What makes the perfect getaway - excellent food, plush accommodation, great service or a picturesque location?
I’m lucky enough to know of somewhere that offers all of the above.
For me a luxurious overnight break can be just the ticket to recharge the batteries. A change of scenery is essential for the full effect, but I don’t need to travel too far from home to find that haven of pure relaxation.
My recent travels took me to the small yet perfectly formed village of Helmsley, North Yorkshire, and, more specifically, its four-star Black Swan Hotel.
The old coaching inn offers a warm welcome of comfort and class and puts a big old dent in your usual routine by forcing you to relax once over its attractive threshold.
The charming hotel comprises three houses; a black and white house on the left, a Georgian house in the middle, and an Elizabethan building on the right – and the latter is where we would be spending the night.
Our feature room, complete with heavenly king-size bed, sitting area and bathroom overlooks the village’s market square that we’re keen to explore before an evening meal in the hotel’s award-winning Gallery restaurant.
The village boasts quaint houses, independent shops, cute cafes and pubs galore – this is certainly not a place to watch your waistline.
That evening we’re welcomed to the Cygnet Bar with the hotel’s six-course tasting menu and daily dinner menu, to decide from which we would like to dine.
Head chef Paul Peters describes his menus as “infusing the best Yorkshire ingredients with creative food combinations, exciting taste bud-popping flavours and modern simplicity” – he’s not wrong.
We select the concise yet captivating dinner menu - it doesn’t fully reveal what forms the dishes will take for an element of surprise.
In The Gallery our waiter Vaughn is knowledgeable, friendly and funny – he adds something extra to our night with his attentive yet non-invasive manner.
An amuse bouche of a light fruit mousse and a balsamic glazed melon awakens our taste buds ready for starters.
One plate features delicate beef carpaccio, punchy horseradish and a mouth-watering bonemarrow croquette, the other char-grilled sea trout, beetroot, fennel, rye crisp and zingy citrus dressing.
We have matching mains: perfectly-cooked herb crusted lamb loin accompanied by vibrant peppers, juicy tomatoes and haricot blanc, olive and black garlic.
We’re in food heaven so dessert is essential. Salted caramel and popcorn cheese cake with thyme and honey ice cream is inventive and irresistible. But the panna cotta with summer berries, basil, strawberry sorbet, raspberry consommé is an equally interesting combination that is cleared clean from its bowl.
In the morning we indulge in further feasting - breakfast. As all top hotel’s should, the Black Swan puts on a delightful array of cereals, fresh fruit, yoghurt and delicate pastries. There’s also a varied hot menu to choose from.
I have fluffy scrambled eggs and silky smoked salmon while my partner has to sample the Full English, which doesn’t disappoint.
We leave - reluctantly - feeling refreshed and spoilt.
Dinner, bed and breakfast: Included three-course evening meal from the daily dinner menu, the hotel’s 3 AA rosette fine dining option, prepared by Chef Paul Peters, and served in The Gallery. Overnight accommodation in a double feature/superior room and full breakfast. Rates from £250 to £305 per room.
Italian Wines Dinner on October 10. This gourmet dining event offers a palette sensation, with six fine Italian wines complementing six of the Black Swan chef’s most delectable Italian dishes. Cost £65 per person, an option to include accommodation is available.
Phone: 01439 770466
Top tourist locations including York, Harrogate and Whitby.
- Gone are the days when dogs were resigned to kennels for the holidays.
Nowadays many dog lovers wish to spend precious time away with their loved ones and their four-legged friends.
Surprisingly for a four-star hotel, the Black Swan has devised a canine-themed stay titled ‘It’s A Dog’s Life’ to allow the whole pack to rest their paws at the relaxing retreat.
The unique short break costs £219 per couple plus dog/s* and includes: miniature afternoon tea with a glass of bubbly – human treat – a ‘Bow-wowcher’ voucher entitling pooches to a doggy portrait photography session, three-course dinner for two in the hotel’s Gallery restaurant, overnight accommodation and full English breakfast, plus a few treats for doggy.
During their stay, dogs and owners alike can enjoy the many walks in the Helmsley area, from the scenic river walks in the Duncombe Estate, to more rugged adventures on the North York Moors which are just on the doorstep.
*Terms and conditions apply.