We’ve all heard and shared our own gripes about National Rail, the usual ones being lateness, overcrowded carriages and just how bloody expensive tickets can be, so I thought I would go against the tide and share a National Rail win! When we first arrived in the UK, we decided to visit friends in Scotland, at the time of agreement, we didn’t quite realise it would involve a train from London to Edinburgh, a tight change from Edinburgh to Pitlochry, then finally another change to Dunkeld and Birnam. The first leg ran late, which meant we missed the second leg, which meant the third leg was a total write off.
We were going to put it down to bad luck but a staff member suggested we apply for compensation, so we did it and next thing we knew we had over £300 worth of train travel at our disposal. With time running out to use them, we settled on a weekend in York: a dose of culture at the stunning York Minster, a walk on the city walls with stops at any other attractions we stumbled across, and dinner at The Star Inn. That was the original plan, but as you know my greedy Michelin star hunger got in the way and the weekend was extended…
That day we had planned in York exploring the walls and sights of the historic city did happen, as did that dinner at The Star Inn, however we didn’t visit the restaurant in York, instead we went to the original in Harome, another picturesque little village in Yorkshire. As with The Black Swan, there was none of the razzlematazz that comes with Michelin stars and London, this could pass for any other country gastropub but don’t be fooled by the oddly adorned warren of dining rooms, the food that comes out of the kitchen is top notch fare.
As the evening was still mild when we arrived, we decided to start with a glass of wine and the house snacks in the garden to contemplate whether we wanted the tasting menu or a la carte. Usually I would be all over the tasting menu, not only does it mean there’s no indecision in ordering but there’s also no plate envy – yes, I know, two definitely first world dining dilemmas, but on this occasion we went a la carte. Sometimes one can only stomach three courses, not five.
Once inside, we were presented with bread in the silliest of vessels – does anyone ever want to eat something out of a flatcap? Thankfully slices of potato and caraway seed sourdough and black pudding bread were flavoursome and mildly addictive. The only thing stopping me from asking for another slice was the dramatic entrance of my starter, a risotto of pot barley and village picked wild garlic with lightly smoked North Sea lobster, roasted hazelnuts and Lowna dairy goats cheese. Light smoke lifted from the bowl to reveal a delicate forest-like scene which I eagerly dug into to hunt out the pieces of sweet lobster. It was splendid.
While it lacked the smoke and mirrors presentation, the poached ballotine of wild sea trout with smoked cod’s roe, candied fennel and samphire on a squid ink cracker still made quite an entrance. For someone who eats with their eyes as much as their mouth, I thought this dish was simply beautiful with the contrast of colours and delicate decoration. I am assured by a certain someone that it tasted as good as I thought it looked.
We punctuated the courses with a small crab salad with fennel and langoustine ketchup, a light and refreshing dish which almost acted as a palate cleanser before our heavier, meatier mains. A certain someone had a saddle of Harome shot fallow deer cooked over charcoal with honey-roasted black fig, medjool date puree, wilted cavalo nero and garden thyme juices. All perfectly cooked and balanced but perhaps lacked that extra something which makes you lick your lips with joy and desperation to savour every last mouthful.
When my squab pigeon arrived, I was struck once again by the delicate plating. This was soon followed by mild panic that they had forgotten the rest of it… because I don’t actually want to eat with my eyes alone. They must see that look in their diners a lot as I was swiftly told that the rest of the pigeon, and a generous portion it would be, was arriving soon! The breast was smoked and succulent, while the leg was fried and crispy, both lifted by the bursts of freshness from the apple and gooseberries.
Puddings continued to be a rich affair. A certain someone dove into a dark chocolate and spearmint fondant with sour cherry ice cream, an after dinner mint of sorts with the requisite oozy centre. My curiosity was piqued by the ‘peach melba revisited’, not a dessert I’ve ever really had, this version was a pannacotta with Yorkshire raspberries, toasted almonds and amaretto praline. It may have looked less decadent than the fondant but the creaminess was still rich and luxurious.
I don’t doubt the Michelin star quality of The Star Inn because the quality of ingredients and standard of execution were almost faultless, but for us, it lacked something. Maybe it lacked the warmth and ease of our other meals, maybe we weren’t wowed, maybe we just expected too much? We’ll never know, but that shouldn’t stop you from visiting because essentially, the food is still extremely good and well worth trying!
With the success of The Star Inn in Harome, owner and chef Andrew Pern opened The Star Inn The City in York a couple of years ago; though not Michelin starred, it still comes highly recommended!