Before we even arrived at Raithwaite, I was already enjoying my weekend. Once you leave the A19 and the scar tissue of industrial Teesside behind, you’re quickly into the assuaging landscape of North Yorkshire. Teesport and Norton soon give way to more forgiving contours near Stokesley and Guisborough. And then steeply on up Sutton Bank, only recently part of the Tour de France, and then at the crest, you’re looking out on to the North York Moors, a curious combination of bleak and picturesque, dense clutches of woodland, heather, reservoirs and the approaching coast all competing for your attention as you start the descent towards Whitby and, more particularly, Raithwaite Estate Hotel.
There are a lot of great things about Raithwaite, not least its location; close to the sea; enveloped by the moors; but sitting elegantly in landscaped gardens sculpted out of Yorkshire soil.
To the west of Raithwaite lies the picturesque hamlet of Sandsend. It’s just a few hundred yards down the road from the hotel, an old fishing village straddling two parallel becks which meander down into the sea. Dogs, children and detectorists joust for primacy over the beach when we visit on a blue-skied, crisp winter weekend. Follow the route out of Raithwaite in the opposite direction and you’re only an invigorating 40 minute beach walk away from the monastic remains of Whitby Abbey, which dominates the headland.
Even on a cold, albeit pretty, February day with agitated waves skirting the sand, there are still unemployed donkeys for hire on the beach, the scent of chips in the air, a multitude of visitors and tourists in the town itself and a mind-boggling colour-cocktail of fleeces and cagoules around every corner. If Whitby is like this in winter, I can only speculate about visitor-levels come the spring and summer. And although our walk to and from Whitby is energising, and a highlight of our stay, the main focus of the weekend has to be the splendour of Raithwaite Estate itself.
You approach the main hotel along a drive set among woodland, a two-minute walk from the beach. The estate itself comprises 80 acres of elegantly-landscaped gardens, manicured bridges and well-appointed observation points from which you can survey the property and the burbling stream as it heads down through the valley and into the sea.
We stay in the main hotel building, in the palatial Presidential Suite – tasteful, elegantly furnished and if you’re not careful vast enough to lose your partner in without even noticing. Luxuriate in the massive ensuite bathroom, watch TV as if in your own private film theatre or sit outside sipping cocktails on your own balcony overlooking the magnificent gardens.
Pre-evening meal, we decide to visit the hotel spa. There’s a generously-proportioned pool along with steam and sauna rooms, ideal for the languid guest or the fatigued walker. There’s also, as you’d expect, a well-equipped gym and a highly-professional team of qualified therapists, and a sense throughout the spa (as in the hotel itself) of peace and relaxation.
We loved all of this – the hotel, the amenities, the location – but principally, we’d come to assess Raithwaite’s new Brasserie which has already developed a strong reputation, and support in the local area has been incredible. But, given its relative newness, many of the rest of us are only now picking up on the positive brasserie ‘vibe’.
We immediately took to the layout and feel of it – it’s chic and casual at the same time, formal and informal, spacious and intimate.
From a richly contrasting choice of entrées I chose the charcuterie, and my partner the crab – all of the names of the dishes are given in French, emphasising the bistro-style menu. We chose the lively, zesty Kuraka Sauvignon Blanc (from Marlborough, New Zealand) as accompaniment. The charcuterie was good – an appetising array of five or six cold meats with olives and a delicate yet pleasingly-tangy chutney. The malted East Coast crab came with pickled cucumber, pea shoots and rye cracker – a light and delightful combination prettily presented.
Then – ooh la la – we were treated to a delightful amuse-bouche of blackcurrant sorbet – very dark on the plate, with notes of the characteristic blackcurrant bitterness creating a most palatable fresh interlude.
There was a wide range of tantalising-sounding main courses. It could possibly have been politic to opt for two different ones, but temptation overcame us and we chose the chateaubriand, to share between two. Served rare to medium rare to order, it was perfectly pink, juicy and ‘ravissant’! Out of a choice of accompanying sauces we had the peppercorn, which was creamy and with perfect occasional heat and crunch to it. The meat was served with handcut chips, mushroom and tomato but we added green beans with a fresh garlic pistou, and yummy sweet and sour carrots as additional ‘accompagnements’. This all was washed down with a fine Pinot Noir from the Languedoc region of France – a satisfyingly smooth red, just lightly oaked, with a delicious silky palate.
We didn’t really feel up to dessert, but thought we ought to – so I forced myself to have the chocolate Paris brest, a combination of praline and salted caramel ice cream that worked extremely well together. My partner chose the tarte au flan, which only served to further accentuate the French/Yorkshire fusion of this restaurant with its Yorkshire egg custard tart and rhubarb accompaniments.
We took our coffee in the Hunters Bar – a warm and comfy bar/lounge area to and in after the excesses of our evening.
Raithwaite Estate, Sandsend Road, Whitby,
North Yorkshire YO21 3ST