The Black Swan – something extremely rare, and I have to agree after spending two nights at The Black Swan, Helmsley, North Yorks. It was certainly a pleasant rare experience from the beautiful drive, through some of the most wonderful countryside Britain has to offer, I arrived at The Black Swan to receive the warmest of Yorkshire welcomes from the staff.
The first thing I would like to say about this establishment is that my very faithful four-legged friend was made as welcome as I was. After checking out my room with its lovely window seat looking out onto Market Place, its comfy bed, iron, hairdryer and all the usual things you would expect from a luxury hotel (and with a few added extras you wouldn’t expect like dog bowl, blanket and doggie treats) I went off to explore the restaurant whilst the receptionists looked after Ruby (the dog).
The Gallery Restaurant exhibits some fabulous works of art from local artists which are all available to buy. The staff were very attentive and I soon had a lovely cold glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc in my hand while I decided whether to order à la carte or choose the six-course tasting menu – I went for à la carte and decided to try the tasting menu the following evening when my colleague would join me. I was hungry but should probably have only had two courses, however everything prepared by Chef Alan O’Kane and his team was so delicious I couldn’t help myself. The torched salmon preceded the red deer with Hereford snails, chervil root and wild mushroom beautifully and with just enough digestion time before the lemon and olive oil cake, pickled fennel, baked white chocolate with yoghurt sorbet. The Black Swan has an array of awards and accolades for their cuisine and services and after my short stay I can certainly see why.
A comfortable night’s sleep and an early morning stroll round one of the many walks nearby then it was back to the hotel for a well deserved breakfast. So that I could have breakfast with Ruby (my four-legged friend) I asked to eat in one of the many superbly decorated lounge areas. I think I counted five on the ground floor which made them all wheelchair friendly too. The haddock and poached egg was cooked perfectly and when the waitress asked if Ruby would like some sausage I couldn’t help but look surprised. Yes, please! So she brought her a foil tray with it all sliced and cool enough to eat.
A must-try experience when in the area, so I had heard, and as such booking is preferable, is the Afternoon Tea served at The Black Swan. My colleague had arrived by this time and so together we headed to the Tearoom which is adjacent to the hotel and is decorated in an old tearoom fashion. We were in luck and got a window seat so we could still see what was happening in the market square. The tiered plates displayed delicate sandwiches, homemade scones, homemade jam and clotted cream, and delightful pastries which were all washed down with some Darjeeling tea. I definitely needed to walk round the nearby castle and roam around the beautiful gardens and the local shops before even thinking about evening dinner.
After a leisurely shop, Ruby got a new bowl and I got a new outfit – it’s only fair, having taken a lovely walk to the outskirts of Helmsley it was back to the hotel to get ready for our six-course tasting menu experience. My colleague went for the vegetarian option so between us we had the pleasure of both menus. Each course was served with expertise and precise care to every detail from the ham knuckle and foie gras, celeriac rémoulade, caper jam, pease pudding with quail egg to the buffalo ricotta cheesecake, calamansi, passion fruit curd with pistachio and every dish in between. If it’s locally sourced ingredients mixed into sublime flavours and served as fine dining you’re looking for then look no further.
The Black Swan Hotel, Market Place, Helmsley, North Yorkshire, YO62 5BJ
Tele: 01439 770466 www.blackswan-helmsley.co.uk