When we decided to have a family lunch in Yorkshire I started the planning with some trepidation. These days a family lunch includes an 86 year-old mother-in-law with very poor vision, a grandfather who is not only vegetarian but also struggles with goat’s cheese, another grandmother, a wife and two children – one teenaged (who had asked three friends) and one eight year-old. You will understand therefore the trepidation involved in trying to find a venue to satisfy all their varying needs.
It was on that basis that I set off early on Sunday morning to the dull sound of severe weather warnings on the radio. However, I shouldn’t have worried. As we left Durham and entered (to some) God’s own county, the sky cleared to an azure blue and the ground sparkled with three inches of overnight snow. My heart lifted as I surveyed Yorkshire in all its stunning beauty. If the world was this beautiful, surely lunch would be to everyone’s liking – but would it? I shouldn’t have worried one little bit. I had arranged for us to go to the Feversham Arms in the picturesque market town of Helmsley, on the edge of the North York Moors, and from the moment we arrived I could see that this was no ordinary establishment and that this was not going to be an ordinary lunch. Far from it.
We were greeted firstly by the hotel manager and then the restaurant manager, both with welcoming smiles (something I noticed everyone at the Feversham Arms had) and were shown into the library where as a party of ten we were to have drinks. We were then introduced to another smiling assistant, Greg, who was to look after us for the day. He confirmed that we would be eating in the boardroom across the passageway. A sumptuous room for a private party, it suited our needs perfectly, with a view of the pool and a fantastically eclectic collection of art including some local Hare paintings. On the arrival of some deliciously refreshing Kir Royales and a very fruity non-alcoholic cocktail for the non-drinkers, we sat down to examine the mouthwatering and very good value menu.
For a self-confessed foodie like me it is rare when you feel you could happily choose anything on the menu, including the vegetarian options, but I genuinely would have enjoyed the lot. In the end I plumped for Dorset Crab Salad with Celeriac Remoulade and Coriander, which was a delightful harmony of tastes, and Butter Roast Hake which came perched on a delectable mustard risotto with slow poached egg and crisp purple broccoli. After having to spend a good many minutes contemplating the very extensive and enticing wine list, we decided to wash it all down with a vibrant French Viognier and a simply delicious Morgan. The rest of our party had a full selection from the menu with starters including warming carrot soup, Uig Lodge smoked salmon with soft poached quails’ egg and a tangy lime dressing, Cauliflower and Romanesca with goat’s cheese and sage jelly and Braised Serrano Ham Risotto. The main courses included beautifully pink Yorkshire Beef with huge Yorkshire puds, rolled piglet and east coast Lemon Sole, all served with an amazing variety of potatoes (dauphinois, Robuchon, crushed Anya)and a wide variety of vegetables. All reports were good. Our vegetarian grandpa greatly enjoyed his hand rolled chestnut gnocchi with braised Swiss chard Wensleydale cheese and aged balsamic sauce, followed by the most extensive cheeseboard of unusual cheeses most of us had ever seen. The rest of us finished off with vanilla rice pudding with Madeira soaked prunes (which had me back in the sun in Madeira in no time), cocoa panna cotta, coffee ice cream and rum soaked raisins, passionfruit syllabub and sorbet which looked and tasted simply divine, and warm parkin with beautifully sweet poached rhubarb from the Yorkshire triangle, which my Cordon Bleu trained mother confirmed as the best parkin she had ever had and one of the best puddings she had had for many a year. A particular point of note was the fantastic children’s menu, although we didn’t order from it on this occasion. Greg was both fantastically attentive and totally unobtrusive – a rare pairing in modern waiting.
So much for my trepidation. We could not have had a better three generational Sunday lunch and the service, surroundings, food and attention to detail were second to none. Well done Feversham Arms. We will be back and will be recommending that everyone else we know takes the time to discover what is truly a treasure in Yorkshire’s hospitality crown.
Feversham Arms Hotel & Verbena Spa, 01439 770766 www.fevershamarmshotel.com