Roasts to Write Home About at the Talbot Hotel
I’ve never been up to Malton before. And despite the fact his restaurant was around for a couple of years in Leeds before closing, I’ve never eaten any of James Martin’s food before. So last year when he announced that he was taking up residency at the Talbot Hotel in Malton (where he grew up) we were quite excited. So excited that we waited over 15 months before going (did I mention food planning wasn’t my strong point?!).
After an eventfully slow journey last Sunday – it’s not every day you get stuck behind a fighter jet being transported up the A64 to the York Air Museum – we arrived at the Talbot Hotel. Owned by the Fitzwilliam family, the hotel underwent a £4 million renovation last year and although quite missable from the road, once you turn into the drive you’re met by a pretty spectacular sight.
We’d phoned ahead to let them know we’d be late (they’d never have believed us about the fighter jet so we stuck to the lame old ‘holiday traffic’ line) and staff at the hotel were as friendly in person as they were on the phone.
We arrived at 12:45 for lunch and I have to admit, I was a bit worried about the lack of diners in the restaurant or bar area where we went for a pre-lunch drink. Not more than 5 other people in total.
It made for a bit of a whispered ordering and starters. Because I’m massively nosey and love listening into people’s dinner conversations, I’m always convinced the rest of the room is doing the same thing. Is that just me? Probably. But I do know that the lady at the table next to me didn’t think much of her daughter-in-law’s ability to cook fish curry. Exciting times!
Although eaten quite quietly, our starters were great. Tom had the slow cooked lamb belly with pickled vegetables, malt and garden herb emulsion and I had the Yellison farm goats’ crowdie mousse, beetroot, pine nuts, garden herbs and soured beet juice. And yes they were both amazing and yes I had to look up what crowdie was. Soft spreadable cheese if you were wondering.
Goats’ cheese and beetroot is such a classic combination and I know pine nuts are way past being trendy but I totally don’t care – they gave a great texture to the dish and enhanced each and every of the other flavours.
Anyway, the restaurant did start filling up with very stereotypical North Yorkshire middle to elder folk. It’s definitely the place to go if you want to feel young again and if you want to see people who still dress up smartly for lunch. But by about 1:30 it was also a full place so my fears about having to whisper my way through the next two courses were quickly allayed.
It was around this time our mains arrived. I’m not one for roast beef and Yorkshire pudding lunches unless they’re really special (carverys, crap pubs and rubbish restaurants need not apply) so it was with a tiny bit of trepidation that I went for this option. But if you can’t get a good Sunday roast from the king of Yorkshire chef TV then where else was this going to happen?
I shouldn’t have worried about having to whisper and I shouldn’t have stressed about the quality of the roast – it was flipping brilliant. The beef was really tender, roast potatoes tasted twice cooked and the vegetables were just the right side of crunchy. Bit of personal taste but the cabbage was too buttery…. but what else would you expect from a TV chef that puts half a ton of butter in everything and says the word about every second sentence! But ultimately it was all about the Yorkshire puddings for me. They were high-rising, crispy-edged, soft-centred perfection. I was wondering how to break to Tom the fact that they were as good as his Yorkshires until he mentioned that it was actually James Martin’s recipe that he used for our home-cooked roasts. Phew!
For dessert it was all about the cheese for me (it’s always all about the cheese) and chocolate torte for Tom. I would love to tell you all the cheese types I had but it’s time for my sieve-like memory to make an appearance and all I can remember is the Harrogate blue and the goat’s cheese. Nice though….
We left the Talbot Hotel thoroughly full and thoroughly happy with the £25 for 3 courses bargain that we’d just had. TV chefs’ restaurants can be a bit hit and miss but I think James Martin got it on the mark. Not too stuffy, high quality ingredients and an unfussy menu with a nicely varied wine list. Definitely a destination for another lunch in the not too distant future.
And although we didn’t follow any jets on the drive home, a quick detour to the maize maze in York made for a more exciting journey. You know you’re luck is in when the ticket assistant announces you’re just in time for the last pig race of the day. And when Chop of Gibraltar pips Desert Porkid to the post (no word of a lie!!!!) you know your Yorkshire day out just can’t get any better and it’s time to go home. So we did.