REVIEW: The Black Swan Hotel, Helmsley, North Yorkshire.

The Black Swan Hotel
The Black Swan Hotel
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 An Aussie chef, 10 courses, including octopus and wood pigeon – sounds like something dreamed up as a Bushtucker trial on I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here.

Course one: Beetroot

Course one: Beetroot

 Thankfully, you couldn’t be further from the truth. Chef Paul Peters may well hail from Down Under, but the only stars his 10-course taster menu at the Black Swan’s refurbished The Gallery restaurant should be earning are of the Michelin variety.

 Peters has been dubbed a gastro-artist for his culinary creations, and this taster menu is his incredible exhibition.

 With my wife and I celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary, the 10-course seemed an apt way to mark the occasion.

 I could see how such a feast could reflect a decade of marriage. You know, fresh and exciting to start with but ending up with both feeling sick. Alternatively, it could be starters of new tastes and daring, leading to a safe, but sweet finale.

 As it was, it started like most relationships: an exciting dip into the unknown … accompanied by alcohol.

 First up, an amuse bouche. I know, I didn’t know what it meant either. These are small dishes served up by the chef to whet the appetite for the accompanying meal.

 In this case we had watermelon on sticks, accompanied by small glasses of a sweet elderflower concoction, and, my favourite, a spoon of gin and tonic sorbet. All did their job of cleansing the palate and hinting at the artistry to come – and they didn’t count as a course.

  This was going to be a long night.What followed was a feast for the eyes and the tastebuds.

 Think a Masterchef masterclass where John Torode has pulled off a blinder and Greg Wallace is, well, on a day off. The perfect culinary storm, in my opinion.

 Peters has clearly put his heart and soul into the menu, but never strays too far from his main theme – the best of British, sprinkled with creativity.

 Course one: Think you know beetroot? Think again. A light and clever dish that, with goat’s curd, makes the beetroot sing.

 Course two: Boudin Blanc. Influenced, I’m told, by the chef’s time at Brown’s Hotel in London. The white sausage is garnished with sweetcorn and rosemary.

 Course three: Green Miso. A fragrant deep green soup with scallop, prawns and, yes, that hardy Yorkshire octopus.

 Course four: Wood pigeon with mushrooms and black truffle. Earthy and divine.

 Course five: The eye opener. Deliberately added to the menu to get you thinking, apparently. This is a green salad sorbet with a kind of jellified olive in the middle. My wife loved it, the husband jury is still out.

 Course six: Hands up if you’ve eaten salsify. A rarely used veg which with bacon and salmon roe, works wonderfully well.

 Course seven: Parts one two: Waterford Farm pork done on two dishes; one what looks like a Masterchef technical test, the other simplicity itself. The part two is wonderful. Pork with a crispy melt in the mouth skin, accompanied by a splodge of apple sauce and batter-coated ball of black pudding. Exceptional.

 Course eight: Chaource apricot. A French cheese with apricot, which is apparently best enjoyed with a glass of bubbly (isn’t everything?).

 Course nine: Popcorn. But this is no ordinary popcorn. A creamy popcorn flavoured sorbet with a malty, sea salty caramel goo lurking in its depths.

 Course ten: So good he named it thrice, Apple Apple Apple. As the title suggests, this course is a mix of at least three different apples, rendered into sorbets of sweet, but distinctive, flavours accompanied by an apple pudding and cup of Black Swan tea.

 The Black Swan has earned two AA rosettes and is gunning for three this year. With Paul Peters at the helm of the kitchen, they must surely be in the bag … with a Michelin star beckoning.

 A brilliant menu that delivers for all the senses.

 But was the big question answered? Can a 10-course meal reflect 10 years of marriage?

 Well, both have left me wanting more if that’s any indication …


The Black Swan Hotel, Market Place, Helmsley, North Yorkshire, YO62 5BJ.Tel: 01439 770466. The 10-course Signature menu is £65. To stay overnight, the To Dine For option costs £209 per couple and includes sweet treats on arrival, the 10-course taster menu, accommodation in a double or twin guest room and a full traditional Yorkshire breakfast.