North Yorkshire restaurant guide - The Black Swan, Helmsley
PUBLISHED: 11:52 02 June 2011 | UPDATED: 19:29 20 February 2013
If there is such a thing as the perfect meal in the most comfortable surroundings then this could be it, says Tony Greenway
There are arguably a handful of famous restaurants in our county. These are destination venues which pull in diners on the strength of their reputation alone. The Black Swan is one of them.
Standing in the pretty market town of Helmsley, 40 minutes or so outside York, the building dates back to the 15th century and was once a coaching inn. Now a boutique hotel, its spacious 2 AA rosette Rutland Restaurant has been refurbished with traditional but homely touches.
Its menu is inventive and diverse, using seasonal ingredients freshly sourced from within 30 miles of the hotel wherever possible; and the wine list is pleasingly long with over 200 wines and champagnes to choose from. After much deliberation, my companion and I chose a Merlot, Domaine de Montmarin, South of France 2009.
After a delicate asparagus foam amuse-bouche, I ordered the scallops and pork two way: slow roasted pork belly, five spice infused consomm, pan fried scallop and sashimi ponzu dressing, ginger, cucumber and diakon salad.
This was seriously good and artfully presented, with the pork belly and one scallop sitting juicily under an inverted glass. The five spice pork consomm sipped from a glass was meaty and delicious; and the diakon salad delivered a fabulous, refreshing crunch to round off the dish. My companion, meanwhile, had divine slow roasted foie gras with Yorkshire parkin crisp, flavours and textures of rhubarb and shiso leaf. This, she said, was starter heaven.
For main course, I had the slow braised shin of beef with pomme fondant, shallot puree, wild mushrooms, spinach and a red wine jus. The beef was beautifully tender and presented in a perfect circle, and only required a tap of the knife for the whole edifice to fall satisfyingly apart. The flavours particularly working well with the mushrooms and the red wine jus were pleasingly robust. My companion plumped for the oven roasted duck breast with vanilla pomme puree, buttered kale, rhubarb compote and port jus. The duck was as tender as the beef and just as delicious.
So far, so fabulous. But The Black Swan had one last trick up its sleeve: the dessert menu. I was tempted to order the plate of Yorkshire cheeses but finally decided on the passion fruit souffl with pina colada and passion fruit coulis. This, frankly, was the perfect end to the perfect meal.
The souffl was as light as youd hope (and expect) from a restaurant as acclaimed as the Black Swan; but the pina colada and the passion fruit coulis gave it another dimension: a zingy tropical tang. This was the best souffl Id eaten in ages.
My companion raved about the taste of black forest: a vanilla panna cotta, chocolate mousse, poached cherries and cherry soup. All, she said, were excellent but the vanilla panna cotta was perfection on a plate. The service excellent throughout was attentive but not overbearing and, to finish, coffee was served in the comfortable lounge.
Market Place, Helmsley
YO62 5BJ. 01439 770466