It was a sad and demoralising day for hospitality businesses in Yorkshire last October, when the General Tarleton at Ferrensby, a much-loved restaurant and inn, closed its doors for the final time. Covid had claimed another business and taken a significant player with this one. I had such fond memories of the place and felt its loss keenly.
But it’s an ill wind and all that, and here I am eight months later back at the GT (as it is fondly known) and all looks, bizarrely the same, but so different. Under new ownership, an extensive and expensive refurb has brought the inn bang up to date whilst keeping all the charm it was renowned for, and I hope that by not knocking the place about too much, they will keep many of the former fans too.
There’s new blood in the kitchen with head chef Chris McPhee, and he has super huge past boots to fill.
Chris has flirted with the enigma that is MasterChef: The Professionals – not one on my must-watch list – but I am more impressed by his having been a semi-finalist in the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts and where he has worked.
There’s a real buzz about the place, and the food in the bar and on the outside terrace comes as ambitious small plates of food boasting global roots, with mains more settled and comfortingly predictable. There are burgers, steak, fish, lamb etc and the food I see winging its way past me looks good.
Much as I now wished we had booked to eat in the bar, we head into Ralph’s, their “fine dining” offer where there was less of a buzz and more of a whisper as just one other table was occupied. But, as we are still enjoying the freedom of “being out”, we couldn’t have cared less if we were the only ones in the dining room; by the end of the evening, though, it was busier.
Chris has headed down the Tasting Menu route, and this one comes as seven courses (£55 per person), though I feel the crispy sesame cracker, salmon, and soy is too light a starting point to claim the status of a course. Chicken liver mousse with Sauternes jelly, orange and apple is a textbook start to dinner; it is smooth with a delicious, slightly livery tang.
The glass dish the mousse is served in is somewhat at odds with the contents as it is too broad and risks the mousse oxidising and is much better placed when it reappears with dessert a little later.
We move through an excellent BBQ mackerel fillet neatly balanced with a sharp sliver of homegrown rhubarb and a lovage emulsion; tender Yorkshire lamb and asparagus with a side dish of lamb belly, pea puree and Pommes Anna all together make an extremely well-cooked dish.
A Pina Colada with coconut panna cotta, marshmallow, rum and roast pineapple is my favourite of the two desserts. Across the table, though, he prefers his expertly cooked and presented dark chocolate delice, hazelnut, popcorn, banana and clotted cream.
We decide to have our cheese in the bar as we had lingered over dinner, and Ralphs had again emptied. We snuggle down in one of the bays and happily reminisce about past dinners and events here and the prints and paintings that have replaced the black and white photographs I had always admired.
I very much like their less fussy approach to fine dining, and I assume there’s no sommelier needed as, though we had passed on the carefully chosen wine flight (£55), the wine list is easy enough to negotiate with a decent range by the glass and bottle. If, like me, you loved the GT, you can relax in the knowledge that the place is in good hands. A few tweaks are needed here and there, but it is early days, and owner’s father and daughter Jonathan and Sarah Morris, Chris and the team should be proud of what they have achieved as they breathe new life into the place.
Oh, and I forgot the wallpaper in the ladies – check it out; it’s awesome.
Welcome - 5/5
Food - 4/5
Atmosphere - 4/5
Prices - 4/5
General Tarleton, Boroughbridge Road, Ferrensby, HG5 0PZ, Tel: 01423 340284. Open seven days a week: 12- 2.30pm, 5.30-9pm, Sunday, 12-6pm.