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Restaurant Review: Samuels at Swinton Park

Samuel's at Swinton Park
Swinton Park Hotel, Masham, Ripon, North Yorkshire, NG4 4JH
Cuisine: British
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Our table was overlooked by a portrait of Sir Samuel, the great-great-great grandfather of the current owner. He built the restaurant in 1880 when he bought the estate. Lucy McGuire dines in style.
The setting was exquisite – the dining room of the 17th Century Swinton Park hotel. And the accolades (selected as an Inspector’s Choice hotel, many food and drink awards and a 3AA rosette restaurant) had all the signs of greatness.
Samuel’s restaurant couldn’t score more points for grandeur. The ornate gold leaf ceiling, enormous fireplace and views over the Yorkshire countryside make for a special venue.
Our table was overlooked by a portrait of Sir Samuel too – member of the Cunliffe-Lister family and great-great-great grandfather of the current owner. It was this man who built the restaurant onto the existing Victorian building in 1880 when he bought the estate. The setting for our meal was steeped in history.
The evening couldn’t have started any better. Seated in the slightly cosier, gothic-style bar and lounge, the hotel’s sommelier greeted us with his detailed wine list.
After a thorough discussion about our menu options and a blind test of some white 2010 Bourgogne varieties, we were somewhat surprised by his ‘blind-tasting’ exercise. Contrary to belief that we are generally averse to the off-putting oaky character of a Chardonnay, the blind tasting revealed otherwise. An impressive start to the evening.
Executive chef Simon Crannage offers three menus. While we were tempted by the signature tasting menu – a journey of smoked eel, quail, scallops, beef, sloe gin jelly and various palate cleansers – for us, cherry picking from Samuel’s classic and garden produce menus won.
The rabbit was divine. Served as a terrine with a celeriac and truffle purée, fresh apple and celeriac slaw, it was tangy, meaty and light.
My guest’s walled garden salad was lacking in the promised beetroot. But the crumbled goats cheese, puffed pearl barley, peas, and delicate leaves combined with a slow-cooked egg yolk was a pleasing texture sensation.
With an abundance of game on their 20,000 acre doorstep, the ‘slow food’ concept is championed at Swinton Park. So while I couldn’t resist the middle white pork (most likely sourced from Yorkshire), my guest ordered the roasted Swinton estate grouse – zero food miles involved. Pink and falling off the bone, it was also incredibly rich which justified its conservative proportions. With a tiny green garnish, rich bramble jus and a separate cup of game ‘chips’, this was a special dish. After such rich dishes, it took a lot to stretch to desserts but we gave in to the pineapple and coconut and the white chocolate mousse deserts.
The former -a medley of coconut sorbet, compressed pineapple and lime sponge pieces - was tasty but not outstanding. The lime sponge pieces were bread-like and seemed unnecessary, but the compressed pineapple was deliciously tangy with a welcoming boozy hit of rum.
The white chocolate mousse was a winner. Indulgent and creamy, with salted caramel ice cream and sticky praline-like peanuts. It was a gooey, crunchy and sweet kick for the senses.
While the atmosphere in Samuel’s dining room was subdued, the surroundings were certainly Downton-like, and we retired to the sofas of the adjacent and equally grand lounge. As we sipped on tea and nibbled on chocolates from a log-like platter, the room’s deafening silence was broken by the welcoming sound of a guest playing the grand piano. With no other guests around, it felt quite surreal, but was an enjoyable end to our stay in this country retreat.
Samuel’s at Swinton Park Hotel
Masham, Ripon
North Yorkshire
01765 680900
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7 December 2013
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