That it’s been far too long since I last ate at the Star at Sancton becomes very clear as soon as I turn up to find expansion has meant you get into the car park down a totally different street these days. Much else has changed since Ben and Lindsey Cox first arrived in Sancton 13 years ago. The sleepy, wind-blown village pub they bought has been rejigged, rebuilt and rejuvenated to the point where it is now one of the best two or three places to eat in the East Riding and is stuffed to the gills with refined-palated punters every minute it’s open.
Ben has always had a keen eye for the finest local ingredients and turning them into delicate-yet-hearty dishes of increasing technical complexity and robust flavour. Lindsey runs the tight out-front ship with staff that know the food, give as good as they get and get the job done with admirable efficiency. Now that they have expanded the Star out in every direction possible, the only thing left to do is build in confidence and that they most certainly have. There’s a noticeable swagger to every inch of the set-up these days, not an arrogant one but one borne of everyone working at peak ability and capacity for so long. It’s a joy to see and a pleasure to experience.
After my car park foul-up, I find the Star typically chocker on a mid-week lunchtime and mentally patted myself on the back (if such a thing is possible) for having the foresight to book. Along with a pint of Wold Top and a glass of house red, starter one of pressed ham terrine with thyme toasts went down very well. Perfectly prepared and accompanied by some charcuterie from local firm Three Little Pigs, the terrine showed how Ben can impress while keeping things very simple. Equally, the other starter of Yorkshire pudding, braised oxtail and caramelised onion and red wine gravy demonstrated why the Star’s renowned Yorkshires have been winning awards. Crispy, soft, Yorkshirey and puddingy, they are seriously good, as was the round of oxtail popped inside. Sometimes you just need reminding how to do the county’s signature dish perfectly.
I wouldn’t normally order a main of belly pork because it has become a little too ubiquitous but I’d been pre-warned that the Star’s wasn’t one to be missed. It certainly wasn’t. It was a wonderfully-worked dish featuring a roll of perfectly juicy but crisp pork sat on cabbage and bacon, a black pudding breadcrumbed like a scotch egg, a creamed leek “bon bon”, blobs of apple sauce and two twigs of scratching. All this with a deep, smoky and delicious cider gravy. It was seriously fabulous and shows exactly how pub classics can be reinvented in new and innovative ways without altering what makes them classics in the first place.
Another main of pan roast guinea fowl proved equally scrumptious. It came with creamed sprouts (yes, you do like them), roast salsify, sautéd wild mushrooms, another bon bon – this time made of Harrogate blue cheese – and a foie gras cream. Again, it was a perfectly-balanced array of flavours with the earthy offset by the sweet, the savoury complementing the game.
Puds brought more marvels with a pear and blackberry clafoutis with almonds and liquorice ice cream which, I’ll be honest, I ordered partly because I adore liquorice ice cream but mainly because I just like saying “clafoutis” over and over. Fortunately, as well as being fun to say, it had the added benefit of being proper lovely to eat. Traditionally made of cherries, here the substituted fruit of brambles and bang in-season pears gave a slightly tarter taste and it was all the better for it.
Just as much fun to say was figgy flapjack. How to make flapjack an appealing dessert in a posh pub rather than something you stick in your cagoule pocket before a hike? Well, you could do what the Star do and serve it warm with honey ice cream, chocolate honeycomb, fig jam, a tuille and bits of granola. Not only did it taste fantastic, it looked great. You’d never think that a dessert of flapjack could elicit “oohs” as it arrived but this one did. The warm whole fig sat over everything on the plate like an alien egg was also a welcome touch.
All the above and a couple of drinks each came to just over £87, which I can’t think anyone can fairly describe as anything other than reasonable. Oh, and we had a portion of onion rings, purely because I wanted to see if they were as massive and delicious as they’ve always been. They were.
It was a delight to revisit the Star and see what Ben and Lindsey have achieved. There are plans to add private dining rooms and some guest bedrooms and so the future in Sancton looks as shiny as can be. Certainly, if they keep pumping out the food of the quality and imagination we enjoyed they’ll continue being one of the best dining pubs in Yorkshire. Maybe it’s about time the rest of the UK started falling for their charms as well?
• Star at Sancton, King Street, Sancton, Market Weighton YO43 4QP. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 12-3pm & 6-9.30pm. 01430 827269, thestaratsancton.co.uk
DRINKS SELECTION 4/5