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Yorkshire Life Luncheon - Wentbridge House Hotel, Pontefract

PUBLISHED: 00:00 24 March 2017 | UPDATED: 12:10 29 March 2017

Crab ravioli in a lemongrass and stem ginger broth

Crab ravioli in a lemongrass and stem ginger broth

Archant

Guests join us for lunch at the multi award-winning Wentbridge House Hotel in West Yorkshire

The restaurant is ready for guestsThe restaurant is ready for guests

The way things are going, Wentbridge House Hotel is in danger of running out of wallspace. As award after award continues to arrive with startling regularity, the owners might even need to consider an extension to house the plethora of framed certificates bedecked with stars, rosettes and roses.

It’s almost an embarrassment of riches except, in this case, the plaudits are richly deserved.

When the AA launched its new Silver Star Hotel Award last year to highlight the best of the best within each star rating in terms of hospitality, service, cleanliness and food quality, Wentbridge was among the first tranche of worthy winners.

This means that the country house hotel, which enjoys a quiet village location in the Went Valley, near Pontefract, can now proudly call itself a four-star silver establishment, signalling to customers that it’s officially a cut above.

Chef Gary Pickles with his teamChef Gary Pickles with his team

And this isn’t the only recent win for the Wentbridge team. They were also awarded a prestigious VisitEngland Rose Award, designed to showcase establishments that provide the warmest of welcomes, irrespective of star ratings. Few make the grade every year, so Wentbridge general manager Catherine Harrild is understandably delighted that her team managed to impress.

‘It’s not something you apply for, so it came as a really lovely surprise,’ she said. ‘We’re not ones for shouting about our achievements, but this is something we’re properly proud of because it’s recognition from our customers and from the industry.’

Among the key customer comments that swung it for the ever-obliging Wentbridge team, who seem to have an almost supernatural talent for anticipating what you might need before you do, was this: ‘Our stay completely exceeded our expectation. They even gave us an anniversary card and a ribboned newspaper as our ‘paper’ first anniversary gift, which was a lovely touch.’

It’s these little touches that really make a difference, garnering multiple awards, including Luxury Boutique Hotel of the Year at the Luxury Travel Guide Awards, Yorkshire Wedding Venue of the Year at the English Wedding Awards, a VisitEngland Gold Award and a White Rose Award for Outstanding Customer Service, and many more besides.

Of course, the big things – the beautiful building and grounds, the luxury accommodation and the outstanding food – help too. For our guests, it was all about the fresh, elegant menu created by head chef Gary Pickles, who formerly worked with Thomas Keller at the French Laundry in California and with Gordon Ramsay at Claridges.

It was unfussy, unshowy – each ingredient earned its place on the plate, with no room for anything that didn’t pull its weight in terms of flavour – and showed a great depth of knowledge of both the county and its bountiful larder.

Our starter was a mellow yellow saffron-spiked pasta pillow stuffed with Whitby crab in a subtle lemongrass and ginger broth.

A main course of pork – both slow-cooked belly and sticky cheek – served with lentils, caramelised apple and snowflakes of crispy crackling was a masterclass in both presentation and flavour.

And, as a final flourish, we enjoyed the chef’s take on rhubarb and custard, which included a delicious pink ingot encased in white chocolate amid shards of honeycomb and mini sprigs of Thai basil. The latter was a particularly clever touch as the tiny leaves imparted a brief aniseed note that made the rhubarb all the sweeter.

Among our roster of special guests (all our lunch guests are special) were VIPs – that’s very important producers – Ian Kennedy of Hartlepool-based Hodgson Fish, which supplies Wentbridge with fish and seafood; Brian Noon from Sykes House Farm of Wetherby, meat supplier to the best chefs across the county and beyond; and Robert Ramsden of Bradford-based Delifresh, which delivers top-of-the-range fresh produce to kitchens at speeds that make Amazon look like the Pony Express.

Each shared their expertise with our guests between courses, talking about Whitby crab, outdoor reared pork and Yorkshire’s ‘sticks of joy’ – a speech that Robert delivered while cradling a box of rhubarb from Tomlinson’s in Pudsey like it was his beloved first born.

If there had been an award for most passionate foodie, he would have won it. Sorry, Wentbridge, but you can’t win ’em all.

For more information about Wentbridge House Hotel on The Great North Road, Wentbridge, Pontefract, WF8 3JJ, call 01977 620444 or visit wentbridgehouse.co.uk

Menu

Crab ravioli in a lemongrass and stem ginger broth

Taste of pork: slow-cooked belly, sticky cheek and caramelised apple

Rhubarb and custard with honeycomb and basil

Wine notes

JM Labruyere Blanc de Blancs

New and exclusive to these shores (our guests got the very first sip – and were suitably excited), this is an intense, exuberant champagne with a sharp purity that drives quite hard but pays off beautifully with a bountiful harvest of orchard fruits.

Moulin-a-vent Coueur de Terroir Domaine Labruyere 2013

There’s a pleasant plumpness to this well-rounded red with lightly-spiced top notes and dark fruits deeper down. It’s like drinking velvet (in a very good way).

Champagne JM Labruyere, Anthologie, Brut Rose

Enticing in its peachy pinkness, this charming champagne is reminiscent of strawberries and cream. Sophisticated and elegant, it’s ultra-flexible with food, complementing everything from pheasant and duck to delicate seafood and, in our case, rhubarb.

:: Wines supplied by Corney & Barrow corneyandbarrow.com

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