Editor's note: The Yorke Arms was sold in November 2017 and will reopen in 2018 under new ownership. The review below is therefore of historical interest only.
Located in the Nidderdale Valley, the Yorke Arms is located in an 18th century coaching inn near a reservoir, a few miles north of Pateley Bridge. The restaurant gained a Michelin star in 2003, which it has kept even since. The dining room is on the ground floor, with an additional room available in busy times. On a normal night up to 50 diners can be seated at one time, though on this Thursday night there were fourteen diners, including us. Tables were quite small though well spaced, and did not have tablecloths. Piano music played in the background.
Head chef and owner Frances Atkins trained at The Box Tree in Ilkley, set up a catering business in 1984, worked for a time for Tate & Lyle and bought The Yorke Arms in 1996. She was in the kitchen tonight, At the back of the building is an extensive vegetable garden, where much of the produce used in the kitchen originates. At the centre of the garden is a little covered area with a single table, with heaters available, that can be booked for dinner al fresco.
Three courses were priced at £60, with a tasting menu at £85. The wine list had a little fewer than 200 labels, ranging in price from just £17.50 to £300. Example wines were Trentham Pinot Noir 2012 at £32.50 for a wine that you can find in the high street for £11, Giuseppe Mascarello Barbera Scudetto 2007 at £65 for a wine that retails at £27, and 5 Soldiers Chardonnay 2006 at £85 for a wine that will set you back £25 in a shop. There were an unusually high proportion of wines under £50. For those wishing to splash out, Drouhin Bonnes Mares 2000 was £165 for a wine that retails at £110, Domaine de l'Arlot Les Suchots 2007 was £160 compared to a shop price of £87, and Chateau Montrose 2006 was £260 for a bottle that you can find in a wine shop for £90.
Nibbles comprised pleasant Parmesan sticks, smoked salmon mousse with caviar and dried tomato, ham hock terrine with pistachio and apple, an excellent roasted red pepper canapé along with somewhat stale-tasting toasted almonds and candied hazelnut. A little variable in standard, but overall 14/20. This was followed by a rather odd amuse-bouche of apricot puree with almond. This was unobjectionable in itself, but to me this was more suitable as a pre-dessert than an amuse-bouche (13/20). Bread was made from scratch in the kitchen and had good texture (15/20),
Crab and potage of shellfish with salt cod and tomato turned out to consist mostly of mussels, with little in the way of the advertised crab, plus a little scallop and white fish. This was pleasant enough, though the proportion of mussels seemed way off for a dish whose name implied that crab was a major component (14/20). I preferred crab five ways, There was a mousse, a chilli salad with coriander, cured halibut and crab with mace, a chilli croquette and an espuma with star anise. I liked the punchy crab salad with chilli best, along with the croquette, but this was all very enjoyable (15/20).
Wild salmon was carefully cooked and had good flavour, with tarragon cream, courgette, cabbage and shrimp. Courgette flower was stuffed with a shrimp mousse, as well as peas and a beurre blanc and a crispy potato galette, the vegetables all nicely prepared (15/20). Poussin came cooked and wrapped in herbs, with salt baked roots, corn puree, lemon and thyme, along with spinach, peas, asparagus, turned carrot and sweet corn shoots. The bird had reasonable flavour, the cooking juices were good, the vegetables pleasant (15/20).
At this point all pretty much fine, and then the desserts arrived. Apricot clafoutis with vanilla sauce arrived visibly burnt. My Grand Marnier soufflé looked OK from the outside but turned out out to be essentially scrambled egg inside, and we sent both dishes back. The clafoutis that returned was still somehat overcooked on one side, though the fruit was fine, the vanilla flavour rather subdued but overall entirely pleasant and vastly better than the first version (14/20). My second soufflé was still quite evidently flawed, cooked through to the centre but too eggy and far from the light ideal that a top soufflé should aspire to, though it was better than the first attempt; it may be that there was not enough egg white used in the mixture. The orange sorbet with it was fine and had good flavour, as was a delicate caramel and chocolate cylinder. The revised version was perhaps 12/20, but the initial version of the clafoutis should have been picked up on the pass and should never have left the kitchen. Coffee and tea was fine, served with white chocolate ice cream in a white chocolate shell, a lemon macaron with pleasant texture though not enough lemon flavour, a decent Florentine, a pleasant dark chocolate truffle and fudge that was insufficiently caramelised.
Service was pleasant enough, though dishes were merely delivered rather than described. The main course arrived almost immediately after the starter, but other than that service was fine. If you ordered three courses plus coffee and shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical bill all in would come to around £95 a head. Overall, the cooking of the savoury dishes was fine, and up until desserts arrived it had seemed to me that the food was approaching the low end of one Michelin star level. However both initial desserts were poor, and even the revised versions were some way below the level of the savoury dishes. This makes the meal slightly tricky to mark, but certainly to be served two badly flawed dishes is disappointing in any meal, let alone a starred one. However the savoury dishes were generally of Michelin star level.