Restaurant review: Burlington at the Devonshire Arms Country House Hotel & Spa, Bolton Abbey, Skipton

Devonshire Arms Hotel
Devonshire Arms Hotel
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There’s a new head chef in the kitchen of the Burlington and Elaine Lemm hopes he’s here to stay for a while.

Many leading chefs have passed through the kitchen of the Burlington, the fine-dining restaurant at the Devonshire Arms Country House Hotel and Spa. Once there they tend to stay a while. Not surprising with a 30,000-acre larder of the finest Yorkshire produce on the doorstep. The hotel is part of the Bolton Abbey estate of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and provides the kitchen with meat, fish, fruits, vegetables and herbs. A canvas I reckon any chef worth his salt would love to work with.

And now, new head-chef Adam Smith – former executive sous chef at the Ritz Hotel in London – is the one who gets to play here. He is only 25 years old and a nice guy to boot. He brings with him his wife, young family, and his inspirational, modern, British food, which earned him the prestigious accolade of Roux Scholarship of the Year in 2012. As part of his scholarship, Smith had a three-month secondment to the three-Michelin star Le Meurice in Paris, no doubt yet another influence on his food.

The Burlington already holds a Michelin star and four AA-rosettes. Given the vagaries of Michelin, that star could disappear simply because a head chef has changed. Smith will need to be on his nimble, young toes if he is to hold on to these accolades.

Dining in the Burlington demands a little formality – gents must wear a jacket – in the dining rooms. Classical architectural drawings from the Devonshire Collection at Chatsworth enhance the pale-coloured walls. Antique tables are dressed with designer silverware and fine crystal glasses. These are elegant rooms.

The adjacent conservatory is bright and airy with fine views over the gardens to the stunning backdrop of the Yorkshire Dales. This is an altogether more relaxing space, though the dress code still applies.

Understandably though chef has been in place for a few weeks, he has needed that time to set up new menus. They are now done and there’s a lovely a-la-carte menu for dinner. However, to explore the extent of Smith’s fine cooking, opt for the eight-course Menu Surprise (£75). I will admit to being partial to a surprise menu and am more than willing to relinquish responsibility to the one with the credentials to choose for me. Bring it on and show me what you can do, say I.

Be prepared, this menu moves at a lick. Smith’s marriage of ingredients, though not always predictable, are executed with a razor-sharp precision creating a delicacy which belies the intensity of flavours on the plate. Presentation is stunning.

Apple meets lovage in a trembling jelly; tiny crab-filled rolls are dressed with beads of deconstructed lemon; a silky, puree of cauliflower napping a poached oyster are just a sample of the alluring components laid before me.

Smith’s food also has a classic approach woven through it. This is best exemplified in – what I am told is his signature dish – marinated scallop, avocado, radish and a pig’s head croquette. The scallop has a faint caramelisation outside and is meltingly tender within. The avocado comes as yet another silky blob; slivers of radish add a spike and the teeny croquette, a delicate, crisp coating containing a flavour-packed punch of meat from the pig’s head.

There’s goose liver artfully matched with peach and almonds and butter poached turbot is teamed with sea vegetables. If one dish should be considered a main, then it comes as flavour packed rib eye, girolles, sweetbreads and truffles, which, in Smith’s capable hands is remarkable.

An ample trolley of French and English cheeses is followed finally by a strawberry terrine with nothing less than a decadently amusing sliver of 24ct gold.

There’s an option to choose carefully selected wines to match each course (£50) and with 2500 bins currently occupying the wine cellar at the Devonshire, you can guess the selection is breathtaking.

Service is excellent. The friendly approach and warmth of attentive – and plentiful – staff reassuringly softens down what, in other hands, could so easily become reserved.

If there is anything downbeat to mention – and I approach this comment with caution – it’s by the eighth plate of exquisite food, the edges became blurred. This is by no means a criticism of Adam, more the dilemma of the tasting menu. I have a robust palette but was just starting to flag by the end.

They know what they are doing at the Devonshire, have been doing it well for quite some time and it looks like they are set to continue with Adam Smith in the kitchen. I, for one, am glad Adam has uprooted himself to come to Yorkshire, he certainly couldn’t have picked a more beautiful area, long may he stay.

The Devonshire Arms Country House Hotel & Spa, Bolton Abbey, Skipton BD23 6AJ. 01756 718111.

Food in the Burlington: Saturday and Sunday, 6.30pm for 7pm through to 8.30pm for 9pm; Sunday lunch, 11.30am-2pm.

There are light snack and sandwiches served throughout the day in the lounge at the Devonshire, and a more relaxed menu in The Devonshire Brasserie. Call 01756 710710 for opening times.