Last weekend was my birthday and, knowing that I love a surprise, my wonderful boyfriend, Billy, ensured that I didn’t make any plans or book in any work as he had arranged a top secret weekend! I would find out what he had planned on the Friday of the weekend in question, as part of our weekly Friday evening ritual of wine, crisps and a catch up on how our week had been. As the weekend drew closer, I could hardly cope with the anticipation of finding out what we would be doing, and I was absolutely thrilled to eventually find out that we would be spending the weekend in Harome in North Yorkshire and dining at Andrew Pern’s The Star Inn.
I’d wanted to dine at The Star Inn at Harome for ages, ever since I’d popped in for a beer and a Yorkshire pudding snack – the best snack I’ve ever eaten, with the richest, stickiest, most divine gravy poured on top – during a weekend trip to nearby Helmsley, which you can read about here. I knew they offered a tasting menu, and if their Yorkshire pudding and gravy were anything to go by, it would be absolutely mind blowing.
Having now experienced the tasting menu, I can confirm that it’s truly outstanding. I’d even go as far as saying it’s the best meal I’ve ever had! So here’s my review of our meal at The Star Inn at Harome.
An Introduction to The Star Inn at Harome
Firstly, you might think it’s strange that I keep writing ‘The Star Inn at Harome’, but this is because Andrew Pern has two other restaurants with similar names: The Star Inn The City (York) and The Star Inn The Harbour (Whitby). I haven’t been to either of these, so I’ll just be covering the Star Inn at Harome in this post, but hopefully I’ll be able to update you in the future with how the others compare!
The Star Inn at Harome is an award winning (and yes, that includes a Michelin Star) restaurant situated in the most beautiful, 14th century thatched inn, located in Harome, which is near the town of Helmsley and not too far from York. As well at the thatched roof, think roaring log fires, low ceilings, dark wooden beams and slightly uneven floorboards. Cosy and rustic are definitely the best words to describe both the small bar area and the restaurant itself, and I instantly fell in love with The Star Inn’s charm when I visited for that Yorkshire pudding snack a year ago.
Andrew Pern has been the patron of The Star Inn since 1996, and it’s been consistently rated as one of the best eateries in the UK ever since, holding its Michelin star for a large portion of that time. Currently the head chef is Stephen Smith, but Pern is still very hands on and was working behind the bar when we dined there!
Locally sourced, seasonal ingredients and fresh herbs from The Star Inn’s kitchen garden are at the heart of the menu whether you choose to eat from the tasting menu, the locals’ menu, the Sunday lunch menu or even the snack menu.
Setting the Scene
So, let me set the scene for you and then tell you about the fabulous food that we enjoyed. We stayed just around the corner at The Pheasant Hotel, about a two minute walk away from The Star Inn, and our first experience of the venue was the warm, comforting smell of the outdoor wood burner, which crept up our noses as we approached the inn.
We’d arrived early to have a drink in the bar but entered through the restaurant, where we given the friendliest of welcomes and shown through to the bar. We cuddled up on a wooden bench opposite the bar, Billy with a local beer and me with a glass of fizz, both of us giddy with excitement!
A member of staff came over to welcome us again whilst we were enjoying our drinks, to tell us about the supplementary courses, ask us if we’d like the matched wine package and check whether we had any allergies or dietary requirements that we hadn’t already mentioned. Once we had finished our drinks, we were escorted through to the restaurant where we were shown to our table.
I’ve already told you about the thatched roof, the low ceilings, the beautifully crafted beams and the roaring fires. As we entered the restaurant I spotted the most perfect table over in the corner: a wooden table for two right next to the log fire, with a window to the side of it and a lovely little window seat just asking for a handbag to be placed on it. When the waiter pointed to this table to gesture that it was ours, I almost sprinted to it with excitement!
The Food & Wine at The Star Inn at Harome
As I’ve already mentioned, we enjoyed the tasting menu at The Star Inn which worked out at a whopping thirteen courses! Two of these courses were optional, with a supplement for those wanting to enjoy them. I’ll come on to what these courses were in a moment as I take you through what we ate, but I have to admit that they were two of the my favourite dishes and I’d highly recommend giving them a big, tasty YES. There’s also the option to pair the food with a matched wine package and, whilst it’s not cheap, it’s definitely worth it if you enjoy your wines.
What made The Star Inn at Harome exceptional in my opinion, was that every single dish was a knockout. As Billy and I kept joking, the menu was all killer and no filler! Whereas on most tasting menus there are usually at least a couple of dishes that I could take or leave, I was equally excited to try every one of them on this menu and all of them lived up to (even exceeded) expectations.
Even better, there was none of that ‘bitesize’ bollocks: obviously the portions weren’t huge otherwise thirteen courses would have been impossible to finish, but they were all substantial enough to enjoy over several mouthfuls, along with a glass of wine. By the end of the meal, Billy and I were both full – which isn’t always the case with tasting menus.
Every wine on the matched wine package paired beautifully with the food. I was particularly impressed by the first wine, which was almost a little overpowering when drunk alone, but completely changed in taste and complexity when drunk with it’s paired dish! Many of the dishes were rich in flavour, but the acidity of the wine always cut through the richness perfectly when needed. I loved every single wine we tried, especially a sweet Hungarian Tokaji, which was paired with one of the dessert dishes. I don’t even usually like sweet wine!
Although I’d love to go into the detail of each and every dish that we had, the tasting menu changes regularly, especially as it is so seasonal. This means that by the time you’re reading this post and considering indulging in the menu, it’s most likely changed! However, I will briefly tell you about each dish as this will give you an idea of what you can expect.
We had the late winter tasting menu, which featured a lot of game paired with rich gravies. This is because a lot of shoots take place in the area, and the shooting groups often come into The Star Inn on a regular basis. As you can imagine, our cosy corner next to the log fire was the ideal environment for enjoying this kind of hearty food!
Village Shot Game ‘n’ Plum Pudding Cigar, Celeriac Ash
Along with the two supplementary courses, this was my favourite dish. When it was presented in a cigar box, which was opened to reveal two ‘cigars’ amongst a load of smoke, I thought that this dish might be more about the presentation than the flavour. Nope! I can only describe these cigars as the most incredible spring roll I’ve ever eaten. The crispy texture of the outer filo pastry (I think!) perfectly contrasted its filling of soft, creamy game pudding. Paired with a bold South African Pinotage, the combination made my entire body feel warm and comforted, like a gamey, winey blanket!
Roast Cauliflower and Sweet Onion with Moorland Tomme Whip, Black Winter Truffle
Basically a posh cauliflower cheese with truffle, definitely the best cauliflower cheese I’ve ever tasted. Despite there being several strong flavours present, none of them overpowered another and they all joined together to celebrate my birthday with a special cheesy, nutty flavour party on my tongue. Equally, there were loads of different textures going on, which kept the dish interesting right until the end. The only downside was that I was in public so I couldn’t lick the bowl.
‘Loose Birds’ Double Poultry Tea… Roast Chestnut, Wilted Allium, Caramelised Garlic, Turkey Caesar Taco
This dish combined Christmas and garlic, two of my favourite things! We were presented with a turkey taco, alongside a cup full of chestnut, allium and caramelised garlic. A teapot was then used to pour the turkey tea into the cup, creating the most flavoursome broth, which really did taste of Christmas dinner in a cup! The taco was lovely, but it didn’t quite stand up to the bold flavours of the poultry tea.
Dressed Whitby Crab ‘Stick’ with ‘Nashi’ Pear Sorbet
I’m allergic to pears so I had a Bloody Mary sorbet, but despite the deviation from the standard menu, I was instantly transported to a summer’s day in Whitby, enjoying fresh fish and a cold, crisp glass of white wine overlooking the sea. This lighter dish offered a perfectly timed break from the heavier, richer dishes that we’d enjoyed so far, and a short break from winter too!
Black Treacle-briased Fallow Deer Faggot with Juniper-creamed Brussel Sprouts, Pine-smoked Alsace Bacon, Walnut
Whilst delicious, this was actually my least favourite dish on the menu purely on account of just how rich it was – even for me it was just a little too much! But it was one of Billy’s favourites, and it was beautifully created to transport us straight back from the seaside to the cosy interior of The Star Inn. I’ll also tell you here that I’m usually a Brussel sprout hater, but these were divine! A Greek red wine with a strong structure brought together the sweet and savoury elements of dish perfectly.
The Star Inn at Harome Signature Dish: Black Pudding and Foie-gras
Or to give it it’s full name: Grilled Black Pudding with Pan-fried Foie-gras, Salad of Pickering Watercress, Apple and Vanilla Chutney, Scrumpy Reduction. This was one of the optional supplementary dishes, but it’s been on the menu at The Star Inn since 1996 and I’m a huge fan of both foie-gras (please don’t judge me) and black pudding, so missing out wasn’t an option for me.
I’d only had foie-gras in pâté form before, but this was served as actual liver and the texture was unlike anything I’ve had before. It was like eating perfectly soft butter that melts on the tongue, but packed full of rich, meaty flavours. Even Billy, who isn’t a fan of foie-gras, said it was the highlight of the entire meal. Not only was the dish a highlight, we both agreed that it’s matched wine, a Moulin Touchais 1979, was the best of the eleven wines of the evening too. It was outstanding, almost tasting like port rather than wine and perfectly matching the food.
Cumin-rubbed North Sea Monkfish with Bonfire Carrot, Isle of Shuna Mussels and Roe
This was another well timed interval from the rich, game-based dishes, with some perfectly fresh fish. There was a lot going on, with a sauce to pour on top as well, but the flavours all complemented each other and even the mussels, which I’d usually steer away from, were lovely and just felt part of the dish. We were treated to an English wine with this as well, which is always exciting!
Lindisfarne Oyster with Spiced Port and Clementine Granita
I get a little nervous when it comes to oysters. I used to think they were a food sent by the devil, and although I do now like them, my eating technique needs a lot of work… I just can’t quite get the hang of it! Add a freezing cold port and clementine granita (basically crushed ice) and it becomes even more difficult. However, I got there in the end and it was deliciously refreshing!
Rievaulx Shot Red Legged Partridge with Boozy Prunes and Yorkshire Brack, Stichelton, Parsnip, Perigourdine Sauce
I won’t lie, I didn’t know what half of this dish title meant! It all became clear when it was served up: tender partridge leg with a prune, a little bit of fruit cake, a lump of blue cheese, a dollop of parsnip puree and a rich, sticky gravy with a little truffle in it.
I followed the advice of our waitress and one by one tried the partridge together with the individual accompaniments, enjoying how different it tasted with each of them. Once I’d done this, I put a little bit of everything on my fork and my eyes widened as I became completely overwhelmed by the explosion of flavour!
Baked Mont d’Or Cheese with Fruit ‘n’ Nut Biscotti
This was the other supplementary dish, and my favourite dish of the evening. Although I began by dipping in the biscotti, I soon found that my urgent desperation to consume this cheese meant that going in with a spoon was the only real option. It was intense, nutty, gooey, heavenly. There wasn’t a wine pairing for this dish, but if there had been I doubt I’d have even noticed it.
Dark Cherry and White Chocolate ‘Magnum’ with Salted Caramel and Bitter Chocolate Cremeaux, Hazelnut Praline
I felt a little sad that the savoury courses were ending, as this meant that our dinner was nearly over. As soon as I took a bite of this chocolatey fragment of paradise, I forgot that sadness completely. There was so many different parts to this dessert but it felt like one, perfectly balanced, oh-so rich dish. I wish I had a picture to show you, but I’d had rather a lot of wine at this point and as a result my pictures are dark and blurry from this point on.
‘Force-grown’ Rhubarb Soufflé with Hot Spiced Syrup and Gingerbread Ice Cream
One of my core values in life is that desserts should have chocolate in them, end of story. This school of thought, combined with a very full stomach, meant that I wasn’t particularly excited for this dish. In fact I think I told Billy that he might have to eat it for me. However, as my fork touched the soufflé it revealed what I can only describe as a cloud filled with sweet, sweet nectar and I finished every last mouthful.
Whisky Fudge, Mint Chocolate Truffles, Forgotten Fruit Pate de Fruit
We kind of cheated here and took this one home with us, as it could be easily boxed up and we were incredibly full (I’d also just had a bonus ‘happy birthday’ dessert). These treats were enjoyed the next day, at home, under a duvet whilst soothing our hangovers (additional drinks at the hotel afterwards definitely hadn’t been necessary) with Disney movies.
The mint chocolate truffles were particularly surprising, as they tasted like ‘real’ mint rather than the mint chocolate ice cream flavour that I was expecting. All were delicious though, and the perfect end to a fantastic meal.
Final Thoughts on The Star Inn at Harome
As you can imagine, a meal like this is a bit of an investment, but I can wholeheartedly assure you that it is worth it. It’s a meal that I won’t forget for a very long time, and whilst I might not be able to experience the tasting menu again any time soon, I will definitely be back for a Sunday Lunch! The quality of the food, the cosy atmosphere and the friendly staff – who went above and beyond to ensure we had the most wonderful experience – meant that I had the perfect birthday at The Star Inn at Harome.