Katy Wheeler took a trip to the Yorkshire Dales to visit a boutique hotel that breaks the mould - and your waistband.
“We’re wacky without being tacky” is the ethos at The Wensleydale Heifer. And it’s one that’s echoed in every curiosity peppered throughout the pub’s stone walls and each culinary creation that’s whisked out of the kitchen.
I’d not visited this boutique hotel before, one that’s set amidst the rolling hills and lush greenery of the Yorkshire dales, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.
I certainly didn’t think I’d find rooms themed around everything from James Bond to James Herriot.
You’ve got to hand it to the heifer: they’re committed to each of the room’s quirky motifs. From a cast of baddie Jaws’ teeth and lips-shaped diamanté phone in the Bond room, to bowls over-flowing with confectionery and painted angels bearing bars of Galaxy in the chocolate room, and magnums of bubbles and a dedicated fizz fridge in the Champagne room, it’s great fun uncovering the attention to detail in each room.
But as well as injecting some humour into your overnight stay, there’s also an air of luxury in the rooms thanks to plush decor and high-spec bathrooms. Even the smellies are Molton Brown.
Though I can navigate a food menu with ease, I’ve always found wine menus more daunting. But thanks to Vince we feel more equipped to steer clear of our usual tipples in favour of something a little more left field.Katy Wheeler
It all helps to lure you to this corner of the English countryside - which was around an hour and a half drive from Sunderland - with the promise of something a bit different. And once they’ve got you here, they’d like you to stay.
Though there’s some great walks on your doorstep, there’s plenty to keep you entertained indoors too.
We stayed as part of the venue’s one day gourmet package, which is basically a day of fabulous feasting. It begins at 1pm with a glass of Champagne - the venue’s own brand which was delightfully smooth - and a selection of tapas dishes. You can then take a guided tour of the kitchen to discuss that evening’s bespoke menu.
Before your gastronomic gorging begins, you get 90 minutes with sommelier Vince. As the sun dappled through the bay window of this 500-year-old pub, we were given an eye-opening foray into the world of fine wines thanks to this charismatic Hungarian.
Though I can navigate a food menu with ease, I’ve always found wine menus more daunting. But thanks to Vince we feel more equipped to steer clear of our usual tipples in favour of something a little more left field.
He took our taste buds on a trip around the globe, from Coopers Creek in New Zealand to Gigondas in France.
It sets you up perfectly for that night’s tasting menu where your wine and spirits are paired to the dishes.
Our menu was a whopping eight courses - this particular option is not for those with a small appetite.
They eased us in gently with oysters, a cold version for the oyster purists and a more heavy crisped version if you like your molluscs battered.
Next up, we tucked into a beautifully executed bisque, a melt-in-the-mouth blend of smoked salmon and dill.
Though it was rich, it wasn’t sickeningly so, meaning we could still fit in our remaining courses.
Round three came in the form of king prawn and pakora scallops with crispy shallots, coconut and cashew nuts followed by mini lobster and scallop thermidor.
A raspberry sorbet provided a perfect palate cleanser ahead of the pièce de résistance: a beef fillet rossini. A tender hunk of meat was complemented perfectly with a bed of foie gras and artistic swirls that saw it immediately committed to Instagram to make our followers salivate with envy.
The pudding selection was a theatrical selection of mini desserts, ranging from creme brulee to crumbly shortbreads and a moreish chocolate mousse, topped off with sugar sculptures and even a cocktail umbrella - there’s the fun element again.
The cherry on the top came in the form of a selection of cheeses which we chose to eat in the bar area, a cosy snug in this most atmospheric of pubs.
If you’re still not full the next morning, you can cap off your visit with a Yorkshire breakfast and handmade chocolates to take home, which are included in the price. A sweet reminder of a tastebud tickling treat.
•One day gourmet packages, including an overnight stay at The Wensleydale Heifer, West Witton, North Yorkshire, run from Monday to Thursday and are £360 per couple. For details visit www.wensleydaleheifer.co.uk.