By Ben Hopkins
‘A Taste of the Dales’ is a new 6-course tasting nightat The Tennants Arms Hotel that has been attracting the attention of foodies both local and beyond – here’s why.
We’re four courses into ‘A Taste of the Dales’ when 22-year-old Chef Thomas Beard takes leave from the kitchen to greet his guests. When I ask him what goes into his preparations he doesn’t miss a beat.
“Sleepless nights and hard work,” he replies.“If something’s not working I’ll get up and pace the room, thinking through ways to improve each dish”.
And just like that, he’s gone, off to conjure up more magic for our consumption.
If a tasting menu is supposed to tell a story of local produce, hospitality and a chef’s intent then the opening chapter doesn’t disappoint. We’re ushered into a spacious dining room where a large square table for 12 people awaits, made homely by tall candles and the reflection of the moon on tall windows looking out into the Dales. There’s a feeling of ‘bon viveur’ as introductions are made and wine is poured.
Our wine pairings are sourced and presented by Chris Sleight of the hotel’s wine supply company. First up, a Forrest Estate Dry Riesling from New Zealand accompanies a starter of Jerusalem artichokes and pickled shallots brought to life with honey mead reduction and white truffles – a small taster with pleasing textures and zesty flavors.
Another important element of tasting menus is not to pace the courses out too far. Give the guests time to get to know each other but don’t leave them twiddling their thumbs and waiting for the next glass to magically fill itself.
As if on cue, in comes the next course – pan-fried hand caught scallops infused with celeriac, apple and hazelnut accompanied with a French Muscadet. Ever the skeptic, I’m assured that the scallops are indeed hand-dived – scooped up from the ocean floor in a basket and delivered fresh into the chef’s arms, all by the chef’s personal connections in Scotland.
It’s already evident that Chef Beard’s creations avoid the trap of being too rich and stodgy. OK, we’ve only had two dishes but by now most of the guests are talking enthusiastically about the food and looking forward to the first of two main courses to arrive.
Again, right on cue the waitress strolls in with a finely prepared turbot enlivened with braised fennel, lemon vinaigrette, rock samphire and prawn espuma. Chris Sleight does the honors with an Australian Chardonnay, prompting one of the guests to recall Bridget Jones Chardonnay fueled performance of “All by Myself”.
The generous wine portions seem to have lubricated the imagination of our guests, three of whom have found common ground in a passion for Vespa tours and 60’s music. Mercifully, Brexit is firmly off the table (we’re having far too much fun) as the rich aromas of our second main course are brought in.
This time the taste of the Dales takes flight with the rich and textured flavors of pheasant pie infused with thyme and wild garlic, all locally sourced and fresh as those enjoyed on a wild hunt. Up until now the tasting menu has been relatively light, featuring fresh seafood and vegetable dishes accompanied with white wine. The addition of a crispy pork soufflé and duck breast along with a Nostros Reserva Pinot Noir from Chile satisfies the parts that only the gluttony of red meat and wine can reach.
The story is unfolding nicely as satisfied diners take a break to talk. Northern soul dance halls in Bradford, Vespa tours across the Dales and favorite moments from iconic travels are amongst the topics of conversation before General Manager Liz Smailes, recently returned from running hotels in the Maldives, enters the room to introduce Chef Beard to the guests.
The social element to the evening is without doubt one of this tasting night’s appeal. After four courses, now is a good time to take a break, chat amongst one another and to meet the chef. Questions and answers fly as Chef Beard’s character, experience and inspiration reveal twists and turns behind each course. From the Angel at Hetton, to Hipping Hall and then Northcote Manor, Chef Beard’s previous kitchens have all played a role in creating his dishes today.
And with that, the first dessert of Panna Cotta with Italian meringue and local berries won’t prepare itself, so off goes Chef Beard to complete his work. The finale was a dessert that looked like a shiny Granny Smith’s apple, but in reality was a surprising layered Apple Bavarois.
Chef Beard is a young talent on the rise, with invitations to demonstrate at prominent food festivals in 2020. On the fourth Thursday of every month, his 6-course tasting night is when his creativity is given freedom to run wild, and it’s an evening no foodie should miss out on.
‘A Taste of the Dales’ is a new concept in the revival of The Tennants Arms Hotel as a notable choice on Yorkshire’s dining scene. For more information visit www.thetennantsarms.co.uk/dining