The Abbey Inn at Byland – a Perfect Sunday Lunch at Tommy Banks New Pub
I’d heard that Michelin starred chef Tommy Banks had recently bought the Abbey Inn opposite Byland Abbey and turned it into a pub. It turns out Tommy Banks used to was the pots in the pub as a part time job when he was a kid.
I’ve been lucky enough to try both his other restaurants out (Roots in York & the Black Swan at Oldstead) and had been suitably impressed, so thought I would check out his new venture with my wife.
I visited the website and decided to book in for Sunday lunch. The first thing that struck me was the prices. They were top end for a pub but not stupid, I had expected the Tommy Banks brand associated with the pub for prices to be extravagant.
As we were booked in for 2pm, I thought we could make a day of it so planned a pre-lunch walk. We have a black Labrador, so I checked and was pleased to hear dogs were welcomed.
There is a great little loop walk of just under 6 miles from Byland Abbey over to Oldstead and then returning via Wass, I plotted this on my OS Maps app and we headed out on the walk. The route allowed us to walk past Oldstead Grange – the farm which Tommy Banks parents own and where much of the fresh produce comes from for both his Michelin starred restaurants and the pub. It was fascinating seeing the Dexter cattle, Jersey cows and Hungarian Mangalitz pigs which all could be seen later providing items on the menu.
As the farm is only a mile from the pub, Tommy Banks once explained they try and deal with “food metres instead of food miles” as part of his farm to fork approach. The 160 acre farm also provides most of the fruit and vegetables for the restaurant too.
At the end of the walk we changed out of our boots into less muddy shoes and entered the Inn. We were shown to the bar and as we were 15 minutes early enjoyed a drink with the dog in the bar exercise.
The bar was cosy and I had a pint of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord and my wife a fizzy water. There were dog treats for Bronte our lab.
We were shown to our table in the main room (there are also two smaller rooms and an outside which served food too).
The Sunday lunch menu had lots of tempting options but I decided to go for Steak Tartare and my wife the Cured Salmon. After our walk we also ordered some bread which was extra.
My steak tartare was well presented and the Dexter beef very finely ground and mixed with fermented peppers. Nasturtium flowers graced the top for a bit of colour! It was lovely and flavoursome with added bone marrow.
My wife had the salmon which was served with whipped buttermilk and pickled fennel. She said it was excellent.
A word must be said about the bread, normally I would baulk at having to pay for two slices of their home made Seeded Country Loaf, but it was served with two massive dollops of wonderful home-made butters which were worth the price on their own.
A pounded ewe cheese butter – which had a distinctive strong flavour. The other butter was a vivid green colour and was called a Foragers butter made with herbs from the farm as well as garlic, chicory, verbena and mint. Both were delicious.
For main course we went for the Roast Dexter beef. I treated myself to a glass of Mexican Petit Sirah – it was a powerful dark red with hints of liquorish and smoke which went perfectly with the beef.
The beef was served with a large Yorkshire pudding on a side plate filled with Ox cheek and a small jug of beef gravy - a nice touch. The beef was served pink with 2 good slices per plate, plus there were 2 decent sized roast potatoes, horseradish and seasonal veggies. There was also a lovely pot of cauliflower cheese
It was a real treat. Everything looked and tasted great.
We were full but had seen the desserts coming out to other tables and couldn’t resist adding a few more calories to our lunch (we had done a walk before after all!).
I had Jersey Milk, York Cocoa House Chocolate & Rye Cookie Sundae, my wife had the Douglas Fir, Lemon Verbena & White Chocolate Sundae.
Both were huge.
The soft ice cream was homemade using milk from the Jersey Cows we had seen earlier on our walk.
The meal was rounded off with a coffee and a mint tea.
The staff and service was excellent and it was a lovely treat. I had stopped many times before at the venue when it was still a café. Whilst they did a good soup and Yorkshire platter it was always half empty and was dark and dingy inside. On this visit the place felt alive, much brighter but still traditional and homely. It was fully booked for lunch with all sorts of guests.
A final mention to the setting. The Abbey Inn is opposite the wonderful Ruins of Byland Abbey once a thriving community of Cistercian monks. The West End with the distinctive remains of what was once a beautiful rose window over-looks the Inn and the site is well worth a wonder around after your meal should you visit the inn.
The Abbey Inn - https://www.abbeyinnbyland.co.uk
OS Maps walking route – you can walk it either way round - https://explore.osmaps.com/route/18338193/byland-abbey-walk