It is impossible to pick just one highlight of The Black Swan experience
It is impossible to pick just one highlight of The Black Swan experience. From the beautiful food to the huge, comfy bed - even its location in the heart of the quaint, chocolate box village of Helmsley nestled on the edge of the Moors – each component in its own right is worth the trip to this little corner of North Yorkshire. Together, they make something really rather special.
My partner and I arrived on a balmy Friday evening and, from the moment we stepped off the market square into the four-star hotel, we began to relax.
Crooked dark oak beams, sweeping staircases and winding corridors – from which, every now and then, you glimpse a view of the pretty tiered garden – ensure charm and character greet you at every corner of the 500-year-old hotel.
After a quick freshen up, we headed downstairs early to enjoy aperitifs and canapés in a cosy corner of the Cygnet bar while perusing our dining options. Though tempted by the six-course tasting menu, we were won over by a la carte dishes such as seared foie gras with Black Swan granola, mango and foraged herbs; butter-poached halibut with turnip, pak choi, black garlic and shrimp sauce; and chocolate delice on the a la carte.
Even before our chosen starters were served in the three AA rosette restaurant, The Gallery (named in keeping with the original artwork that adorns the walls), we got a taste of the kitchen's superb talent. A flavoursome amuse bouche of beetroot jelly with shrimp and pine nuts and a warm slice of walnut bread were the kind of little extras that made the evening even more memorable.
This was an excellent start to the meal, and things only got better. From my light, refreshing Yorkshire heritage tomato starter (who knew such a simple ingredient could be transformed into such a beautiful plate of food?) to my partner’s hearty grouse with the tastiest sherry game jus to that indulgent chocolate dessert, complete with praline, honeycomb and a wonderfully sharp passion fruit sorbet – we savoured every last bite.
A special mention must also go to the magnificent cheese trolley. Early on, I spotted a fellow diner making her selection from the huge choice on offer and I couldn’t wait for my turn. With great difficultly – and with a helping hand from our waiter – we whittled it down to just five cheeses. Served with crackers, chutney and grapes, it was the best possible way to end what had been a truly delightful meal.
Thankfully, nothing further was required of us for the remainder of the evening than ordering a nightcap from the bar and navigating those winding corridors back up to our room.
We arose early the next day for an indulgent breakfast of French toast brioche with caramelised bananas and maple syrup – a sticky, sweet delight of a dish – and eggs benedict. After a gentle stroll around the village, checking out the castle ruins and the many little boutiques that sprawl out from the main square, we made our way home. But with so many more nooks and crannies to explore – not just in the hotel but the village beyond – it almost certainly won’t be long before we return.
The Black Swan, Market Place, Helmsley, North Yorkshire YO62 5BJ
Tel: 01439 770466