Review by Fiona Duncan, published 17th August 2008.
My idea of heaven: sitting in a cosy, crooked village pub, about to pop in a mouthful, not of ham sandwich, or even the more sophisticated pub food we have come to expect, but of lobster and quail’s egg neatly perched on a white china spoon, accompanied by a glass phial of chilled “green gazpacho of summer vegetables”.
This level of pre-dinner nibbles usually means starched tablecloths and a serious demeanour. How much more contented I find myself, and how much more exquisite the food, in these rustic, relaxed surroundings.
I could, if I wish, consume the whole divine meal from my high-backed settle here in the bar. But when my table is ready, I move to a dining room that, for a Michelin-starred establishment, is equally unpretentious. With just eight tables, it is tiny and, in a livery of deep pink and cream, romantic too.
By now I’m in no mood to resist the most fattening, cholesterol-inducing starter on the menu. This is strictly in the interests of research, I kid myself, as it gives its name to the title of chef/patron Andrew Purns’ new book: Black Pudding and Foie Gras. Topped by a brittle golden disk of caramelised apple, it is layered not once but twice with melting pieces of pan-fried foie gras and pungent slices of local black pudding, plus a dash of peppery Pickering watercress. It neatly encapsulates Perns’ culinary stance: marrying humble ingredients with luxury ones. “Rich man, poor man food”, he calls it.
Black pudding and foie gras notwithstanding, you should also head for The Star if you are a vegetarian. To make amends for the pig-out (and goose-out) of my first course, I opt for the “summer salad” from the separate vegetarian menu: artfully strewn hedgerow plants and wild asparagus, scattered with flowers and herbs and served with a poached egg and a little copper pan of baked goat’s cheese and morel mushrooms.
Coffee is taken upstairs, in one of the snug, quirky hidey holes amongst the rafters. Here too is a fairy tale private dining room, with whimsical murals by a local artist.
The superb accommodation at the Star is not in the tiny pub (currently being enlarged to allow more dining capacity) but over the road in a converted barn, Cross House Lodge, as well as in two other village houses that are perfect for groups of friends. Purns, a self-taught chef and the son of a Whitby farmer, has the ideal partner in his wife Jacqui, who somehow juggles four children with running the hotel side of their busy operation.
Cross House Lodge blends rustic and contemporary to great effect, with a wonderful circular breakfast room (and huge circular table) and an opulent sitting room, kept warm in winter by a central fire. There’s also a well-stocked honesty bar, books and newspapers. Tempting smells waft in from the back kitchen, keeping one in a state of constant culinary expectation, though the endlessly ringing telephone at the reception desk is a jarring irritation.
I’ve waxed lyrical before about Yorkshire’s fine inns; this, along with the Yorke Arms in Ramsgill, is the daddy of them all.
Harome, near Helmsley (01439 770397; www.thestaratharome.co.uk). Doubles from £140 per night, including breakfast. Suitable for guests with disabilities. For more information about Yorkshire, visit www.yorkshire.com.