Claudia Blake visits The Pheasant Hotel at Harome
Harome is a picturesque little community set in the gently rolling countryside south-east of Helmsley. Unlike most villages in rural North Yorkshire, Harome still has several buildings with thatched-roofs, giving it a distinctly different atmosphere from most of its neighbours. The Pheasant Hotel isn’t one of these straw-hatted antiquities, but it does sit opposite another of Harome’s ‘classic English village’ features: a large, tree-lined duckpond. You enter The Pheasant via an archway leading onto a gravelled courtyard. Inside the hotel there is a variety of different spaces in which to eat, drink, relax or celebrate, including a cosy, low-ceilinged bar and lounge, and a light, airy conservatory restaurant. In fine weather you can sit outdoors underneath a pergola and gaze out across The Pheasant’s sloping lawns at passing dog owners struggling to stop their mutts chasing the waterfowl on the pond. What ties all The Pheasant’s different public spaces together is a razor-sharp sense of design. Sumptuous country-chic fabrics, well-stuffed sofas and an eclectic selection of characterful furniture give the bar and lounge a posh-rural-hostelry-cum-country-house-hotel vibe. The formal eating areas are more understated, but equally thoughtfully set out.
A SALAD WITH STYLE
Design is obviously a watchword with Chef too, and every dish that came out of the kitchen, from starters through to desserts, was a carefully constructed artwork in miniature. Whilst our orders were being filled, though, we tucked into some of the finest home-baked bread I have eaten for some while. It’s not often bread merits a thumbs-up from me, but The Pheasant’s beer bread – light, rich and immaculately crusted – is something I dearly wish I could replicate in my own kitchen.
Moving on to our starters, the globe artichoke salad kicked off the meal in style. I’m not a vegetarian, but I’m well aware that vegetarians often get fobbed off with some pretty dull fare, even at classy establishments. The Pheasant, however, has clearly made an effort to devise some genuinely tempting vegetarian offerings (they even publish a vegetarian menu on their website) and my salad was a prime example. The artichoke hearts, whilst nominally the stars of the show, came with a large supporting cast of accompaniments. These included a sleek, sophisticated aubergine purée, wafer-thin disks of beetroot, candied walnuts and
a scattering of crisp, oil-drenched croutons. A light dusting of marigold petals and tiny nasturtium and burnet leaves provided additional eye-appeal. Lot of different colours and shapes, plenty of contrasting textures – all in all, a lovely fresh, bright plateful. Our other starter, no less admirable, was confit duck and smoked duck, topped with a quenelle of rich, unctuous duck liver parfait. So far so shades-of-brown, but fortunately the mid tones were given a visual leg-up by the vibrant orange hues of a silky carrot purée, slices of apricot and slivers of crisp carrot. A sprinkling of granola and pistachio crumb contributed their own unique crunch. Spot on.
Next up, and the first main dish to come under our critical eye, was a wild rabbit pie with offal croquette and smoked butter mash. Wild rabbit can sometimes be chewy, but not in this case. Beneath its elegant pastry lattice the meat was rich and succulent, and the gamey flavours were given added pep by the tarragon-rich butter sauce that accompanied it. Tarragon is, to my mind, a criminally underused herb, and it was good to see it taking a prominent role here. Our other main was wild sea trout with cuttlefish ink tagliatelle, Shetland mussels, a tapioca crisp and ‘beach herbs’ (samphire was the only one of these I recognised). It certainly looked stunning, but it didn’t bowl me over quite so much when it came to the eating. Perfectly acceptable, don’t get me wrong, but I found the fish a little too dry, and the whole plateful a touch too salty for my liking. A dash of something citrusy might have helped.
Desserts, fortunately, were uncontroversially splendid. Puds at The Pheasant all seem to be indexed under single-word titles, and the ones we chose were ‘Pimms’ and ‘Strawberry’. ‘Pimms’ was a summer berry and mint gratin with a Pimms sabayon and a shot of homemade lemonade. The fruity sharpness of the berries and the aromatic tang of the mint set off the rich stickiness of the sabayon rather well. ‘Strawberry’ was better still – an elegantly constructed tower of shortcake, fresh strawberries and vanilla cream cheesecake, topped with a luscious strawberry and rose sorbet. Light, sweet, fruity, creamy… pretty much everything a good dessert should be! Our overall verdict? At over £40 per head for three courses, drinks not included, The Pheasant Hotel isn’t a bargain basement dining option – although they do have a bar menu with cheaper options. But if you’re looking for à la carte dining featuring clever, detailed cooking, served with panache in stylish surroundings, then you’re definitely getting a good bang for your buck.
For further information about The Pheasant visit thepheasanthotel.com or call 01439 771241.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Picture-perfect food in a picture-perfect rural setting.
Cosy country house hotel meets smart village hostelry.
Effortlessly professional, informative and affable.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Three courses cost us a shade over £41 per head, drinks not included.
DOWN THE HATCH
There’s a wide-ranging, decent value wine list. Beers come from the Helmsley Brewing Company just up the road.
The Pheasant also serves a more laid-back bar and lounge menu, and afternoon teas.
GET A MOVE ON
You could easily combine a trip to The Pheasant Hotel with a visit to Helmsley Castle, Helmsley Walled Garden or Rievaulx Terrace.