After years of living around Europe, I noticed a trend amongst my European friends that I didn’t much care for: a dissing of British food, people not trying my cooking and generally making assumptions about us which were downright offensive. It’s therefore been my return to Yorkshire that has made me look at the region with fresh eyes – hypercritical and trying to understand what the devil they saw.
My journey has been mixed: the influx of foreign vegetables and our impatience to obtain fruit and vegetables year-round and out of season is admittedly frustrating. However, I have found that Yorkshire as a culinary region is one that should be celebrated internationally. The fish from the North Sea is indisputably some of the freshest in the world and the diversity in seasons (yes, including lots of rain) makes our vegetables abundant and our free-range meats well fed, with a sweetness and freshness that cannot be contested. This is also a view that is being vocalised by many local chefs: with more Michelin Stars than anywhere else outside of London and the likes of Andrew Pern singing the region’s praises, it is fast becoming a competitive hotbed of glorious food.
One of the newest chefs to the region is Patrick Bardoulet of The Black Swan in Helmsley: a Parisian by birth but an honorary Brit, he has left his Scottish 3AA Rosette status behind in favour of what Yorkshire has on offer. Recognising how competitive his new post was (Harome is within a matter of miles), Patrick chose to complement his counterparts rather than competing and within a matter of months, The Black Swan had won the prestigious Hotel of the Year Award.
So what is it that makes Patrick’s food so special? The answer is bountiful but in short, he takes you on a journey. Each flavour can be detected and it is so artfully put together that your brow deepens with a craving for understanding as to his delicate execution.
He celebrates his ingredients and for want of a better phrase, he makes them sing. His kitchen is a happy one and you can taste it in his food and the incredible service staff, at once knowledgeable and personable.
“There’s a good vibe in the kitchen” says Patrick. “I try to make the environment as non-stressful as possible, but it’s a matter of timing and hard work and no dish goes out unless it’s perfect.”
This dedication to perfection is apparent from the off, as each course of the taster menu is exploding with colour, taste and texture, which as Patrick describes “makes your mouth explode.” A beetroot-cured slice of salmon, red and succulent, kicks off a nine-course adventure in food, during which we’re treated to such delights as a ball of soft cheese rolled in roasted onion seeds, caged by tender sticks of asparagus; and a warm, juicy scallop with cardamom-infused carrot puree and espuma. These three starter dishes warm up the palette for the central piece of mouthwatering lamb, accompanied by sweetbreads and a bed of broad beans with chanterelle mushrooms. To attempt to describe the meal any further would not even begin to do it justice: it would be, to coin a phrase, like dancing about architecture, so suffice to say, the following three dishes surprised and delighted in equal measure.
This is a proper “foodie holiday” that showcases Yorkshire as one of the finest areas for cuisine in the world, far from the fish, chips, pies and Yorkshire puddings that it’s more often famous for. As the Black Swan’s menu proves, Yorkshire is about fresh ingredients, ripe and colourful vegetables and the very best quality meats and cheeses that you’d be hard-pressed to better in any part of the world.
“Food serves several purposes and there are different foods for different occasions. I want mine to be a celebration, a love affair with ingredients and an exciting journey for those eating it.” And it is this journey that The Black Swan invites diners to embark on. Over the coming months they have a series of specialist gourmet nights centred around Patrick’s artfully curated menu, the next being the venues Champagne Taittinger Dinner on Aug 13 and the Game Dinner on Nov 26.
If, however you want to try the menu we did, it is available any night of the week… season dependent of course.Black Swan in Helmsley