Fox and Hounds, Sinnington: We tried out the fabulous food at 18th century coaching inn after £1.25m renovation by locals
F & H at Sinnington was formerly The Fox and Hounds at Sinnington, and from what I hear locally, it is still how it is known, which is unsurprising as the coaching inn has been around since the 18th century. The new branding came about when, in 2019, it changed hands after 20 years in the careful stewardship of Catherine and Andrew Stephens.
It was bought by two local couples, Mark Miller and his wife Victoria and his friends Simon Cobb and his wife Julia. The four friends began a vast renovation and rebranding of the famous inn, which cost around £1.25 million.
The inn sits at the heart of the village of Sinnington on the fringes of the North York Moors. It is a gorgeous village, with a stream meandering through and a little bridge over it. The inn is long and low, built of honey-coloured stone with the red-tiled roof so typical of the area. It is hard to believe, but I am told that at the back of this pretty building are 14 gorgeous bedrooms, so it is still very much a coaching inn.
We were here to eat though. The inn has long had a reputation for good food, which I remember well from long-past visits and from what I understand, this is still the case under French-born chef Fabien Homburger (known to all as Fab) and senior sous chef Adam Richardson, described to me as Fab's highly talented and skilled right-hand man; every head chef needs one of these.
Fab is classically trained, and I spotted this while looking at sample menus before my visit. The giveaway is they read very well and are written in sentences with punctuation rather than the one-worders, which leaves the diner guessing.
Each dish has both ingredients and how it is cooked, such as Trio of Beef: slow braised feather blade of beef; beef ravioli; horseradish and beef bonbon with beef jus, carrot puree, and green vegetables. I do love a well-written menu.
We are eating in the lounge bar. There is a lovely restaurant with beautifully set tables and the like, which was fully booked, but even if it weren't, I would still have headed to the bar, which I prefer when eating in an inn. This area is also very smart, though everywhere at the inn is immaculate and well cared for, and there isn't, seemingly, a thing out of place. Someone is working hard to keep an inn this size looking so good.
There are six starters and five mains on the regular menu, an extra starter, and three more mains, including a very tempting surf and turf of fillet steak and lobster (£52) on the specials.
We, however, stick to the more modest offerings, starting with a pan-seared scallop, maple belly pork, chorizo butter and crispy potato. It was an excellent dish with a small but beautifully cooked scallop, potato matchsticks and a small, empty, crumb-coated cube.
We ask what this empty little box is or its purpose on the plate, and it is only when general manager Helen comes over to explain that it had had the chorizo butter inside, which, of course, had now melted onto the plate.
Okay, we thought, though we both agreed quietly, it was a lot of effort for it to arrive empty. On the other hand, a bowl of pumpkin soup was much less confusing, simply a delicious, warming dish perfect for the cold autumn evening.
We move onto mains, both with fish, though we could have gone for the beef as above, pan-roasted outdoor reared pork tenderloin, or a classic French coq au vin. That most glorious of fish and one of my favourites, the turbot came as a generous portion, was pan-fried so all buttery with just a tiny touch of caramelisation where the butter had burnt, which is delicious and came with an artichoke puree, which, in colour, did not wow, but certainly tasted good with the fish.
Alongside this were a black (yes, you read that correctly) crab ravioli, samphire and a luscious tasting buttery jus. Altogether, this was an exquisite plate of food, with just the ravioli not quite hitting the mark for me as the pasta was a little rubbery and overwhelmed the crab filling.
An even more generous slab of fish, this time of squeaky, fresh white halibut, came with a tasty curried carrot purée and textures of cauliflower, drizzles of curry oil, dehydrated grapes and spinach crisp. The layering of flavours and textures of this dish was impressive and artfully arranged, and it shouted freshness loud and clear. Where some of the colours on the turbot dish took away from the appearance of the food, the halibut was spot on.
There was barely a centimetre left for dessert after the generous Yorkshire portions served here. We managed a shared chunk of another autumnal favourite, a soft, warm apple cake, apple sorbet and silky ice cream.
Fab has this kitchen right up there with his classicism, with just enough twists and turns to stop this ever being old-fashioned and, even worse, boring. But other aspects aside from the food here at F & H stand out.
Firstly, as I have mentioned, the general appearance is impressive. The service, too, is exemplary, and I feel sure that General Manager Helen Morse has something to do with this. Not only are she and Fab partners (what a team), but Helen has been with the business for over 22 years and was described to me by the owners as caring and genuine, with a warm smile always in place. I agree. I had picked her out long before I knew Helen was the general manager, with her attention to guests and staff and the many questions I kept asking.
There are continuing developments at the Fox and Hounds, and I hope they keep this standard up. There are many restaurants and inns out there that could learn something from them.
F & H, Sinnington Main St, Sinnington, York YO62 6SQ Tel: 01751 431577