sparrows in the garden
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View across the gardens

The gardens are one of the most joyous things about visiting and eating at The Yorke Arms. Impeccably kept, highly productive and full of intriguing variety, I got enormous enjoyment from wandering around the tidy rows seeing the various fruits, vegetables, herbs, greens and flowers in their varying states of growth.

Such an enjoyable change from the soulless plastic of the supermarket.

 
 
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Rows of lettuce
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Rows of garlic

Dinner

But the real draw is, of course, the dinner. Holding a Michelin star since 2003, Frances Atkins and her team produce an inventive, accomplished, highly seasonal menu that truly reflects the bounty of the land.

Richly flavourful canapés featuring dainty Parmesan straws, tomato brandade, earthy beetroot, turmeric aioli and a remarkable smoked avocado purée were served with drinks, followed by a colourful amuse of creamy Jerusalem artichoke with pink-tinged borlotti beans, a vivid beetroot syrup and vegetable crisp. The garden I had walked around earlier was now very much on my plate.

The homemade bread was warm, tender and plentiful, with pumpkin seed sourdough, white organic, whole wheat, spelt and (my favourite) sesame-cheese forming the selection.

 
 
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Amuse bouche of Jerusalem artichoke, borlotti beans and beetroot
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Bread selection

My first course was a lovage tart, the plant’s dark green, celery-like leaves blended into a very lightly set custard and encased in the thinnest of pastry shells. As a pastry aficionado myself, I was left wondering how on earth they got it so incredibly fine without the filling escaping somewhere. But they did.

The accompaniment was, again, the very best that an early summer garden in Yorkshire has to offer. Graceful curls of cucumber, plump broad beans, little slices of asparagus, and for textural and bitter contrast (not British fare, but welcome nonetheless), crunchy cocoa nibs – savoury, stripped back and a great match for the sweetness of the herby tart filling.

The second course was another celebration of vegetables – agnolotti pasta parcels stuffed with a celeriac crème, earthy mixed whole grains with tiny little wild mushrooms and vegetables, vegetables, vegetables – healthy, light, vivacious and refined.

 
 
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Lovage tart, cucumber, broad beans and asparagus
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Agnolotti pasta parcels with celeriac and mixed grains

Dessert was my favourite course of the night – no mean feat for a savoury-orientated person such as myself – a perfectly executed lemon tart with a welcome brûlée topping for added crunch. Paired with these sweet/tart flavours was a rich violet crème, a dollop of clotted cream, lightly syrupy berries, a stunningly intense berry and violet sorbet and crystallised violet petals.

I discovered that night that berries and violet were made to go together and they formed the most remarkable flavour pairing of the trip for me. The floral, perfumed tones of the violet coupled with the fruity sweetness of the berries was a revelation. In its entirety, the dessert offered an array of lovely textures, temperatures and tastes.

By this time my companion was flagging, so I heroically finished off the cheese board he was struggling with.

This was another fabulous course. All the cheeses were wonderfully flavoured and as far as I could tell, unpasteurised and treated with respect. An earthy, matured Cheddar was a highlight. As was the lightly oozy, washed-rind, cow’s milk cheese. But this is being needlessly hierarchical – they were all a delight.

 
 
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Lemon tart, violet cream with berry and violet sorbet
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Cheese board

I’ll save the final words for another guest, writing in The Yorke Arms’ guestbook, which was crammed with gloriously happy messages:

‘Absolutely perfect. Thank you!’

 
 
 

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