Driving under an archway into the courtyard car park, the single space that was empty indicated the popularity of this cosy, relaxed country hotel at Harome, a few miles from Helmsley.
I had heard good reports of The Pheasant and set off on a chilly early evening to visit a venue I had passed a few times but never ventured in.
Once through reception, you can see why the car park was full. It has the most comfortable and rustic chic lounges, bedecked in tartan, hunting-set decor and log fires. While browsing the menu, we were given a wooden platter with pots of olives, mushrooms and nuts, which was a nice touch.
But what about the menu?
There was the £36 a head three-course Pheasant Market choice, which included crab and mushroom risotto with Lincolnshire Poacher dumplings, or the £55 Winter Tasting Menu, which included line-caught sea bass with lemon and shellfish veloute.
But the pride of place was the main Winter Menu and we moved to the main restaurant, which was a little on the chilly side, even though we were near a radiator. The room was watched over by a large chrome clock and five black lampshades – in contrast to the warmer ambience of the two lounges.
The waiting staff were very friendly though, combining informality with the formal laying on of cloth napkins on laps.
And we were treated with a very appreciated complimentary hors d’oeuvres of Harrogate Blue cheese and butternut squash soup.
I always avoid salmon but for my starter I succumbed to the interesting bait of flavours – the tartare of Scottish organic salmon with piccalilli, apple and samphire (£12). It was a creative and well-presented concoction.
For my main, I chose village-reared sirloin and braised cheek with dashes of beetroot, potato and more fruit, this time blackberries (£26). The sirloin was pinker than I thought I had asked for but it was very well-cooked, very tender. The braised cheek lacked the highly-memorable wow of that cut of meat I have previously enjoyed.
My partner chose the poached eggs from the hotel brood, charred leaks, potato and aged ham for the starter, at £10. She said the eggs were perfectly cooked and the ham was nice and crispy, and served in a skillet. Her main course was the braised saddle-back pig cheeks, with butternut squash, apple and scratching (£20). It was pleasant and an entertaining mix, again served in a skillet.
My partner’s dessert was muscovado and vanilla tapioca pudding, clementine sorbet and confit clementine (£9).
Farmhouse cheeses “from the trolley” turned out to be Stinking Bishop and three other cheeses (two of them soft) chosen for you and ready-served on a plate; I very much prefer hard cheese and would have wanted to have selected my own – and the quantity, and the biscuits variety, especially for £13.
But finer points aside, The Pheasant is a superb venue and we would return. Drinks aside, the bill was £90 and included coffee and chocolates in the larger lounge, which was another relaxing and attractive room.
Definitely worth a visit and it adds to the range of high-standard restaurants and hotels to be found in Ryedale.
OVERALL RATING: 8/10