★★★★★ | The Wensleydale Heifer

They say no-one expects the Spanish Inquisition. They would probably also not expect a rather splendid fish restaurant and boutique hotel in the landlocked Yorkshire Dales.

Nestling in the ample bosom of the picturesque Dales, the Wensleydale Heifer is admittedly off the beaten path, situated in the tiny village of West Witton, but it’s well worth the drive to experience what is one of the finest dining experiences my partner and I have had in a long time.

The hotel itself comprises a number of themed bedrooms all playfully but tastefully decorated. We had the Whiskey Room for our night’s stay, which was pleasantly warm and inviting, incorporating distillery memorabilia around the walls with tartans and a wee dram of complimentary whiskey which greeted us on arrival (not a great whiskey fan I instead devoured the marvellous complimentary home made cookie and pondered what delights the people in the next door Chocolate Room were enjoying. Would they ever leave the room?)

Dinner was in the fish restaurant after making our menu selections in the informal warmth of the lounge. A nice touch when we reached the table was the two small hors d’oeuvres to whet our appetites. Service was good and what they very occasionally lacked in professional finesse they made up for in attentiveness.

My starter was Japanese panko crusted goats cheese fritters with jam, pine nuts and rocket salad. My partner had Whitby crab, gravalax, potato, shallot and chive tian, salmon, pink grapefruit vinaigrette and salad. Both were excellent, well presented with a nice contrast in taste. For mains I had tarragon and white truffle crusted hake with parmesan and rocket risotto and shallots and my partner had Roast Cornish turbot fillet, tagliatelle of Venus clams and brown shrimp, white wine and garlic fresh pea shoots and pea oil. We loved both. You could tell that this is a restaurant that loves its fish. The wine and garlic cream gave the latter a nice body without it being too heavy and both mains were excellently presented with lovely flavours. The hake was fresh and though it’s very easy to over serve risotto, they got the quantity just right.

Looking forward to dessert I plumped for the ice cream brownie and my partner the stem ginger parfait, both of which were very good.

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After retiring for the night we had the English breakfast that though didn’t quite match the fine dining of the night before, was still very welcome.

Overall The Heifer is highly recommended whether you fancy a few days retreat in exclusive and quirky surroundings or just booking a classy meal out. Even if you don’t think you’re a fish fan you can’t fail to be bowled over by the combination of flavours and styles in each dish which, combined with a stylish contemporary setting and excellent accommodation should put it on every foodie’s menu.

To book the Wensleydale Heifer call: 01969 622322 or visit: http://www.wensleydaleheifer.co.uk