Wednesday 28 August 2013

Wensleydale Heifer, Yorkshire.

I was looking for quality places to eat as we were in the Yorkshire Dales on a camping weekend with a load of friends. I found the Wensleydale Heifer about half an hour from were we were in Muker, a picture perfect little dales village with a fine teashop and pub.  The Wensleydale Heifer is in the Michelin Guide so I was keen to go.
Mrs Bacon, myself and Ms Arroz were the only ones who were up for it though and we turned up at about 4.30 on Sunday afternoon hoping the lunch rush would have subsided. They weren't serving proper food until 6, so we waited in the garden area out back deciding what to have.

They specialise in fish, and there were some great looking dishes on the menu, it was hard to decide. (I think their menu maybe actually be too long.) After much umming & ahhing and intense negotiation, we finally decided. I also had plenty of time to wander around the bar and restaurant, smartly decorated in a nautical if slightly gimmicky theme, with saucy postcards drawn onto the toilet wall. There's a boutique hotel as well, Ms Arroz almost decided to stay the night, but it was fully booked. I noticed a well-to-do older American couple checking in with expensive luggage. (For some reason seeing this reminded me of The Waldorf Salad episode of Fawlty Towers.)

We finally ordered just before 6, but it was quite a while before any food came out. Service was really slow all night, but I guess sitting in the garden didn't help where we were easily forgotten. 
Firstly some nice little horseradish canopées arrived. Then some very decent home made bread, butter and dipping oil. We finally got our proper starters after about an hour. Way too long for me, but patience is not one of my virtues. It was well worth the wait though.

 House Speciality Platter for three: Crispy Tiger Prawns, Celeriac & Sriracha, Irish Oysters on Ice, Goats Cheese Fritters Onion Jam, Gravalax, Whisky Smoked Salmon, Heifer Soup, Blue Cheese Cheesecake, Chicken Liver Parfait, Crab & Potato Salad, Duck Rolls & Hoi Sin (£12.75 per Person)
This was a veritable feast, and really impressive when it arrived. 

We topped this up with Seared King Scallops, Roast Pork Belly, Calvados & Apple Puree, Crispy Apple & Baby Rocket Salad, Pork Scratchings (£13.50).

All the starters were superb, we got the soup to start, a fine fish soup, rich and flavoursome. 

Everything else was excellent too, the prawns in crispy batter in a normal pub would be bland and heavy. Here, the batter super light and crispy, the prawns fresh and tasty. The duck rolls should deserve a special mention, these were some of the best spring rolls I've ever had, the quality of the meat really shone through which it rarely does if ever in a Chinese restaurant, even a good one. My favourite though were the oysters, they were creamy and fresh, really satisfying knocking them down in one go with that lingering taste of the sea on your lips. The paté was another winner, it was very rich though, I was starting to worry we'd over ordered.

The mains were slightly more of a mixed bag. The Three Flavours of Whitby Lobster:  Prawn & Fennel, Fish Pie, Lobster & King Scallop Thermidor, Crispy Lobster Claw, Brown Shrimp, Tomato & Red Onion Salsa, Tartar Sauce (£23) were good if not spectacular. 

Cauliflower, Mature Cheddar & Whole Grain Mustard Gratin.

Nice fries.

As was the Slow Braised Pork Cheeks, Madeira Glazed Pork Belly, Mustard seed mash, buttered spinach, roast pork jus (£18.) 

I have to say though, I have a slight issue with the price on some of the dishes. For lobster it's a given that it's expensive, but pork cheeks at £18? I've had this dish at least as good if not better for around about £10. Some of the prices are way off, yes they have 5 AA Rosettes, but not a Michelin star yet. (Although I can see that happening.) If I compare it to my favourite country pub The Parkers Arms in Newton-in-Bowland Lancs, the prices are roughly half that of the Wensleydale Heifer for food equally as good if not better (although different). I'm not averse to forking out money for top food, (if you read this blog you'll know this,) but I have to see where the money is going, service and food have to be top drawer and faultless if you're paying this sort of money - if you eat out as often as we do you comparisons are swiftly made.
The quality of the produce at The Wensleydale Heifer, cannot be argued with though and the portion sizes are big. To be fair, they did knock the whole price off the bill for Ms Arroz's dish. She wasn't keen on her mains. Maple Roast Whitby Lobster Salad Whitby Lobster, King Scallops, Tiger Prawns, Crispy Belly Pork & Smoked Bacon, Baby Gem, Blush Tomato & Croutons, Sweet Maple Syrup Dressing "Try The Heifer's Most Controversial Dish!"  (£22.75.)
It maybe described as controversial, but in my view it just didn't work at all. The sweetness was so overpowering, it made the dish unbalanced, the overriding flavour you got was the Sweet Maple Syrup. She couldn't actually eat it, neither could I, it was just way to sweet, the freshness and quality of the fish was totally lost for us.
Service was really friendly throughout, but painfully slow. However on the whole we all really enjoyed our little adventure in Yorkshire. The food at The Wensleydale Heifer is not necessarily innovative or overly creative, (that wouldn't really work in this area) but it is very good quality. It falls somewhere at the top of superior pub food, but currently slightly below Michelin star. In my book, they would need to improve their service a little for that. We drove off into the night, a tiring 2 hour drive back to Manchester in front of us, but we were happy to have dined at Wensleydale Heifer and I have no hesitation in recommending it.

Price: £45 each, with few drinks. Slightly over priced for me if you consider you can get a taster menu at an extremely good One Michelin star restaurant in London with super creative food for only £15 more. I think the Wensleydale Heifer should offer a permanent taster menu as well as costs really mount up.
Service: Friendly, informal, but slow considering we must have been the first to order.
Atmosphere: Sat outside.
Food: Superior pub food.
Star dish:
Score: 7/10. If you're in the area, you probably can't do better.

Tune: Slow supreme - Granada
  Wensleydale Heifer on Urbanspoon

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