It’s one of Yorkshire’s best known restaurants and as the Star at Harome turns 18, Elaine Lemm finds it really has come of age.
It is unbelievable that the Star at Harome is 18 years old. As I ponder on my surprise at their coming of age, there is the dichotomy that they also seem to have been around forever.
It is hard to remember a time without the Star. Eighteen years is certainly something to celebrate, there are many restaurants and pubs out there which would like to rack up even 18 months.
However, let’s be frank here; it has not been all plain sailing for the indefatigable Perns. There have been fabulous highs and stupefying lows along the way. I have often witnessed those hovering, hoping to pick over the carrion of a failed business; thankfully, they continue to wait.
On a warm, summer’s evening, I feel there is no better place to be than at the lovely thatched inn. There is no need to linger in the cosy bar – that is best saved for the winter. Outside was definitely the place to enjoy our drinks. The outside space – especially the vegetable garden – is effortlessly pretty; even shabby in places, which of course, makes it awfully chic.
What of the food, though? The Star may have grown up, but reading the menu; it is clear they have held onto their youthful verve. Chef Andrew Pern neither copies nor is influenced by anyone. From the start he has, and continues to, stick to his philosophy of local and seasonal is best. Many still try to imitate him and when they do, it is obvious. Andrew’s innate ability with seemingly simple ingredients cannot be duplicated.
Take our starters as an example; cured Hartlepool octopus, Norfolk quails eggs, deep-fried anchovies, black olive sorbet and marinated vegetables If, like me, you have a picture of what this would be. Then, like me, you would be wrong.
The translucent slivers of octopus are tiny, yet packed with flavour from the curing. The anchovies pack a real punch of saltiness, but the eggs, sorbet and accompanying veg steady them down. Perfect.
The once radical dish of grilled black pudding with pan-fried foie gras is now considered a classic. And understandably so. The bringing together of these two diametrically opposed ingredients was (and still is) a piece of genius from Andrew. The lobes of liver are plump and bulge out from between thick, slices of fruity-spiced black pudding. Pickering watercress, an apple and vanilla chutney to accompany, are off finished with quick swizzle of scrumpy reduction.
There are plenty more starters on the menu with mackerel, roe deer, “Loose Birds” (local free-range poultry) pâté, heritage tomatoes and Bobbin goats’ cheese on there. Prices are keen between £8 and £15, the top end being the ones with the fancier ingredients.
Despite, or maybe because of, the superb choices for mains (monkfish, Ryedale lamb, Wye Valley duck, turbot, lobster...) a sirloin is chosen. This is no ordinary slab of meat, though. It was a cracking steak from Nick Marwoods reared in Harome beef and came with a garden thyme and shallot butter, blue Wensleydale, pickled red onion and watercress salad. Accompanying this plate of delights are hefty blocks of potato, which have been transformed into light, crisp moreish fat chips and declared the best ever.
On a lighter note. Twice-baked blue Wensleydale and lovage soufflé comes with pickled cherries, candied walnuts and a hedgerow salad. This dish can be ordered as a main or a starter. Saving myself for dessert, I ordered starter size. Big mistake. This deserves a huge portion it was so light, and lovely. Delicate summery flavours and a good sharp prickle from the cherries made it a delightful choice.
Puds were hard to choose as each and everyone sounded tempting. Believe me, a local yoghurt and lovage ‘panna cotta’ with elderflower-soaked summer fruits was as lovely as the description. The cream was so lightly set it trembled with even a whisper of breath on it. I would love to know how they make this. I couldn’t taste the elderflower on the fruits; the summer-freshness of their flavours, to be honest was more than enough.
You would think of a summer evening that a steamed pud was a silly choice. No way. This butterscotch pear sponge and spice ‘juice’ was so light and airy I was surprised it wasn’t fastened to the plate. The finger lickin’ good creamy ice cream had teeny, tiny shards of sweet, sticky cinder toffee hidden within. Lovely.
Throughout the evening, the service was impeccable; they never missed a beat despite the fact that all three dining rooms (and outside) was heaving.
So, as you will have deduced, this was a fabulous evening. It comes at a price – £120 for two with lovely bottle of Malbec and pre-dinner drinks – but undoubtedly, worth every penny. I have paid a lot more for food that doesn’t even come close to the quality here.
As the Star “comes of age” it has matured beautifully. This is a place we should all be proud of and thankful we have here in Yorkshire.
• The Star at Harome, Main Street, Harome, YO62 5JE 01439 770397
Restaurant open all week but closed for lunch on Mon and dinner Sun evening.