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A foodie break with 6 course tasting menu at The Black Swan, Helmsley

The Black Swan Hotel, Market Pl, Helmsley, York YO62 5BJ
For anyone that’s had the pleasure of passing through Helmsley, one of Yorkshire’s prettiest market towns you may have also spotted The Black Swan Hotel. Sitting right in the centre off the market square, 4 star rated, established for over 500 years and 3AA rosette restaurant which is especially acclaimed for its fine dining and award winning tea room. All this in combination, plus internationally acclaimed and award winning Head Chef Alan O’Kane joining the team, our next foodie getaway destination was an easy decision to make.
Once checked in we had the very pleasant surprise of a night in one of the hotel’s cosy ‘Feature Rooms’ situated in the oldest part of the hotel, with a great view overlooking the market square. Our room had bags of charm and character, from exposed beams, beautiful oak furniture, to a huge king-size bed, the room matched countryside charm with modern style perfectly.
Once ready and changed we set off downstairs for a pre-meal drink in the Cygnet bar. It feels very much like a drawing room of a stately home than just another hotel bar, very relaxed added to by their open fire. Monday night saw a full house of residents and non-residents enjoying a glass of wine from the extensive wine list or a pint of locally sourced real ales and lagers.
After a few minutes relaxing in the bar the waiter asked if we would like pre-dinner canapés served in the restaurant or bar. We opted for the latter, not long after 6 beautifully presented canapés arrived. From Monmouthshire air dried ham with goats cheese on a nettle mouse, 36 month aged Parmesan and white onion veloute to soft boiled quails egg on a bed of potato and tomato salsa, each dish tasted excellent and a great start to the evening’s feast. Once finished we moved into the Gallery Restaurant to be seated, then served the most amazing fermented beer bread, beef dripping and cultured butter before our first course arrived. The beef dripping butter was to die for, literally like spreadable roast beef!
The first dish on the menu, the most intense Turnworth cheese, pan-fried cauliflower floret with cauliflower puree, truffle and finished with a rye bread breadcrumb. A real cheesy delight. Just a few of the best quality ingredients cooked perfectly with the different tastes and textures. Not bad when Raymond Blanc says the Turnworth is the best camembert in the world!
Our second course arrived shortly after with our friendly waitress for the evening advising this is one of her favourite dishes. Pan fried Orkney scallop garnished with samphire and wild garlic on a bed of parsley puree, served with an incredible artichoke veloute. We could definitely see why, the meaty scallop and artichoke veloute matched perfectly together, with the mild garlic adding another element to such a great dish.
Next to be served our game dish of the evening. Ballotine of rich creamy foie gras, quince pear poached in the French sweet wine sauternes, served with toasted brioche and ginger bread puree. A really rich and decedent dish with the duck, pear and ginger giving a great nod to the festive period round the corner.
The forth dish to be served, Texel lamb, nettle puree ewes curd and blackened onion. A real beautiful looking dish that tasted just as good too. Blushing lamb rump, belly and liver of lamb perfectly presented with dashes of nettle puree and whipped ewe’s curd. A few discs of heirloom potato to add more flavour and colour with an intense meaty jus to finish the dish.
Our next dish was perfectly timed after the richness of the Texel lamb. Blackberry sorbet, brandy snap and almond brittle, on a bed of lime cheesecake and lime puree, with tiny delicate pieces of yogurt meringue and garnished with tarragon cress, a real palate cleanser from the light fresh sorbet and then a slight hit of aniseed from the tarragon to cut through the sharpness of the blackberry.
Last dish of the evening, Alan O Kane’s gastronomic take on a snickers. Easily one of the best desserts I’ve ever had. Intense chocolate mousse with a crunchy coating on a bed of roasted white chocolate, served with a creamy peanut ice cream and finished with gold leaf and frosted hazelnut. It looked like a piece of art and the techniques used in the dish really showed the chefs talents at The Black Swan.
After dessert was finished and absolutely stuffed by this point we went back into the cosy Cygnet bar for coffee and complimentary petit fours. We just about managed to finish them off before rolling into our comfy bed.
Up early to get back to the daily grind. We headed back downstairs as breakfast was being served back in the Gallery restaurant. A huge selection of fresh fruit juices, pastries, croissants, meat and cheeses were all on offer. Still quite full from the evening’s delights we opted to go straight for the a la carte menu. One Full English and Eggs Benedict for the both of us. Again no expense spared when it came to the ingredients, perfectly poached eggs served with local bacon, sausage and black pudding and all the usual extras made for a great start to the day. As we checked out the friendly and helpful staff gave us complimentary fresh fruit and water for the journey back home.
We really couldn’t fault our stay over at The Black Swan. The food was impeccable and beautifully presented, the service warm, friendly and professional, and the décor of the 4 star boutique hotel is not only beautifully in keeping but also modern and stylish. We’re very much looking forward to our next visit to the Yorkshire market town and the next dining experience from Alan and the team.
Fancy a Toasty Treat?
Enjoy a last minute break this November at The Black Swan from just £149 per couple, per night. This great offer includes the following:
– A homemade scone with jam and cream, plus tea or coffee on arrival
– Two course dinner from their Market Menu served in The Gallery restaurant
– Overnight accommodation in a Classic double or twin bedroom
– Full English breakfast
Click here to get all the details on The Black Swan Hotel

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Written by

Peter Henry


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