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Guests join us for lunch at one of our favourite fine dining restaurants. Words by Jo Haywood<br/>Photos by Andy Bulmer
It takes a brave restaurateur to give his kitchen team free reign at a prestigious gathering. Sometimes you beat the odds, sometimes you dont. On this occasion, the owners of The Black Horse Inn romped home to victory in fine style.
Head chef Richard Barrett and his small but highly skilled brigade created and executed a nigh-on (or should that be neigh-on?) perfect menu of seven delicious courses, even finding time for a few fun theatrical flourishes along the way.
Our long yet well-paced culinary journey began with a velvety smooth butternut squash soup accompanied by a sweet slice of ginger cake and a delicious spiral of cheese and pickle bread.
Next came an elegant plate of delicately cured mackerel with crisp shards of skin, earthy beetroot tones and creamy horseradish, followed by a porcine cornucopia that covered the entire gamut from succulent, unctuous belly to crunchy, salty ear. (Its safe to say, if this talented, Hestonesque chef could have found a way of deep-frying the squeal, he would have done.)
After our savoury courses came our sweets (note the plural this is not a restaurant that does things by halves). First, a palate-cleansing yogurt sorbet bejewelled with fresh green bubbles of basil, strawberries and a miniature meringue crown, then a satisfying sweet panna cotta, given an incredible depth and full-bodied quality with the addition of liquorice.
As if our second sweet treat wasnt entertaining enough in its own right, it was accompanied by a dry-ice extravaganza that left the dining room bathed in an restaurantseerie mist as the scents of autumn were released from a bowl of berries and leaves at the centre of each table.
Next yes, theres more the friendly yet militarily efficient serving staff brought out slates decorated with perfect rounds of goats cheese, sweet figs and piquant chutney, followed by homemade chocolates and wonderfully indulgent fudge lifted into another culinary league with the clever addition of poppy seeds.
This was the work of a chef at the top of his game; a fact that must be very satisfying for restaurant owners Andrew and Jane Russell, who spotted his talent early and brought him straight up through the ranks.
Hes very into molecular cooking but, perhaps even more importantly for us, he shares our deep passion for great food, said Andrew, who has run the inn with his wife since 1998. Whether its a basic plate of pub grub or elegant fine dining, his passion and commitment remains at the same high level. And he loves to eat which, bizarrely, some chefs dont. We sometimes have to reign in his crazier ideas, but we told him to go for it today and he has paid back our confidence in him ten times over.
We are a fine dining destination for people who love great food served with fun and style, and if todays menu doesnt convince you of that, nothing will.
Wines for lunch were supplied by Martin Jeffrey of Spen Valley Wines.
The Black Horse Inn, which sits on a lofty ledge of a village just minutes from the M62, has been in Janes family for more than 60 years, making her the third generation of the same hard-working clan to run the pub at the heart of this semi-rural community.
This 17th century inn, packed with charming traditional features, has been raised to a whole new level in the 14 years Andrew and Jane have been at the helm. Now renowned for its fine dining and impeccable accommodation the rooms in the recently-converted Champagne House have to be seen to be appreciated it is also gaining an enviable reputation as a wedding venue.
Our daughter, Lydia, coordinates all our weddings, which went up from 15 in 2011 to 42 this year, said Andrew. Shes really invigorated that side of the business and seems to have a real passion and enthusiasm for what she does.
Proof, if ever it was needed, that the apple really doesnt fall far from the tree.
The Black Horse Inn
Gremillet Champagne Brut
Butternut squash veloute, toasted pumpkin seeds, gingerbread and cheese and pickle bread
Rauzan Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Cotes du Thongue, Languedoc
Cured mackerel, beetroot ketchup, confit beetroot and horseradish ice cream
Tamar Ridge Kayena Vineyard Chardonnay 2008, Tasmania
Pork belly, pigs cheek, crispy pigs ear, pork popcorn, Granny Smith puree, toffee apple and Earl Grey foam
Casa Del Bosque Gran Reserva Pinot Noir 2008, Casablanca Valley, Chile
Yorkshire strawberries, yogurt sorbet, meringue and basil
Gremillet Champagne Rose de Saignee Brut 2006
Liquorice panna cotta, blackberry and honeycomb
Eradus Sticky Mickey Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Marlborough, New Zealand
Gratinated Golden Cross goats cheese, caramelised fig, autumn chutney and a selection of biscuits
Croft Unfiltered LBV Port 2004, Douro
Baileys chocolates and poppy seed fudge
Rainforest Alliance coffee