The Pheasant recently scooped up the prestigious accolade of Best Small Hotel at the White Rose Awards. Hence why I was once more headed up Sutton Bank and battling the wind and rain howling across the Moors, in hope it would be worth it.
The Pheasant is saturated in classic English country style, which, though appearing effortless is so carefully thought through that it scoops you up and envelops you in its cosiness. Sinking into an over-sized, under stuffed sofa (despite a slight grumpiness that early diners had bagged the fireside spots) life felt exceedingly good. So comfy was I that I could quite happily have had dinner on my knee.
Chef director here is Peter Neville, a huge, if quiet, talent and it is no secret I am a fan. That said, three years have passed since I last ate here and back then I was staggered by the food; fingers crossed then.
There is a pared back market menu (£30 for two courses, £40 for three) that draws inspiration from seasonal availability, so quite the movable feast and I am impressed there is no mention of provenance; finally a chef who understands this should be a given and not simply a reason to brag. And of course, there’s the whole shebang eight-course Seasonal Tasting Menu (£65). Momentarily, I had a slight sinking feeling of “oh no not another” until I remembered this one was in capable hands – hopefully.
As would be expected with Peter, this Tasting Menu has been rigorously executed across land, sea and fur, though there was an absence of feather. A vast number of impeccably executed, flavours, textures and experiences meticulously reinforced each dish and for the most part, they worked.
A chunky sliver of cured salmon glistened under a smear of gin and tonic jelly and came surrounded by sturdy blobs of beetroot and studded with confit lemon and a chink of treacle bread was delicious.
Poached hens egg, pecan and truffle whip and brown beech mushrooms seemed, on reading, to be a dish trying too hard, but was, in fact, a brilliant combination and the outstanding dish of the night. The quirky, eggshell shaped footed bowls were handmade by a local potter and added to the theatricality of this dish which so easily could have gone dreadfully wrong and drowned under the weight of effort and truffle but far from it.
Wild seabass met Jerusalem artichoke, pancetta and truffle sauce with gusto and a 60-day aged sirloin played beautifully with mushrooms, a sticky ox cheek and mac and cheese. A touch more seasoning on the beef would have been nice, but was more of a personal preference than a criticism.
After a slight pause with a lycee refresher doused in Prosecco there followed a textbook hot chocolate fondant, salted caramel sauce and brown butter ice cream. I love butter, so turned into an ice cream is the stuff of dreams for me.
Given that we had started with two amuse bouches, three different types of homemade bread and finished with farmhouse cheeses plus tea and coffee, this was excellent value. Also, we had opted to share just one flight of wines (£55) as to drink a whole one to myself would see me under the table before pudding. Given the number of foods to be paired, the matching was superb.
So, had things changed?
For the most part, no, service is still impeccable and the attention to detail right the way through faultless. And yes, they have also changed. The Pheasant continues to grow and mature and is now confident in its direction under the careful watch of this hugely talented chef. My admiration of the Pheasant, however, is not just for the food but for the whole team and the terrific job they do, and it is no surprise then that they were awarded Best Small Hotel in Yorkshire. Well deserved.
• The Pheasant Harome, Near Helmsley, N Yorks YO62 5JG, Tel: 01439 771241. Dinner: 6.30pm to 9pm (subject to closures for weddings and exclusive use).
DRINKS SELECTION 5/5