North Yorkshire restaurant guide - The Blue Bell, Weaverthorpe

The Blue Bell Inn is a cosy pub with a menu of inventive modern English cuisine, says Tony Greenway

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The Blue Bell inn, at Weaverthorpe, near Malton, is a mass of contradictions. The bar is traditional, with a cosy, country, friendly pub feel and a good range of beers - but the dining room is full of elegant designer touches: mix-and-match chairs, a tartan carpet, wood panels, and striped pelmets. The mix of styles works. There are also two private dining rooms, one newly refurbished with a black and silver theme, a slate feature wall and doors which open onto a patio. It’s pleasingly decadent.

Plus there are 12 en suite rooms available for guests who’d rather make a night of it: six within the Blue Bell itself and another six in the Champagne House cottages complex in the grounds.

Then there’s the menu. This is a rural watering hole in a pretty village but people come from far and wide because they’ve heard how good the food is. Those reports haven’t exaggerated. This is English modern cuisine at its most inventive. And, where possible, the ingredients are local.

‘We’ve been here 11 years,’ says owner Jarrod Fisher, who runs The Blue Bell with his wife Leanne, also the principal chef. ‘Stick a pin in a map and our clientele comes from a 20-mile radius. They’re from York, Scarborough, Driffield, from everywhere.’

It’s the little touches that make all difference between a good meal and a truly memorable one. At The Blue Bell, for instance, a complimentary bowl of home-made crisps and a garlic dip got the juices flowing while we ordered; and tangy sorbet was offered as palate-cleanser between courses. The service throughout was friendly and very efficient. Jarrod can point you in the right direction when it comes to choosing from the extensive wine list.

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My starter of a bell tower of Scottish-style black pudding and flat mushrooms — accompanied by a light mustard cream sauce and topped with a poached egg — was a triumph. I love black pudding, but it can be so pungent that it overpowers the flavour of everything else on the plate. This, frankly, was the best black pudding I’ve ever eaten: light, delicate, and perfect with the runny yolk of the poached egg.

My wife chose the Fishers’ Shots: four vodka glasses filled with potted crab, smoked salmon and dill, fishcake with curry sauce, and prawn and chilli respectively. This put a tasty and creative new twist on the words ‘seafood starter’.

For main course, I chose breast of Gressingham duck, pan-fried and served with red cabbage and fondant potato with a cider reduction. The duck, beautifully pink, was tender and moist (and luscious with the plummy Chilean Merlot 2007). My wife had the belly of prime rare breed saddle back pork with a mustard seed mash, crispy green cabbage, a light pork jus and the longest piece of crackling you’ve ever seen, as a flourish. The pork fell off the bone and, cooked in star anise and cider, was deliciously aromatic.

The dessert menu went on and on. I toyed with the idea of the excellent cheeseboard (applewood, mature cheddar and stilton) or the baked Normandy Camembert, studded with garlic and rosemary. In the end, however, I plumped for the home cooked comforts of chef’s steamed treacle pudding in a light cr�me anglaise. My wife chose the Baileys cr�me br�l�e with buttery shortbread, which was beautifully presented and cooked just right: burnished and crunchy on top and custardy smooth underneath. Good espressos were served in the bar.

This really was exceptional cooking from Chef Mark Harding, who was in the kitchen on the night we visited.

The Blue Bell, Weaverthorpe North Yorkshire, YO17 8EX01944 738204.

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