Yorebridge House Hotel, Bainbridge
What an incentive to be a school Head Master in Bainbridge in the 1850s – being placed in a house of such size and beauty as Yorebridge House: for, prior to its current incarnation as a luxury hotel and previous one of Head Office of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, this imposing stone house belonged to the Headmaster of the local school – which stands opposite in the courtyard, a fraction of the size!
One approaches the House along paths and through doorways lined by pillar candles blazing away in glass canisters – we were immensely impressed by the fact that these were real candles, lending a welcome glow lighting the way to the house, rather than fake candles or just lights. This gave an initial impression of warmth, as well as an exciting feeling of something special, almost magical, grandly impressive and yet intimate and thrilling at the same time.
The reception staff at once set the tone – to be continued throughout our stay – of professional but extremely welcoming indeed. We were shown up to our room – named Bainbridge – a spacious bedroom with huge wooden-framed bed (clothed in Egyptian cotton and feather and down pillows and duvets), all in neutral colours of browns, fawns, greys and beiges, with heavy, full length curtains spilling onto the floor. Old metal-bound trunks stacked and used as bedside tables lend a quirky air. There is a small separate area that houses a desk, complete with tea and coffee, Yorkshire popcorn and a canister of biscuits that certainly looked and tasted home-made; a sitting chair and wardrobe. The bathroom is probably as big as the bedroom area – gloriously spacious with a roll-top, claw-footed, free-standing slipper bath, double sinks and luxury double monsoon showers. Sybaritic bliss.
One is taken through to the bar area or lounge before dinner – both of which sport grand old fireplaces with coal fires warming the room; the bar with classic modern chairs; the lounge in more comfortable squashy sofas. Candles flicker on all the tables and a gentle jazz helps to relax and lends an air of elegance. Very pleasant. The menus are brought, along with canapés – rather delicious arancini; a smoked salmon canapé and a small bowl of immensely moreish nuts. The menu is short – just four starters and mains; the back of this lists the mainly very local suppliers.
The dining room is a similarly elegant yet modern room with skylights and rather lovely ornate metal chandeliers. Colours remain neutral – dark mushroom-coloured walls, a wooden floor, bare wooden tables and comfortable brown upholstered chairs. The room isn’t particularly large, but a screen in the middle offers privacy and creates intimate dining areas. Windows on two sides overlook the gardens adorned with their magical fairy lights and candles. Lighting is dim and warm – emanating from the two chandeliers and traditional wall lamps – as well as from the kitchen, which is placed at one end of the room, with a window allowing one glimpses within and facilitating the delivery of dishes to tables. The staff here are also friendly but very polished – smartly dressed and extremely polite and efficient. They were also very good with young Tristan – being friendly and charming to him, and helpful to us.
When we visited, an appetiser of broccoli velouté with very fresh-tasting pine nuts and goats’ cheese commenced the meal – this worked extremely well; the saltiness and slight sharpness of the cheese in particular, which cuts through the thickness and richness of the velouté – which is like essence of broccoli.
I then started with a plate of Norfolk quail, which combined gamey flavours with a hint of smokiness. This is a fun dish, with popcorn and charred corn contributing to the mixture of textures and flavours. The quail itself was excellent – clearly top quality meat, with the again slightly smoky leg being especially flavoursome.
My husband went for the red deer Carpaccio, which had a delicately gamey flavour which made for a most satisfying starter: the small portion size was actually a bonus, as it allowed maximum focus on the high quality of the flavour, the taste-buds being thus stimulated, rather than overwhelmed.
The ballotine of salmon was listed as a starter but I couldn’t resist it as a main. This was an incredibly delicate dish that had been very well thought-through, with all elements complementing each other , and having, overall, the freshest imaginable feel. The salmon itself was gloriously velvety and delicately flavoured, while a dab of crème fraiche added a sharper element (actually, I could have done with a little more of this), and caviar lent a salty hint. The other various ingredients of the dish included different kinds of beetroot and baby leaves, creating a plate that was more a vibrant and colourful salmon salad than anything else.
Mr Marshall-Luck’s fillet of beef was cooked medium, according to his request, and to perfection. Like the Carpaccio, this was very simply served, but, with meat of this quality, anything too overwrought would have been an unnecessary distraction. The meat was exquisitely tender and with a well-focused flavour, while the accompaniments also were perfectly judged, having just enough presence to complement the meat without being too intrusive.
There then followed the pre-dessert, which was so beautifully executed and utterly delicious that it was actually the best element of the whole (superb) meal, to my mind: layers of mango and passion fruit sorbet with crumbly biscuit – a simple but exquisite dish in which all the textures and flavours soar together. Beautiful.
My husband chose the chocolate dome for dessert – a wonderfully rich, darkly intense dessert, the dome itself being a hard shell which contains a lightly whipped, almost mousse-like texture. The passion-fruit coulis was a refreshing foil, whilst the chocolate soil added an extra dimension of buttery crumble.
Cheese appealed to me, of which there was a good selection, both local and otherwise. I went for mainly Kidderton Ash – although a greater range of goats’ cheese on offer would have gratified me further. This was served with crunchy cheesy biscuits (I would preferred some grapes or celery)! We finished with tea and coffee – my tea was beautifully rich, smooth and silky, although the coffee was rather too weak for my husband’s taste.
Breakfast was served back down in the dining room again; a cold buffet offers a small but much more interesting and refined than usual selection of fruits, cereals, meats and cheeses; a menu offers a small but equally select choice of hot options, including kippers. We went for the scrambled eggs and smoked salmon and Yorebridge Breakfast (full English) – both of which were very good indeed.
All in all, a faultless stay. I would have liked to have seen some lamb on the evening menu (as well as a greater cheese range, as aforementioned), but nothing else was lacking in a hotel and restaurant that is absolutely full of comfort, luxury and cheer – and all that, even better, set amid the glories of the wonderful Yorkshire dales. There is nothing more that one could possibly want.
Em Marshall-Luck is QR’s Food and Wine Critic