Yorkshire Life Luncheon - Chapters Hotel and Restaurant, Stokesley
- Credit: Archant
Guests join us for an exclusive summer lunch at Chapters in Stokesley
The success story that is Chapters Hotel & Restaurant is really a tale of two talented, hard-working families.
Owners Steven and Dawn Bell have transformed this delightful Stokesley retreat into a must-visit dining destination since taking over the 18th century coaching inn in 2005; while general manager Victor Vassallo and his wife, head chef Victoria, have imported passion, vigour and flair from their native Malta.
Between them they have built an excellent reputation for inspirational food, attentive service and the warmest of warm Yorkshire welcomes – albeit with an added touch of Mediterranean heat.
‘When Mr Bell came into our restaurant in Malta and asked if he could convince us to come to England, we were very surprised,’ said Victoria. ‘But, to be honest, we didn’t need much convincing. We could see this was an unmissable opportunity for us.
‘When you work in this industry you don’t tend to have a life; it’s work, home, work, home. But we have got so much more here in Stokesley. And I really love the weather – no, honestly, I do.’
Victoria and her team have recently launched a new a la carte menu, making the most of the very best seasonal produce from the very best local suppliers, that’s proving extremely popular with diners, as are the restaurant’s regular Gourmet Nights, which give customers the chance to completely unwind with an overnight stay in a luxury room, with sparkling wine and petit fours on arrival, a wonderful three-course dinner and a leisurely breakfast the following day.
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For our summer lunch, Victoria created a deliciously clever menu starting with a midnight-coloured squid ink pasta parcel stuffed with a rich king prawn filling.
Next came a deeply savoury plate of Smithy House Farm pork which teamed a butter-soft round of beautifully-cooked pork belly (it just fell apart if you so much as brushed it with your knife) and a satisfying crunchy-coated fritter of flavoursome pulled pork shoulder.
For pudding, the Chapters’ team pulled out all the stops with a crowd-pleasing chocolate and orange mousse that was light as air while packing a real flavour punch alongside a zingy orange sorbet and puree that cut through the richness of the dish with precision and finesse.
The reaction from our guests was, of course, positive in the extreme, which is great for Victoria as customer satisfaction is her number one goal.
‘She will ask guests if they’ve enjoyed the food whether she’s made them a sandwich or a three-course meal,’ said Victor, after the pudding plates had been cleared away and we were enjoying coffee and handmade chocolates. ‘She’s not afraid of criticism because whatever she has made, she knows she has done her best and put her passion into it.’
Victor and Victoria have worked together for 32 years and have recently introduced two new generations of their family to the Stokesley community.
‘My son-in-law is my sous chef and my daughter works front-of-house,’ said Victoria. ‘My baby granddaughter, Ivy, has also been in the kitchen with me, although she’s too young to plate-up yet.
‘I enjoy the community here very much. It’s not easy when you come from another country, but we have made a good life here.’
Unlike some chefs, Victoria’s kitchen revolves around the food and not her own ambitions. Her primary goal for the kitchen at Chapters is to continue producing food her clients want to eat.
‘I don’t tell them what to eat; they tell me what to cook,’ said Victoria. ‘People want good local food – and they want a proper meal, not just lots of fiddly little things on a plate. We have regulars who come back again and again, and that’s nice because we all get to know each other. And they’ll tell me if they don’t like something which, thankfully, doesn’t happen very often.
‘I’ve been doing this for a long time but I can honestly say I still love it. I like cooking everything; I don’t have what you might call a signature dish. In Malta, I didn’t have a big brigade so I’m used to doing everything myself. Chapters gives me an opportunity to do that and more.’
To find out more about Chapters Hotel & Restaurant at 27 High Street, Stokesley, TS9 5AD, phone 01642 711888 or visit chaptershotel.co.uk.
King prawn ravioli in squid ink pasta with wilted greens and prawn veloute
Slow-cooked Smithy House Farm belly of pork with pancetta and savoy cabbage compote, pork shoulder fritter, fondant potato and thyme jus
Chocolate and orange mousse with orange sorbet, orange puree and chocolate orange Aero
Babich Black Label Sauvignon Blanc
This wine displays rich aromas of gooseberry, complex herbal characters, pungent sweet musk, minerality and just a touch of cinnamon.
Fleurie, Chateau des Labourons
A gold medal winner in the prestigious wine bible Guide Hachette, this exciting ruby red has a bouquet of violet and raspberry, a good body and a lush, silky finish.
This top quality, fruity, full-bodied red is made from sun-dried Gellewza grapes – indigenous to Malta – and matured for 12 months in new French oak barrels.