near Helmsley, North Yorkshire, thepheasanthotel.com

I still can’t believe that one night’s lodging, an excellent breakfast, and an outstanding dinner at The Pheasant Hotel in north Yorkshire cost only £95 ($156). It seemed and still seems too good a deal to be without a catch. But I have the evidence in receipts. The only catch, I believe, is that such a deal can’t go on for long, especially not when its award-winning sister hotel down the road, The Star Inn, costs vast amounts more.

The rooms are very comfortable, clean, and quiet. The staff are solicitous in an unobtrusive, understated Yorkshire way.  They made generous accommodations for the rambunctious two-and-a-half year old in our party. No vistas of the moors appeared out of any window, but the village, the mill pond to the rear, the flower gardens soothed the eye just as well.

But the food! As the server explained to us, the price of our room included breakfast and, for dinner, either the £30 market menu or a £30 credit towards the à la carte menu. After studying the menu, we unanimously rejected the market menu to follow the more adventurous one. In the end, with wine, we paid very little more than £30 in addition to splitting the cost of a bottle of wine. An incredible bargain, given the quality of the food.

An intelligently mapped menu (main ingredient in first column, subsidiary ingredients in the center, followed by the price of the dish in starter and main course sizes) says it all:

  • Sea Bream cooked in brown butter, shallot puree, broad (fava) beans, rock samphire
  • Roasted breast of Wood Pigeon, beetroot, cardo cheese, cherry and jasmine tea puree
  • Slow cooked pork belly, glazed borlotti beans, granny smith apples
  • Roasted loin of spring lamb, fresh peas, jersey royal mash
  • Ravioli of cod brandade, poached duck egg yolk, burnet leaves

My favorite was the ravioli. One lovely large raviolo topped with a perfectly round deep yellow-orange yolk. One prick of a fork tine and a creamy sauce of yolk enveloped the entire raviolo.

For dessert, we ordered gratin of red fruits, saboyon made with Pimms, cucumber ice, to be eaten while sipping a small glass of homemade lemonade.  The three of us shared one serving. It wasn’t until our spoonfuls swept up a bit of the cucumber ice — sorbet, really — that we pronounced the dish to be the product of genius. The flavor made us all bolt upright like an electric charge.

The next morning, as we checked out, we raved about the food to the manager, who produced the chef in person so we could thank him ourselves. If he was older than thirty, I’ll wash dishes when I return there, as I would love to do one day. Maybe a walking tour next year?

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