A star that should fall...The first time we’ve ever had to quit a tasting menu and eat elsewhere. Where the only thing chillier than the canapés are the looks from the staff as you depart early.
We’ve said before that not all Michelin stars are created equal. The culinary spectrum is far too great for a “one size fits all” system after all. But some stars are simply not warranted, let me explain as we review The Yorke Arms once more.
The Arms as it once was...
It was on a snow dusted day in January that myself and co-reviewer first visited the Yorke Arms at Ramsgill. Back then it was a rustic haven from the biting Yorkshire winter now it is a haven for ill conceived menus, poor decor and abrasive staff.
A Costly Refurbishment...
Firstly, the entire premises closed soon after our visit early in the year for a major refurbishment. Sadly upon our return it seems that all the wrong things have been attended to. The main dining room is still akin to a medieval theme restaurant with old, dark tapestries as wallpaper. The same rickety chairs and powerful drafts from the single pane windows we were treated to last time. The layout of tables is also incongruous. Round two person tables with high back chairs, large two seater tables with desk chairs, small two seaters with kitchen chairs. There is no flow to much of the seating. Much like Christmas dinner at your in-laws, you have to put up with whatever item of furniture you’re issued. The “residents lounge” has also lost all its charm and focus. Previously one could sit in front of a roaring fire or find a quiet nook to have a drink. Now it’s more akin to sitting in the furniture section of an Oxfam shop.
Chairs and seating all arranged in a manner that guarantees you intimate and awkward eye contact with strangers. Furniture is also mismatched and not in a charming rustic manner but in a “My grandfather gave me this” type way. The area is so poorly laid out that despite there being 20+ seats, when there were three couples including ourselves seated, another couple could not find a seat that didn’t intrude on someone else’s space.
And So To The Dining Room...
We were politely escorted to our table in the Tudor-esq dining room, which was the room most in need of a refurb last time and has sadly been left as it was. We asked to move as our assigned table was next to the swing door to the kitchen. Nothing more relaxing than a draft of cold air and shaft of light across your table every 3 minutes as someone clatters through with dirty dishes. When we asked if we could move, the waiter looked bemused and walked off to check other availability. He then proceeded to make us play a game whereby we ask where we would like to sit and then he giving us the reason why we couldn’t sit there. 4 - 1 to him at that game, all the while attempting to shame us by having us stand in the middle of a very quiet dining room with other diners eyes enjoying the entertainment.
Having finally won "mismatched musical chairs", we ordered drinks; a simple re-order of our pre-drinks from the lounge. The waiter was the same man who had taken and made the order and so hastened off to get them. 15 minutes later he returns and he had got them wrong, simple matter of the wrong tonic water. We all apologised as the English do and thought no more about it. He then returned very swiftly with the drinks that normally take him several minutes. After a quick sip it was obvious that he had not remade the G&Ts but had opened a bottle of the correct tonic, poured out enough to make it appear it had been used and then redelivered the same drinks with the new half empty tonic bottles. Sadly for him we both know the difference between standard and Fever-tree Mediterranean tonic. Utter fraud to serve us the same drinks again. If he didn't want to waste the gin, then you should get it right first time.
Sorry What IS This?
Last time we visited we had the choice of an a la Carte or tasting menu. Now though it is either a 5 or 8 course tasting menu only. Tasting menus can be a glorious exploration of flavour, season and culinary skill. Or they can be 8 courses of chilled hell whereby you are held hostage to a menu you can’t wait to be over.
At this juncture the canapés arrived one after the other. On each occasion they we placed on the table and at this point it would have been nice to know what they were. Overly pompous words, mumbled hurriedly meant we often had little idea as to what they were. Only the ham hock and scallop nibble were discernible.
As we progressed into the main dishes of the 8 course tasting menu something became very apparent...everything had a chilled element to it. Obviously some dishes or elements thereof are meant to be served cold, but these were refrigerator cold a tell-tale sign that these had been prepared hours in advance and left on a chilling sheet in the fridge, dulling the taste immensely and making for an unenjoyable experience over all.
By course four of eight we were both wavering as to whether we were even enjoying the meal, it being apparent we were not to be fed but amused by flavours. Then presented before us was the above dish, wild hare and a dumpling of some description (not 100% sure as the mumbling continued).
My co-reviewer then winced as there was a crunch from her mouth, she then produced a small round object and placed it on her side plate while still cradling her jaw. I inspected the item and scratching it with my thumbnail revealed it to clearly be a lead shot. The issue was quietly raised with one of the waitering staff who apologised and said he would inform the chef. Normally this incident (not often even thought of as an incident) would have passed us by without note. We are both very accustomed to eating fresh shot game and dealing with the inevitable lead side-effects. The waiter however, after having disposed of the plates and shot, returned and told us the chef had taken a look and it had been a peppercorn and not shot. We both felt this was another grave piece of deception as the dish didn't contain peppercorns, also as people blessed with sound teeth we are both able to crack a peppercorn without issue, it was clearly lead shot and the tone of the waitering staff had an air akin to calling us liars or just ill-informed diners.
No More Thank You!
By now we were not enjoying any part of our dinner-from the refrigerated food to the barefaced lies from the abrasive and distant staff. We called time and informed the staff we were leaving. We departed the dining room and headed for our room. The finest thing we ate that night were the chocolates we brought with us. The Yorke Arms was a solid favourite of ours for quite sometime, offering a unique blend of country retreat and hearty food. Now it is neither; a tourist trap resting on laurels earned by pretentious means from the Michelin Guide. It is yet another starred restaurant that is not worth the journey, time nor money.
This article was syndicated using SyndicatePro to:
The Independent Food & Drink
Daily Mail; Food and Life
Sunday Times - Food & Drink
Uploaded: Michelin Guide - 2020 Inspecteur Portal