THIS week we need to make a declaration of interest, sort of, to ensure that you, dear readers, do not feel in anyway that you might have been duped by the assessment which follows.
We have been to the Coach House at Middleton Lodge, Middleton Tyas, near Richmond, which just happens to be the newly crowned Restaurant of the Year in the recent Flavours of Herriot Country food and drink awards.
Bully for them, you might think, but I need to place on record my involvement in the awards. The lovely people that run it, misguided as they are, keep inviting me to join them in their exemplary endeavours and despite being absolutely no use whatsoever I am a member of the awards board.
But, and this is the important bit, I have absolutely nothing to do with the judging of the awards. So the fact of the Coach House’s success in the awards last December and the positive nature of this review are entirely unconnected.
Mind, if the judges had asked me, I would have told them there was a very good chance they would find favour. We enjoyed a very good Sunday lunch at Coach House not long after it opened a few years ago. The apple crumble was deemed the finest Sylvia had ever tasted outside her own kitchen and, from the Queen of the Crumble, that is praise indeed.
This visit was a midweek evening and our arrival coincided with a fault in the car park lights. Ordinarily this would not be a big deal but the Coach House car park is attractively, for a car park at least, laid out with bays of parking spaces interspersed among clumps of trees. But it is less appealing when plunged into the pitch blackness of a cold January evening.
We could see the lights of the restaurant beckoning but we had to navigate parked cars and seemingly random low fencing and trees to find our way to the entrance pathway. Sylvia, with heels on, was not impressed.
She felt much better once inside. The Coach House has been created in what was the stable block for the adjacent Middleton Lodge and it’s a very fine building, designed by the famed architect John Carr (also responsible for Harewood House, near Leeds) which has been restored and converted in some style to create a very modern dining space, bar and lounge which preserves the best of the period features.
The dining room is massive, with a very tall vaulted and beamed ceiling, slate floor and heavy rustic wood and iron tables. The lighting is clever because, together with some shelving units to partition off sections, the vast barn-like space becomes surprisingly intimate. It was also nicely warm.
The food was simply cracking.
Sylvia’s pressed chicken, duck, and Morteau sausage terrine with pickled cabbage and apple (£8) was flavour packed, the dense meatiness enlivened considerably by the smokiness of the French sausage.
Her classic 32-day dry aged chargrilled Galloway rib-eye (supplied, we were told, by Cockburns Butchers of Bedale - £22) was everything one might want from a premium steak – as tender as fillet and much juicier. Good dry chips and a green salad completed the dish.
The same Galloway beef was used for my tartare (£9). Here the natural fatty marbling made it almost oily in its silkiness and it was complemented perfectly by some exquisitely-piquant pickled shallot, smoothly mild mustard and, adding a little more richness, some blobs of smoked slowly poached egg and sour dough toast slivers.
My roast hake (£16) was chunky and flaked perfectly. The mussels and white wine sauce, combined with some salty samphire and salsify really imparted a briny taste of the sea. A side dish of heritage potatoes (£3) was a large bowlful but the earthy flavour was rather overwhelmed by the swamp of very strong herby butter which, incidentally, Sylvia thought had been applied a little heavy-handedly to her steak.
Sylvia closed out with some pistachio ice cream (£4) which was good by cried out for a few crushed pistachios as a topping.
I loved a rhubarb and custard pannacotta (£8) served with pieces of forced Yorkshire rhubarb – all pink and delicate – with pistachio ice cream (with some crushed nuts) and honeycomb.
The bill with two glasses of house white, and two soft drinks was £83.
Service was top notch throughout, even extending to getting the car park lights fixed by the time we left.
And Benji, the Cairn-cross terrier was very pleased too, because the fatty trimmings from Sylvia’s steak which she asked to be parcelled-up to take home had somehow turned into a quite a hefty piece of steak by the time we left. Sylvia almost thought it was too good for the dog.
The Coach House, Middleton Lodge, Kneeton Lane, Middleton Tyas, Richmond, North Yorkshire, DL10 6NJ.
Tel: 01325 377977.
Open: Wednesday to Saturday, 12-2.30pm & 6-9pm; Sunday, 12-4pm & 7-9pm.
Disabled access. Vegetarian and gluten-free diners catered for.
Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 9, Service 10, Surroundings 10, Value 8