A young family, a multi-award-winning pub and deli offering events in and around regular cookery demonstrations, luxury accommodation, private dining, home-grown produce. And did I mention the occasional Sunday farmers’ market and a newly opened £350,000 extension?
Just the thought of this much work floors me, but it seems that Ashley and Kelly McCarthy, at Ye Old Sun Inn, Colton, near York, have boundless energy, and judging by the accolades bestowed on them, talent as well.
I am slightly disquieted by expansion as my experience of the Sun was of a comfortable village inn with small, intimate, higgledy-piggledy rooms surrounding a central, cosy bar. Will their already successful formula be diluted or enhanced?
The old, however, remains intact, and a clever architect has quietly and sympathetically eased the new into one of the rooms then integrated discreet partitions to close or open up the space. I will admit to a slight misgiving, despite the lovely décor softened by bookshelves, mismatched furniture and good lighting.
The room is big, the ceilings high, and with no diners, actually a little lonely. Plus, there was something missing which I couldn’t quite pinpoint and all I could come up with was the need for some flowers on the table. Perhaps these are on the list of things to come; after all, the place had only reopened a few days earlier.
The ‘old’ section of the Sun already had a buzz about it when we arrived, which only heightened our sense of being secluded when shown to our table in the ‘new wing’ – was it something we said? However, as Ashley and Kelly have a strong following, I suspected that this empty room would not remain so for long. And I was right. Within 30 minutes, table after table filled with diners poring over the changing, seasonal menu and specials board. The carefully balanced menu ensures Sun regulars have enough variety to keep returning and give new diners an engaging choice. Couple that with the affordable wine list, which has sufficient variety of textures, tastes, prices and wines by the glass, and everyone seemingly is happy.
First up, a Whitby crab tart, creamed Cornish mackerel, home-grown spinach purée from the seasonal menu. Bang on fresh flavours, but a pastry case that took more than a little effort to cut through.
The specials board offered a dish of tempting deep-fried courgette flowers on a bed of courgette ribbons and a light, fresh salad which seemed a perfect choice for summer. The flowers were light and with just enough bite but – and I hate to be too picky here – were just a tiny bit greasy.
Slow-cooked Daube of Newmoor Rose Veal, red wine-braised puy lentils, creamed potatoes did exactly as was hoped for with a tender chunk of veal slow cooked in red wine to create a luscious sauce. The lentils gave added texture and the creamy mash, though for me superfluous to the dish, was exemplary.
What looked like a brilliant piece of pan-fried hake was edging towards dry but not close enough to spoil it. A scented sauce helped redeem any errors.
A gooseberry pudding plate of a tiny tart (with a better piece of pastry than earlier) a lovely buttery, crisp crumble, a granita and a whisper of vanilla cream stole the show.
A delightful selection of predominantly Yorkshire cheeses tempted my non-sweet tooth and the portions were of a size sufficient to appreciate each cheese. Very welcome alongside were the usual culprits of fruit cake, chutney and crackers.
My past life as a chef made me curious to see the new kitchen at the Sun. Only a chef can really appreciate the beauty of Ashley’s new island stove – a new Ferrari is unlikely to have drawn out as many gasps of delight at the shining beast which occupies the centre of the newly extended kitchen. How they ever managed to cook and service the old inn from the former tiny kitchen stumps me. Just hope they can keep the energy and enthusiasm going with all the demands on them.
Verdict: Despite a few tiny hiccups, exceptional enthusiasm produces great food and service in lovely surroundings. Well worth a visit.
Three-course dinner with three glasses of wine, just under £70.
Food opening hours: Monday-Saturday; food served noon-2pm, & 6-9.30pm and Sunday noon-7pm for dining. Bar open until 3pm and 6-11pm every day and open all day on Sunday.
Ye Old Sun Inn, Main Street, Colton, York, North Yorkshire LS24 8EP. Tel: 01904 744 261.