Review: The Hare at Scawton - a destination restaurant with very desirable rooms
PUBLISHED: 00:00 13 November 2020
The Hare at Scawton was named Yorkshire Life Restaurant of the Year in 2019 and owners Paul and Liz Jackson had big plans for their gourmet hotspot. When lockdown happened, they put down the kitchen knives and opened the tool box. The results are spectacular.
The Hare at Scawton
Paul and Liz in the garden at The Hare
The couple carefull restored original beams and features in the old coaching inn
Paul'sattention to deal in the food he serves has earned him 3 AA rosettes
Heritage at every turn
Chocolate perfection on the tasting menu
Gathering berries from the Inn's abundant garden
Calm country furnishings create an easy-going vibe
Charming detail throughout
A sink-in bath made for relaxation
Outside of The Hare at Scawton stands a pair of boxing hares. Inside, owners Paul and Liz Jackson have been putting up just as much of a fight over the past six months.
Like many in the hospitality business it’s been a fight for survival, but for this dynamic duo, it has also been a time to seize the moment and continue what’s been a passionate transformation of their 12th century coaching inn to a restaurant with very desirable rooms.
The workaholic pair had always planned to add rooms to their much-loved restaurant. Its location, not far from Sutton Bank and, the market town of Helmsley and the historic Rievaulx Abbey in North Yorkshire made it what you’d call a ‘destination’ restaurant.
They knew it would definitely add to the dining experience for guests to be able to make the most of wine-pairing with the tasting menu and then head upstairs to bed rather than deal with taxis and big journeys.
But they are also perfectionists and a tight team at The Hare. Just as their restaurant has been designed to create a real ambience and the food served is meticulously executed by 3AA rosette chef Paul, so the bedrooms had to be as impressive as they could be.
The transformation required effort, inspiration and more than a measure of Yorkshire grit. Plenty of grit in its truest sense too as the bedrooms were hacked back by the couple to uncover treasures beneath – from weathered oak beams with many a story to tell, to inches-thick stone walls built to weather centuries of storms and offer shelter to travellers.
They became adept at handling plasterboard, knocking down walls, reinstating walls, fitting floors and fixing things laughs Liz.
‘We just got struck in – even the plumbing. Obviously we got the experts in when needed – electrics, heating and that kind of thing, but a huge amount of work was done ourselves during lockdown, there was a momentum to get it done so we could see a positive end to it all.’
Liz’s talent for interiors meant that the rooms have a very cool vibe of luxurious country comfort. Chunky wood furniture set against thick stone walls beneath hefty beams, sink-in beds, indulgent deep baths and loads of treats such as Noble Isle toiletries.
In August doors opened to the lovely rooms – only two at the minute but more in the pipeline. The waiting list was long and feedback has been more than they could have hoped for. The icing on the cake after a truly tough year has been a nomination for an award in the global Food and Travel magazine awards in the ‘small hotel/bolthole’ category.
They’re flying the flag for Yorkshire alongside the likes of ‘big guns’ such as Roots in York and The Star at Harome.
But Liz and Paul are happy to keep it small and perfectly formed for now. New hospitality regulations mean that the 16-covers dining room can now only accommodate ten diners. Add to this a 10pm closing time – for a tasting menu of at least eight courses – and the practicalities and pressures of doing what they do become obvious.
‘It has been a little crazy but a challenge’, laughs Liz.
‘We just want people to come here and love Paul’s food and the rooms – we work hard on both to make a stay perfect.’
They have been honing the Hare to get to this standard since taking over the place in 2012. Today it looks and tastes the part. As this year’s Michelin Guide says, ‘Good cooking, comfortable restaurant; one of our most delightful places.’ An accolade indeed.
Not least because Paul is a self-taught chef who came to the world of food after success as a DJ and music producer.
Late nights, the desire to please and create a memorable experience, the parallels are there. But these days Paul is way happier tending the kitchen garden than his night-time decks.
Instead his crowd-pleasers are in the form of amazing courses in his tasting menus. At the table, before you get to the food are Liz’s little details – a wooden boxes for every diner containing wrapped cutlery (many courses to take account of, remember). It’s a little treasure trove on this clever food journey – which begins with carefully crafted amuse bouche such as ham hock and garden pea tarts which arrive on beautiful wooden platters.
Fish courses include bass with a gentle razor clam and courgette cream sauce, monkfish with oriental-influenced apple dashi (a miso stock). Mackerel with its oak smoked notes is paired with plum sake.
Liz is brilliant at explaining the details of the dishes throughout the meal – Paul’s way of cooking and his ethos.
Ingredients are all sourced locally as you’d expect and a highlight is the Holme Farm venison with beetroot and elderberry – it looks a purple picture with a shiver of delicate beetroot atop the most meltingly tender venison. Yorkshire on a plate.
Gin and tonic granita is pleaser of a palate cleanser and perfectly formed desserts of contrasts bring ‘milk and honey’ together and a chocoholic’s dream of patisserie perfection – showing just how Paul turns his hand to every culinary speciality – with just one other chef in the kitchen.
It’s an adventurous and daring menu – but then, that’s just how these two rock.
Room and dinner for two at The Hare from £335-360