THIS was meant to be a review of The Owl at Hawnby in the North York Moors, recently re-opened under new leadership and refurbished, but after repeated phone calls and two answerphone messages in a 24-hour period failed to generate any response we gave up and decided to go elsewhere.

Has The Owl closed again, or is it just too busy post-lockdown to answer the phone? Hopefully someone will enlighten us.

As is so often the case, the Plan B, the alternative choice, turned out to be an inspired one.

We fetched up at another refurbished establishment which has recently changed hands and has undergone an extensive makeover – its second in three years.

Pinchinthorpe Hall – between Guisborough and Great Ayton – was taken on by Simon Fletcher, of Middlesbrough’s Baker Street Kitchen fame, last August.

It had closed in March 2019 after another entrepreneur had taken a lease on the Grade II listed manor house in 2018 and turned it into what was described as a boutique hotel and wedding venue – a venture which ended in failure which may, of course, been Covid-19 related.

Mr Fletcher, who has experience of running another of Teesside’s fashionable places to eat – Cena in Yarm – looks likely to make a better job of running a venue whose history can best be described as chequered. When we last called, housing a micro-brewery seemed to be the grand stone-built house’s primary function.

This refurbishment is spot-on – a subtle modernisation of an historic building which strikes an unmistakeably contemporary note without losing the essential character of the place. Think of a stripped-down Hotel du Vin.

We had booked an outside dining table but on arrival the bench seating in the courtyard didn’t look terribly comfortable for a long lunch and the June sunshine spectacular we've been enjoying of late had taken a bit of breather, so we were grateful they could accommodate us inside.

It is a lovely dining area, a L-shaped room with a small bar at its apex with lots of exposed brick, sage green walls, biscuit-yellow bench seating, subtle lighting and assorted greenery. It makes for a Zen-like calm.

The Sunday menu has choices for the Sunday lunch traditionalists and those looking something other than roast meat and vegetables.

The roast options – sirloin of beef, chicken and loin of pork – are served with the usual array of vegetables, stuffing, sauces, crackling and Yorkshire puddings. There are two fish options, a gnocchi dish and risotto.

Resolutely traditionalist Sylvia went the soup and roast route and I went all fishy.

Sylvia’s pea and mint soup with truffle crème fraiche (£6) was summer freshness personified with a lip-smacking green herbyness.

My devilled mackerel (£8) – two large fillets with radish and chunks of sourdough (£8) – had a gentle sharpness and heat, with the slices of toasted sourdough and radish adding a welcome textural contrast.

Sylvia’s plump chicken supreme (£14.50) was supremely moist, tender and flavoursome. The Yorkshire pudding was light, fluffy and crispy in the right proportions, the potatoes (roast and mash) were also crisp and smoothly creamy as appropriate and the vegetables (pancetta cabbage, buttered mange tout and broccoli, and roasted carrots and beetroot) were beautifully cooked and presented.

Continuing with my fish odyssey, my roasted cod was a good chunk of translucent, flaky flesh cooked en pointe and served with a polonaise sauce (herbs, capers, shrimp and some sliced radish, I think) and cubes of sautéed potato. Fabulous.

If Sylvia hadn’t had all the vegetables with her main course, a side dish of something green would have been in order, but she had more than enough for two so I helped myself to her broccoli and mange tout.

One of the benefits of picking relatively light dishes is that I was ready to plough on with cheese and dessert. Sylvia watched me make a pig of myself over a lovely, if pricey at £9, Yorkshire cheeseboard (Endeavour with Mason’s Tea Gin, Britannia 16-month matured cheddar and Yorkshire Forge, a red cheese flavoured with Henderson’s Relish), followed by a delicate lemon curd tart with yoghurt sorbet and topped with raspberries.

Service was top notch all round, from the welcome to the farewell, and led by the aforementioned Mr Fletcher who is clearly concentrating his energies on his new venture. It was good to see him regularly coaching and prompting his young, willing and enthusiastic team. They would have scored a ten in our ratings if our otherwise excellent young waiter had not been immediately aware of what came with one of the dishes.

As Sunday lunches go £87 was a bit steep, but it included two glasses of wine and a ten per cent "optional" service charge which I know many people don’t like but I’m increasingly coming round to. It’s simple and if you don’t want to pay it you are under some obligation to tell the establishment why – which I think is fair. We want good service, should be prepared to pay for it, and we should say when we don’t get it.

The Stables Restaurant at Pinchinthorpe Hall, Pinchinthorpe, Guisborough, North Yorkshire, TS14 8HG

Tel: 01287 213250


Disabled access. Vegetarian/vegan options

Sunday lunch served noon-4pm. Lunch served Wednesday to Saturday, noon-3pm and dinner from 5pm. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 10, Service 9, Surroundings 10, Value 9.