Fine dining and excellent restaurants in the Yorkshire Dales
When is a restaurant not a pub? Is it still a 'proper' restaurant if it also has rooms? We don't care about the name - if it serves excellent food, it's a restaurant! And the Yorkshire Dales has some fine examples! You might expect to find traditional dining experiences: we've got plenty of those. Perhaps less expected are the more contemporary offerings, places with beautiful summer terraces and incredible views, light modern food and awards galore.
The Michelin starred Yorke Arms is in a beautiful and historic building, once a shooting lodge and coaching house. It's easy to imagine that it has roots growing down into the surrounding earth, it feels so meant-to-be-here.
Chef Frances Atkins makes great use of this fine location and exceptional local produce. She creates clever and unexpected dishes that somehow avoid being fussy or over-complicated. The setting has an atmosphere that's difficult to convey in a photograph but so memorable that it draws diner back again and again.
The Traddock at Austwick is a Georgian country house hotel with a wonderfully warm and welcoming atmosphere. They are justifiably proud of their Gold Green Tourism Business award and delight in working with high quality local suppliers.
Owner & manager, Paul Reynolds explains "we love working with some of our suppliers because the quality is so high. A great example would be The Courtyard Dairy, a new multi-award-winning cheese shop supplying the best range of UK and Yorkshire cheese I've seen anywhere. Andy and Kathy Swinscoe are so passionate about what they do it's infectious and they are just 4 miles away near Settle!"
With the Wainwright walk to Crummackdale and the Three Peaks on the doorstep it's a good idea to stay a little longer in The Traddock's cosy and very comfortable bedrooms.
The Blue Lion in East Witton feels very much like it's been an important part of the local area for a very long time - which it has. Paul and Helen Klein have run it for over 20 years. Originally an English coaching inn, the Blue Lion is now split into two distinct areas, with different characters.
The bar is full of dark wood with the comforting patina of age. It's here you'll often find a shooting or fishing party, recounting their day and enjoying local ales and fine wines. The excellent, hearty menu is chalked up on the blackboard and includes many seasonal and local specials.
The more formal candle-lit restaurant feels more intimate and sophisticated, a worthy setting for a gourmet meal.
Now in its 10th successful year Vennell's in Masham is truly a restaurant. No bedrooms, no bar (just a small bar area): the focus here is firmly on the food.
Jon Vennell creates seasonal menus that make strong use of very local food producers, blending flavours and tempting diners to try combinations they may never have created themselves. With great presentation, very friendly service and excellent food, Vennells also offers exceptional value for money. Look out for their special food weeks such as Grouse Week and the Lobster Festival.
At the Devonshire Arms Hotel & Spa on the Bolton Abbey Estate, the Burlington restaurant has the classical and traditional style of a country house hotel with a fresh and exciting menu from head chef, Adam Smith. It was recently awarded 4 AA Rosettes.
The Brasserie & Bar is less traditional, decorated in vibrant jewel colours and contemporary art. All of the dishes on the menu are available at the bar, in the brasserie or (weather permitting) on the terrace.
In the winding lanes above Skipton you'll find the multi award-winning Angel at Hetton, run by the characterful Pascal whose father could be described as the "godfather of the gastro pub". The Angel has since been updated, but still serves the famous "Moneybags".
Pascal is passionate about his support of local artists, and recently created Art in the Bar, a programme of changing exhibitions.The Angel is also known as a great venue for celebrating special occasions, where guests can eat in the private dining area or enjoy a private tutored wine tasting in the Wine Cave. There are nine comfortable rooms for those wise souls who use the Angel as a base for further exploration of the Yorkshire Dales.
Yorebridge House is an unexpected delight. Nestling between Bainbridge and Askrigg, this boutique hotel in a former schoolhouse, is now known as much for its restaurant as its rooms. The interior is modern, with a more contemporary style than most Dales properties. It would be easy to think you've arrived in the bright lights of a city, which for some will be a welcome change to the antiques and heavy furniture of more traditional establishments.
The food is truly excellent: complex, unlikely flavour combinations including some ingredients that are much less familiar to a Dales-palate. With plenty of off-menu surprises and treats being offered along the way, before, during and after the meal, there's no wonder diners travel from afar to dine and stay here.
Grassington House is set in a historic building on the cobbled square in Grassington. It feels both at peace within its setting and yet more upbeat and contemporary than you might expect.
John Rudden's food is excellent and great value for money, with the menu changing frequently to ensure regular visits! Their own hand-reared rare breed pork features, as do tempting taster plates of more unusual tapas-style dishes, all with local flavour. Recently refurbished rooms make it easy to linger longer in this beautiful area.
John Rudden also has a programme of entertaining on-site master classes which usually culminate in a three course lunch.
From the outside, the Wensleydale Heifer looks like an ancient and traditional pub. Inside it's less predictable. Described as the Yorkshire Dales' "first boutique hotel", the Wensleydale Heifer is a quirky place to stay with themed rooms named after local heroes and beers.
Despite its name, the restaurant is particularly known for its fish dishes, although it also serves great meat dishes as well. There's a sense of fun among the staff, and light hearted touches (sometimes just bordering on the right side of kitsch) such as the seaside postcard murals in the toilets.
As you might expect, dining in Samuel's, the 3 AA rosette Restaurant at Swinton Park, is a grand affair. There's a strong emphasis on seasonal and local produce, much of it grown in the hotel's walled garden and on the estate. Afternoon tea in one of the sumptuous lounges is also a popular choice.
If you want to improve your own culinary skills, Swinton Park Cookery School is highly recommended. The Chef's Table events are entertaining, sociable and good value for money.