Fine Dining in Middleham - The Tack Room Restaurant at The Wensleydale Hotel
Every September, one of my school pals comes up to Yorkshire with his partner for a week’s break in Middleham. Over the years I have been joining them with my wife for a big walk and a few beers in the Richard III pub, (named after one of the royal visitors who spent time at Middleham Castle back in 1400’s at the time of the War of the Roses).
Food always plays a big part of the trip and this year after a recommendation we booked in for dinner at The Wensleydale Hotel on the corner of the Market Square in Middleham.
The hotel (formerly The White Swan Inn) was taken over by Charles Merchie and his wife Fiona in 2019 with the aim of creating a small, family run, continental style hotel in the Yorkshire Dales.
Merchie’s experience included stints at three Michelin star restaurants across Europe and he was also the former general manager of the Feversham Arms Hotel, Swinton Park and Wood Hall Hotel & Spa. Not bad credentials for his new venture.
Obviously, taking over the hotel just before the pandemic was not ideal timing but it gave the family time to refurbish the rooms and restaurant, whilst fine tuning menu’s.
I was looking forward to sampling the dinner menu, so we booked for 8pm and we were shown through to the bright, spacious dining room.
With Middleham being home to 6 racehorse training stables and racehorses regularly to be viewed walking back from the gallops in Middleham during the day – the restaurant was themed to tie in with the racehorse training heritage. Jockeys outfits and tack room items such as bridles, saddles and stirrups graced the shelves and racehorse murals graced the walls.
The La Grande Carte (The Big Card!) menu was inviting with a limited but excellent choice of dishes, which made decisions difficult.
But in the end I chose the Tamworth pork terrine with tarragon and chestnut and Nanterre brioche and my wife chose the Burrata – creamed mozzarella, black olive tapenade, vine tomato and basil from the Entre section.
Both got a big thumbs up. The pork terrine was delicious, the hints of tarragon really coming through to compliment the pork.
The burrata my wife ordered was a fresh and clean dish with a creamy ball of mozzarella complimented by tasty vine ripened tomatoes. Tomatoes can be such a tasteless let down but my wife confirmed they were bursting with flavour. Such a simple dish done well with fresh basil and tasty tapenade.
For mains – My pal John and I plumped for the lamb. Having passed hundreds of sheep as we drove into Wensleydale I guessed it would be local and fresh. My wife and John’s partner Jane both went for the Beef Wellington.
The roast rump of Yorkshire Dales lamb, tagine of aubergine and gratin dauphinoise was stunning, tender and with aubergine being my favourite vegetable and my love of this with lamb in middle eastern cooking, it worked really well. I was not disappointed.
But when the Beef wellington arrived there was a moment of envy. It looked fantastic, the pink beef, cooked to perfection was served with Dauphinoise potatoes, vegetables and a Borderlaise sauce. Whilst I was hoping to sample a fork full of this, the ladies had demolished their plates and both were highly complimentary about it being a truly special dish.
The mains were accompanied by a wonderful bottle of Cotes de Beaume!
To finish off we shared desserts. I went for the chocolate mousse served on a cruistillant with Morello cherries. Rich, tasty and very chocolatey!
John went for the Tarte Tatin with home-made amaretti ice cream. It also looked and tasted great – the ice cream having taken on the almondy flavour to compliment the apple.
After the meal Charles came out to chat to us and we praised the food. Its good to see the restaurant busy with both tourist and local business. Things look-well for the future, hotel bookings are busy but the team are working hard to maintain Charles’ high standards.
I wish them well for the future and if they keep serving top notch food, in this popular, historic Dales market town, this new venture will definitely be a success.