Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Horseradish Risotto

Sat 29 July 2006

Another big dining event on the Eating Leeds calendar. Saturday saw us embark on the somewhat marathon trek to lunch at The Star Inn in Harome, North Yorkshire. This is the gastro-pub that we've all heard about and read about and I personally have wanted to eat there for quite a long time. I finally got my opportunity!

Finding Harome is no easy task. We took a train from Leeds, via York, to Malton and then caught a taxi. At one point I caught myself wishing for an Eating Leeds car ... but to be honest, I think we would have been worse off had we attempted to drive. Our taxi driver took us through some small villages and then across fields and finally hung a left at an apparently random intersection. Not so random after all - a small wooden sign, with letters carved in, showed we were heading towards Harome. I suspect most drivers would miss this and I know in my case would have provided an entertaining barrage of creative language.

The Star Inn is a very quaint pub on the edge of Harome. It has a thatched roof and appropriately low ceilings. Despite Saturday being a hot day, the bar was cool, and we were quite pleased to be able to sit down and have a drink prior to inspecting the menu. I had a glass of Chapel Down sparkling rose, all the way from Kent. I think this is the first English wine I've tasted and I was very pleasantly surprised. The silly pink theme was to continue with the wine - the choice of Charles Melton's Rose of Virginia was made before I'd even looked at the menu!

Actually - that's not quite accurate, as the Star's "Late Summer Luncheon Menu" is available through the website so I had a reasonably good idea of what was on offer. Despite umming and aahing about the grilled black pudding with pan fried foie gras (too predictable a choice for me), the ham terrine (I was put off by the idea of spiced pineapple pickle) or the plate of home cured meats (again, the threat of pickles ...) I opted for the novel sounding fresh horseradish risotto with truffles, pan fried girolles and lovage.

The risotto was absolutely fantastic. OK - the shaved truffles on top were maybe a little superfluous - but the girolles were lovely, the risotto was a good, dense, creamy consistency, the horseradish and lovage gorgeously tangy. The horrors of the train ride to Malton were worth it. No questions. I ate the risotto slowly and savoured every last mouthful.

Actually, I did let Andy have one of those mouthfuls in exchange for a taste of his wonderful ham terrine. The terrine consisted of large chunks of sweet, tender ham and was also delicious. Even the (to my mind) highly suspect spiced pineapple pickle was tasty! Much lipsmacking ensued, although Andy was tempted to say that he thought he had enjoyed a game terrine (eaten a year earlier at a different pub) more. I'm not entirely sure it's fair to compare a game and a ham terrine. In terms of ham terrines that at the Star Inn is a stunner.

We moved on to the main courses - pan fried rump with shallot butter, blue Wensleydale salad and Waldorf vinaigrette for me and, from the specials board, roast lamb stuffed with black pudding and served with white asparagus for Andy.

My piece of rump was huge and perfectly cooked. I don't think you can go wrong with butter on steak, and the butter, steaky juices all ran through into my salad, making the Wensleydale and vinaigrette combination even richer. Presented with such a huge plate of food, I had to prioritise - and so made the steak my priority. I very rarely leave food on my plate - but in this instance I was utterly defeated. Having eaten what felt like half a cow I made a somewhat half hearted attempt on the salad, before realising that the additional salad and vegetables that had been brought to the table had been barely touched. Somehow, I managed to fit in half a potato - they were small, glossy, fluffy and delicious.

Andy made a far better attempt at his lamb - in fact, he polished it all off without any problems. He wasn't sure about the black pudding stuffing - he felt it had disintegrated somewhat, but also commented that it did a fantastic job of enriching the gravy. The spears of white asparagus were generous, fat little rods that disappeared before I got near them. With some space spare Andy also enjoyed the potatoes and the side salad of apple, beetroot and greens.

Needless to say, after all this - we were very full - so we opted out of dessert and retired to the bar with the remainder of our bottle of wine.

As you may have gathered - the Star Inn is worth the effort for the food. The chef, Andrew Pern, can clearly put together a very creative and diverse menu, and make it work. Everything is very reasonably priced - we came away have spent around £90 - and I think you would be hard pushed not to find dishes to suit most people. Simple to novel - all catered for and very well executed.

Service wise - I was not quite so enamoured. While we did have one main waiter who dealt with us throughout our meal, we were also served by a couple of 'random others'. I don't think that additional cutlery should be brought to the table without knowing where it's going - and I especially think this when it comes to the food. Our main courses were delivered while I was in the bathroom (please, NO!) and the waiter didn't know who was eating what. I am also going to complain about the speed of the service - our two courses were over and done with in about an hour! No wonder there was no room for dessert! With food being served that quickly the art of conversation will die out!

But still, there's that whole thing about the horseradish risotto ...

The Star Inn, Harome, near Helmsley, North Yorkshire, YO62 5JE, phone: 01439 770 397
Two courses and drinks for 2 cost around £90. Bookings are required for the small restaurant, although bar meals are also available without reservation.
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