The Star Inn, Harome

Star Inn sign

After eating what was easily the best meal out in the last 12 months, I’ve just found my new favourite restaurant, The Star Inn in Harome, North Yorkshire.

The restaurant
Star Inn, Harome

After a warm welcome, we started off with a drink in the warm oak-beamed, thatched bar at one end of the building, trying to decide over the range of choices in the Spring Menu and on the specials listed on the blackboard. We then moved to a large table in the more contemporary silver, grey and red dining room.

Not unusually, we both decided to have the same starter and main course, and shared the cheese and the two puddings.

A Taste of Yorkshire – Delicacies of land and sea. Duncombe Park roe deer, air dried York ham, Yorkshire pudding, smoked trout, lobster bisque.

Steamed Suet Pudding of “Shaw Moor” shot hare with honeyed parsnip puree, braised red wine salsify, fois gras fritter and jugged hare sauce.

Cheese course – 4 British cheeses

Lemon Yorkshire crowdie cheesecake, lemon curd, lemon sorbet, pink grapefruit.

Caramelised rice pudding with sherried raisins

The chef, Andrew Pern (who we could see through the swing doors into the kitchen) is passionate about locally sourced and seasonal food. The ingredients were superb and were simply treated. For example, the Taste of Yorkshire starter simply presented and with no fancy treatment, it let the ingredients speak for themselves. The suet pudding of hare was straightforward but was packed full of flavour. The desserts were fantastic, and generously portioned.

The service was excellent – the waiting staff were friendly and relaxed and able to tell us quite a lot about the food, and were both helpful and unobtrusive.

The accommodation
The Lodge, Harome
Our meal was part of our 2-night short break in Yorkshire. We stayed at The Lodge, one of the Black Eagle Cottages rented out by The Star. This thatched cottage was cosy with warm log fires in both the kitchen and bedroom, and The Star provided all the ingredients needed for a great breakfast – bacon, sausages, black pudding, eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, bread, preserves, yoghurt, cereal. We got up late, ate what we want for breakfast, and we always had the cottage to come back to, to light the fire and slob with books.

The good, but not as good bit…
As the Star was closed on Sunday evening, we ate dinner in their sister restaurant in Harome, The Pheasant Hotel, located in old farm buildings right next to the village duck pond.

The food was good, but wasn’t nearly as good as The Star. The dishes were a bit fancier and appeared to be trying a bit too hard, and there were a few mistakes (the pea and ginger beer soup had the consistency of washing up water and didn’t pack that much of a flavour; the pigeon breast starter was cold). The Pheasant service was also significantly slower – we spent a lot of time wondering where our next course had gone – and consequently drank quite a lot more water. The food was OK but lacked the spark that The Star gave. And significantly was only £20 cheaper.

Until next time
We will certainly go back to The Star – it’s well worth the 4-hour drive from Glasgow. But until then, we’ve bought the book and look forward to trying a few of the Pern-goodies over the next few months, although I’m not sure the mock suede book cover will remain pristine in our kitchen!

Please Don’t Label Me

Don't Label Me campaign

It’s quite ironic that the latest Atheist Bus Campaign billboard posters feature children of a well-known Christian musician. Made me laugh anyway.

Seriously though, I do believe that the campaign has a point. Children should not be labelled by their parents’ beliefs (whether that’s Christian, Muslim, Sikh or Humanist). My Northern Irish childhood would have been very different if children of Catholic and Protestant children were not segregated into different ghettoised schools. (Although how much of this segregation was a product of ethnic rather than religious divisions is debatable).

Parents ought to be able to communicate their own worldview and values to their children. The most sensible parents will obviously encourage their children to be inquisitive and open to different ideas. They will know that it is counterproductive to bring up children in a narrow and restrictive environment, whatever the parents’ beliefs.

But let’s not build stereotypes of adults either. People who have a religious faith are often just as open to other people as those who have a non-religious worldview. Let’s all promote acceptance of diversity, even if others don’t share our worldview.

21212 Edinburgh

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21212 sign (photo credit: The Justified Sinner)


We ate and stayed at the 21212 Restaurant in Edinburgh at the weekend. This restaurant with rooms is located in a Georgian townhouse at the end of a long terrace, halfway up Calton Hill and with superb views over the Firth of Forth.

The new owners have put a significant investment (some £4.5m) into the refurbishment, and it shows. The rooms are luxurious. We stayed in a room with a large bed, a wet room with a great shower, and a big comfy sofa. The dining room has curved high-backed banquettes giving the place a rather intimate and sumptuous feel. The chefs all work away behind a glass wall at the end of the dining room. When they were assembling dishes they looked as if they were gathering like monks in prayer.

The owners and staff are truly charming and provide a warm welcome. They remembered preferences we had stated either when booking or earlier in the evening. Service was really well paced – so much so that we didn’t really notice it.

But, what about the food? The 21212 premise is that there are two choices for starter, a single soup course, two choices for main course, a cheese course, finishing with two choices for dessert. 21212, geddit?

Although there are few choices, the menu is complex (see below). The portions are small, but totally packed with flavour. No two bites are the same, and I wished that we had the menus in front of us so that we could analyse and understand all the flavours. For me, the best part of the meal was the main course; the depth of flavour in the lamb was incredible, and hit a delicious spicy finish from the merguez sausage.

I only have two suggestions for improvement. First, the cheese course did not feature any Scottish or even British cheeses; secondly I would have welcomed twice the quantity of soup. But neither of those mild criticisms took away from the pleasure of the meal.

On the whole, 21212 is an different (eccentric?) dining experience. It is very much culinary theatre, but is matched by the tastes and textures of the food. An evening to savour and remember.

And the cost – £60 a head, but that included a complimentary pre-dinner drink. The wine list isn’t ludicrously expensive, and they charged less than a fiver for a single malt at the end!

“Fish & Chips Twice Please”
Warm Smoked Salmon Nugget Topped With A Sliver
Of Sliced, Apricot + Mint, 2 French Fries, (Chips),
Cornflakes (Yes) & A Mushy Pea Sauce.
Ketchup + Asparagus

Tender Fillet of Beef, “Banana-Shallots”,
Chinese Style Bean Sprouts, Rice,
Broken Lemon Curd Cheese Tart,
Sunflower Seeds + Pease Pudding.
Ginger & Peanut Butter Sauce, Fresh Basil

***

Soup

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Slow Cooked Young Seabass “Scottish Flavours”
(Haggis, Neeps, Carrots, Smoked Haddock),
Garlic & Tomato, Dates, Almonds & Pineapple,
Feta Parchment, Balsamic Reduced Cream Sauce

Assiette of Lamb, Fillet, Merguez, Braised, Diced.
Mediterranean Styles, Rosemary, Currants + Walnuts,
Aubergine + Courgette Confit, Pimento + Yoghurt.
Wild Rice + Onions

***

Cheese

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Slow Baked Then Glazed Vanilla & Egg Custard,
Cream Cheese, Chestnuts, Apricots & Oatmeal
Served With Pink Peppercorn Flapjack

Mascarpone Cheesecake, “Icky-Sticky”, Oatmeal

***

Coffee and truffles

TorryBattery on Flickr has some great pictures of the food from his visit earlier this year.

My brother Derek

I’ve been going through some photographs from my Mum’s house recently and came across these ones of my brother Derek that I’ve never seen before.

Bee, Derek, John and John
John and Derek
Bee and Derek

Derek was born in 1965 and had Downs Syndrome and related health complications. He only lived for 20 months, so these photographs are really precious.

Harvest time

It is that time of the year when everything starts happening at the same time. Beans, lettuces, courgettes, chillis, tomatoes, blackberries and herbs all in full production mode. Helped by the mix of rain and sun we’ve had this summer.

Next to come, the fruits – apples, pears and plums.

I love it!