There are many dining venues I have on my wish list, some of them have lingered there for quite a while. Wishing butters no parsnips however and having a dream is not the same as realising it. Time for action then.
Chef Andrew Pern has more than 30 years experience as a talented creator of excellent food and being from Whitby, he knows the wonderful quality of locally produced meat, fish, game and vegetables.
He took over the Star at Harome in North Yorkshire on the outskirts of Helmsley and the North York Moors National Park, in June 1996 as Chef/Patron. Stephen Smith was installed as Chef/Director.
This beautifully preserved 14th century, cruck-beamed and thatched roofed country inn with rooms, has been sympathetically extended in recent years to provide a ‘Pub Bar’ with open fireplace, which complements the ‘Old Dining Room’ and the upper floor Coffee Loft and private dining area.
The bar extension was not carried out by any old builder, oh no, but lovingly crafted by artisans from The Robert ‘Mouseman’ Thompson furniture makers at nearby Kilburn, and it shows.
Andrew and his team of chefs have a coveted Michelin star here. This award was retained once more in October 2019. They also have many other industry awards including a spot in Lonely Plant’s Ultimate Eat List and the ‘U.K’s top gastro-pub’ award.
It is consistently rated very highly by reviewers and customers.
Using mostly local produce including fresh herbs from the kitchen garden, and some ‘guest’ items from further afield, the food is predominantly modern Yorkshire in style.
On offer is an excellent value fixed local menu at 2 courses for £20 or three courses for £25, together with a seven course taster menu at £85. The latter choice can be accompanied by a sommelier selected wine or beer flight at extra cost.
Also available are selections from the daily ‘Specials’ or an a la carte menu where appetisers are £3 – £5, starters £9 – £17, mains £21 – £35 and desserts £6 – £12.
There is also a 15 selection cheese menu and an 8 choice port menu as well as a superb wine list. Phew!
Realising one of my wish list restaurant visits, my partner and I arrived for a Saturday evening a la carte meal here, having booked several months ahead.
One more ticked off. So many places, so little time!
The beautiful, thatched building is approached on a country lane, a few miles from Helmsley and is in a small village.
On entering, we were immediately struck by the homely and relaxed atmosphere. People were eating with their children in the bar to the right. The low-roofed and beamed ceiling gave the place a cosy feel, whilst open log fires glowed on a nippy October evening. Conversation buzzed.
There are no airs and graces here, nor a dress code, just genuine friendliness.
I can give it no better compliment than to say it felt like a sociable, family gathering.
Four local real ales took my eye, the Black Sheep Golden Sheep winning my approval. This is a 4.5%abv ale with a hoppy, citrussy hit and was just perfect.
Bar prices for drinks were surprisingly reasonable.
We were greeted in a friendly manner and taken to our table in the first of the two main dining rooms. A further bar lies between the two. All are stretched out along this long ground floor, with private dining in a room above.
It was a pleasure to see fresh flower displays on various furniture around the rooms, as well as fresh flowers on each table, illuminated by candle-light and the log fires.
Being over 700 years old, there is not a straight line in the place, which added to it’s charms.
Two Yorkshire curd tarts with a fruity topping were presented as an amuse-bouche, served on a Mouseman wooden platter. A delightful start, soon added to by the presentation of fresh and warm crusty breads. Darkly unique, black pudding flavoured wedges, together with a cardamom seeded variety. Both came with the lightest, almost white butter.
Starters chosen were selected from the various menus available. I went for the Star Inn’s signature dish, created in 1996, a stack of grilled black pudding with foie-gras, a salad of local Pickering water cress with apple and vanilla chutney, all served with a scrumpy reduction. The foie-gras literally melted in the mouth.
My partner went for twice-baked seasonal pumpkin and award winning Mrs. Bell’s blue cheese soufflé, served with sage and onion relish, sherry braised salsify and crispy autumn ‘gatherings’. Another triumph.
Mains took some choosing, so mouth-watering were the choices, but I could not resist the Belted Galloway sirloin steak with chunky chips and béarnaise sauce. Cooked as requested, it was a sizeable hunk of tender, juicy beef.
Across the table, a risotto of carrots with ewes milk curd, roasted salted hazelnuts and Yorkshire pale ale carrot dibs was declared delicious too. Two small copper pans of seasonal vegetables accompanied the mains, and included a purple variety of heritage new potatoes.
We almost had to forego desserts, but our sweet tooths prevailed. Mine was a sherried-fig frangipane, topped with toasted marzipan, nibbed almond brittle, slivers of candied orange rind and a quenelle of figgy toffee ice-cream. Wondrous. I almost envied the spiced plum sponge with sarsaparilla and Madagascan vanilla ice-cream opposite, but not quite, sensational as it was.
To finish, a couple of lovely coffees, which came with a dish of home-made sweets, intensely flavoured dark fruit jellies, toffee fudge and wickedly dark chocolate ganaches.
Each offering was explained in detail without a hint of pretension or snootiness.
Staff were a pleasure to meet, all welcoming, chatty and smiling.
What a fabulous meal, and a dream realised.
But what about the bill for this tremendous feast, I hear you say. In London, you would pay so much more and indeed, some other Michelin starred restaurants leave you feeling a little hard done by. Not the case here, by any means. This is down to earth Yorkshire.
We enjoyed four drinks, including a glorious Merlot, a large bottle of sparkling water,
the amuse-bouches, bread, a fantastic three course meal, coffees and sweets for just £65 each. Glory be! – NO service charge – my personal bete-noir, and this meant a decent, well deserved cash tip for the lovely staff.
This is a highly recommended venue and for Michelin quality in such a setting, this is a bargain indeed. I can see why people go back here, time and again. We certainly shall.
For those seeking local accommodation, the Star has it’s own nine bedroom accommodation just across the road. All rooms are individually designed, with rooms from £150 per couple for bed and breakfast. This is no ordinary B&B. Breakfasts are taken in a luxurious, spacious, beamed and high-ceilinged breakfast room, whilst different bedrooms have a bath at the end of the bed, a bed suspended from the ceiling by ropes, a piano and even a snooker table.
Other local hotels and cosy B&B’s may also be found nearby, at least one within a short walking distance for imbibers.
Andrew has not rested on his award laden laurels and has opened other restaurants in Yorkshire, The Star Inn the City (York) with a riverside terrace, Mr. P’s Curious Tavern (York), and the fabulous Star Inn the Harbour (Whitby) which overlooks the …er…harbour. All offer superb food in lovely surroundings.
For much more information go to www.thestaratharome.co.uk. You will find the Star restaurant in the sleepy hamlet of Harome at YO62 5JE.
When you wish upon a Star, you may find that your dreams DO come true.