Monday, October 20, 2008

5 The Square

Sat 18 October 2008

A quick trip to the Dales has left me feeling extremely well fed!

We were stopping in Grassington (at Grove House B&B - it was excellent) and the original plan for Saturday was to head over to the Craven Arms in Appletreewick for the annual beer festival. Unfortunately, city-girl Alex failed to take into account sufficiently the vagaries of rural taxi services and, as we watched the grey sky drop rain over Grassington we lost our nerve. Would we find ourselves, cold and wet, in the middle of nowhere (with no mobile phone reception) in the wee hours of the morning with no way home?

With the answer looking, increasingly, as though it would be yes, we opted to stay in Grassington where we'd be reliant only on our own feet. Although small, Grassington is home to several pubs and restaurants and, based on nothing in particular, we ended up booking a table for 6pm at 5 The Square, part of the imposing Grassington House Hotel. As the 36 seat restaurant was fully booked, we were given a table in the bar, which turned out to be the perfect spot for people watching.
Things didn't get off to a brilliant start: our initial drinks order (2 beers, 1 Prosecco and 1 glass of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc) took an age to arrive. When it did, the Prosecco was not really much chop at all.

Still, that was as bad as things were going to get. We started with a selection including moules marinières, tiger prawn filo parcels and two portions of (Thirsk rare breed) pork belly with scallops and honey mustard leeks. My initial disappointment that the pork belly's skin was not crispy was replaced by quiet content when I discovered the skin was soft enough to eat, but gorgeously sticky and chewy with it. The meat was soft and moist, the scallops were cooked perfectly and everything was good. The other starters also disappeared - although not quite as quickly as mine did!

Main courses had caused a lot of umming and aahing. I eventually settled on a roast lamb rump, with Asian spices, served with chickpeas and a mint crème fraîche jus. I'd asked for the lamb to come pink and it was perfectly cooked: an even pink colour from edge to edge, juicy and tender. The chickpeas were soft with just a bit of resistence and neither the spices nor mint overwhelmed the flavour of the meat. Our other main courses consisted of home made chicken and black pudding sausage with mash, sea bass with pea puree, dauphinoise potato and roasted red pepper compote and Goosnargh chicken breast, with bacon, spinach gnocchi and greens. Judging by how the plates were cleared - everyone was as happy as me.

Somehow, we almost all managed to find space for pudding. Coffee crème brûlée (a special) for me (I was announced the winner on the pudding front), a raspberry and blackberry cheesecake, and a baked chocolate mousse. I might have been the winner, but I wouldn't have been disappointed to have ordered either of the other dishes - especially the chocolate mousse!

We washed all of this down with Mitchell Watervale Riesling from the beautiful Clare Valley. At £21.95 a bottle the mark up was neither exhorbitant nor a bargain (it appears to retail around the £9 mark and other restaurants where I found this on the list appear to be selling it for about the same price). As digestifs we enjoyed a Janneau Armagnac and a 10 year old Laphroaig.

The damage, after a reasonably generous tip, was £40 a head - not bad for all that food and drink at all. Of course, it would be very easy to cut back on this, particularly if you head to the restaurant on a Monday night where, with pre-booking, you can enjoy 4 courses for £32.50 PER COUPLE.

As you can tell, we very much enjoyed our meal at 5 The Square, but I don't want to give you the impression the experience was flawless. Our pre-dinner drinks were a bit slow coming and they really need to sort out that Prosecco. There were a few spelling mistakes that I spotted on the menu and the service, while very friendly, was uneven. There was one young man who was fantastic but some of the other waiting staff fell a little short of the mark. How can you have one waiter who knows instantly that the last pork has been sold but another who has no idea what the soup of the day is?!

Apparently the hotel and restaurant are relatively recently refurbished, and judging by the full house on Saturday and the standard of the meal we enjoyed, I would be more than happy to head back.

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1. Grassington House Hotel, 5 The Square, Grassington, North Yorkshire, BD23 5AQ, phone: 01756 752 406, map.
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