Yorkshire Life Festive Luncheon - Black Swan Hotel, Helmsley, North Yorkshire

PUBLISHED: 00:00 26 December 2013 | UPDATED: 20:08 02 November 2015

6.  Pennita Wilshire, Christine O’Neill, Lizzie Rohan

6. Pennita Wilshire, Christine O’Neill, Lizzie Rohan


Guests join us for lunch at a top Yorkshire hotel where the chef is a true artist

18.  Luke Palmer prepares dessert18. Luke Palmer prepares dessert

Head chef Paul Peters is an artist who ensures every plate that leaves his kitchen is picture perfect.

His artistic endeavours are what make the Black Swan Hotel’s relaunched restaurant, The Gallery, a fresh, fully-realised concept rather than a simple repackaging scenario. Indeed, his exciting menus, which cleverly combine the very best Yorkshire ingredients with cutting-edge contemporary creativity, raise the bar to an astonishing new level.

.  Christmas pudding. Christmas pudding

The Gallery is a dual-purpose venue. By day, it’s home to Helmsley Galleries, a commercial collection of impressive original pieces, and by night it’s the culinary studio of gastro artist Paul Peters and his talented team.

Originally from Sydney, Australia, his career has taken him to some of the greatest kitchens in the world under the tutelage of top chefs like Marco Pierre White, Andrew Turner and John Burton-Race.

He joined the Helmsley hotel in 2009. Since then, he’s had his sights firmly set on creating a unique dining experience. Whether it’s a quick sandwich in the tearoom or a leisurely dinner in The Gallery, Paul wants each and every meal to be memorable. His food is deliciously complex, but his philosophy is surprisingly simple.

‘There’s something I like to tell my younger chefs when things get hard,’ he said, ‘and it’s my own personal cooking philosophy. At the end of the day, if you love cooking, it will love you back.’

There was certainly a lot of love in the room when Paul and his team served our guests a magnificent seven-course festive lunch.

The menu looked ridiculously simple at first glance: melon and parma ham; smoked salmon; prawn cocktail; roast turkey and all the trimmings; roasted chestnuts; Christmas pudding; and mince pies and mulled wine. But this was proof that looks can indeed by deceptive.

This was a devilishly delicious masterclass in creative fine dining where each beautifully-crafted plate looked as good as it tasted (and it tasted heavenly).

From the first precise tile of melon – like a key piece in a vibrant mosaic – to the fiendishly clever finale of mince pies (which tasted of mulled wine) and mulled wine (which tasted of mince pies), this was cooking of the highest quality.

And consistent too, making it nigh on impossible to pinpoint a highlight. If forced to pick a side, most of our guests would probably plump for the Christmas pudding course. An awed silence descended on the room when it arrived, followed by a soft ripple of satisfied groans as people started dipping their spoons with increasing urgency into the light, gingery cake, fruity jewels (like the prettiest festive baubles on the most tasteful of trees), refreshing ice cream and rich Chantilly cream.

‘I knew I had to produce a Christmas dinner,’ said Peter, after receiving a resounding round of applause from our guests. ‘But I also knew it couldn’t just be any old Christmas dinner. It had to be different.

‘It could all have gone horribly wrong, but I’m really very happy with how everything has worked out.’

The structure and inventiveness of our festive lunch was designed to echo The Gallery’s Signature Menu. This pull-out-all-the-stops showcase of what the Black Swan team can do is a ten-course dining experience comprising plate after plate of the chef’s finest dishes aimed at wooing diners until they’re dizzy.

There’s also a daily three-course dinner menu, a simpler market menu and a six-course tasting menu (ideal for those days when you just can’t decide what to order).

For more information about The Black Swan Hotel, Market Place, Helmsley, North Yorkshire, YO62 5BJ, call 01439 770466 or visit blackswan-helmsley.co.uk

Wine notes

:: Verdeca Ampelo Puglia 2012: this fresh, unoaked Italian white utilises Apulia’s native – and beautifully refined – Verdeca grape variety. The region is probably better known for its reds, but this wine more than holds its own with its subtle kiwi and citrus aromas and refreshing tropical taste.

:: The Vermentino, South East Australia: a fragrant, vibrant Sicilian native, this light, delicate white – one of Australia’s fastest new sellers – is crisp and lightly herbal with a pleasantly fruity, almost tropical finish.

:: Peter Lehmann Botrytis Semillon: this fruity, complex wine has a bright gold colour that deepens and becomes more burnished with age. Clarified and cold-fermented in stainless steel, it’s a delicious accompaniment to warm winter puddings and rich, creamy blue cheeses.

:: Wines supplied by Hallgarten Druitt. For more information, call 01582 722538 or visit hallgartendruitt.co.uk.


Melon and Parma Ham

Smoked Salmon

Prawn Cocktail

Roast Turkey and Trimmings

Roasted Chestnuts

Christmas Pudding

Mulled Wine, Mince Pies and Coffee

Latest from the Yorkshire Life