Proof that you don't have to be in the city for top-quality dining
If you’re a city-dweller, there’s no doubt that heading somewhere green and seriously remote every now and then is good for the soul. Throw in a bit of Michelin-star dining, then, and you’re in for an excellent weekend away.
Around a 40-minute drive from York city centre, The Black Swan, Oldstead has fast become a dining hotspot in the middle of rural Yorkshire – think winding country lanes surrounded by fields and farmland and a Downton-like village. Headed up by Great British Menu alumni Tommy Banks, who received a Michelin star at just 24 years old, the restaurant was named as the best in the world on TripAdvisor in 2017.
It’s been a busy year for the team, who also opened their second outpost in York, Roots, just last year, bringing a taste of Oldstead to the city.
With Tommy’s family having farmed there for years, the entire approach taken by The Black Swan team is a focus on the local area. There is one option for dinner: an oft-changing tasting menu created using the produce available on the team’s doorstep. That’s not just a figure of speech, as the pub backs onto its own gardens where many of the menu’s ingredients are grown, while the rest are farmed and foraged locally.
This celebration of Oldstead and its surroundings is evident in each and every dish. From the daily-baked bread’s stone-ground flour from a nearby mill, to the Wood Sorrel picked a mere few hours before arriving on your plate, you’d be hard pushed to find a better definition of ‘eating local’.
Of course, as well the excellent ethos, the food is also reflection of an exceptionally talented team – all of whom are friendly and knowledgeable. Case in point: You realise you’re dining somewhere special when a dish centred around a single potato (above) is genuinely exciting. Barbecued, brushed with charcoal oil, sprinkled with sea salt and finished off with caviar and fermented celeriac, I can’t say I’ve ever eaten a more delicious potato in my time. And judging by The Black Swan’s Instagram, fellow diners agree with me.
The excitement didn’t stop at the potato, though; there were several interesting touches to the 14 different courses throughout the evening. Local woodruff, for example, which has a taste very similar to vanilla, ‘sour butter’ inspired by the sourdough-making process, and a delicious – albeit unusual-sounding – chicory dessert, which was a dead-ringer for coffee.
There were several highlights from the menu – mushroom ‘quiche’, raw scallop, raspberry ice cream sandwich – but for me, the langoustine with a lemon verbena bisque (above) was a real highlight. To directly quote myself on the evening, I’ll be having dreams about that bisque for a long, long time. Top it off with not one, not two, but three desserts followed by a sweet, root vegetable toast, and it’s nigh-on impossible to leave hungry. All in all, it’s a food experience that’s clever, well-thought-out and exceptionally tasty.
Although the main event is, of course, the food, the thoughtfully-designed rooms also deserve a mention. There are nine rooms available at The Black Swan; four behind the main builidng and five a very short away down the road, all named after nearby farms and dales. Overnight stay is reserved for diners and only bookable with a reservation in the restaurant for that evening.
Each room is slightly different in design, but overall the feeling is cosy and country-house inspired, which, combined with a comfy bed, makes for a great night’s sleep when you’re well-fed. Should there be no availability for an overnight stay when you plan on visiting, the team have recommended several good places in the area on their website – but the giant copper bathtubs should be enough of an incentive for you to get that booking locked down. It really is worth it.
Dinner at The Black Swan starts at £98 per person, and from £195 per person to stay overnight with breakfast. To make a reservation, visit their website above.
Follow the team’s updates on Instagram at @blackswan_oldstead