Perched on the edge of the North York Moors National Park lies the quaint market town of Helmsley. With its bustling market square, dramatic castle ruins, high-quality independent shops & other popular tourist attractions such as the Walled Gardens & the National Centre for Birds of Prey, the town has long been a haven for tourists who want to explore some of the best terrain that Britain has to offer.
Presiding over the aforementioned market square is one of the jewels in Helmsley’s crown, the iconic Black Swan Hotel. This traditional coaching inn is the stand-out building that first catches your eye upon arrival to the town due to its rather inimitable exterior. When you look at the building front on, you can see how the hotel is comprised of three different houses. On the right is an Elizabethan building in which you can find the Black Swan’s award winning tea room and the hotel reception. In the middle is a Georgian building containing, amongst other things, the stylish, contemporary yet comfortable Cygnet Bar. On the left, and rather unique to Helmsley, is a black and white house. The three buildings combine to give the hotel a completely authentic and special vibe.
On arrival we are greeted with a big smile from the reception team and the process of checking in to our room is seamless and easy. We’re staying in a Junior Suite which is located in the oldest part of the hotel. On our way through to the room, you can’t help but notice the exposed Tudor beams in this part of the building, which is another satisfyingly authentic touch to the hotel.
As we walk through the door to our room, there’s a cosy lounge to our right with a sofa, wardrobe and TV in there – the window looks out onto the churchyard next door and whilst we sit in here for a while, the soft chimes from the church bells only help to relax us more into our stay. The en suite bathroom is contemporary and chic, with a big deep bath, a shower and a selection of aromatic complimentary Molton Brown toiletries that smell divine.
The bedroom in the Junior Suite is next door and contains a large and delightfully comfortable bed that you could just lie on for hours and hours. The window in the room looks out onto the market square. It’s a beautiful, sunny day and the square is full of happy faces as kids wander by with their ice creams in hand as their parents lead them to their next Helmsley adventure. It’s busy in the town but yet it’s still so tranquil and peaceful.
Before we head to dinner, we decide to make a quick pit stop at the Cygnet Bar. This is the perfect place to relax and unwind before we eat. It also happens to be a place of significant interest to anyone who may have a penchant for the odd gin and tonic as their selection is excellent, with a wide selection on offer, including all the big Yorkshire favourites such as Masons, Slingsby and Whittakers.
We head through to the Gallery Restaurant next, which is bright and spacious. We’re greeted at the door by the restaurant team who show us to our table. The team are friendly and knowledgeable too, offering advice on what drinks would best complement our meal and talking us through each dish in depth. There are many things about The Black Swan Hotel that are impressive, but perhaps it is their culinary excellence which stands out most of all. We opt for their Tasting Menu and we are not disappointed.
Created by the hotel’s Head Chef, Alan O’Kane, their Tasting Menu is designed to showcase the full repertoire of their current seasonal menus. All of the food we are served is delicious. There’s the most beautifully cooked piece of sea bass with white asparagus, smoked mussels & lardo, there’s the smoothest duck liver with cocoa, pain d'épice and fermented rhubarb that is as unique as it is tasty but it is perhaps the desserts which leave the longest impression on me.
Firstly, a pre-dessert, (personally, I think more places should have pre-desserts, if they’re all this good) that on the menu just simply says Apricot, Yoghurt, Almond. What comes out is far more complex: a stunning parfait & ice cream combination which doesn’t last long at all. The main dessert, entitled “Snickers” must surely be the most luxurious twist on the famous chocolate bar ever as it combines a Vlalhrona délice with a baked toffee cake and a peanut butter ice cream – it is actually heaven on a plate.
After a truly delightful meal, we head to bed more than content and settle in for the night in the comfort of a large, plush bed.
When we rise, it becomes clear again that food is taken very seriously at The Black Swan as the breakfast on offer is superb. After polishing off a delicious serving of Eggs Benedict, it’s unfortunately time for us to pack our bags and head off. We leave with memories of a perfect stay though, and if you’re looking for a luxury place, with high class food and unbeatable service, then you shouldn’t look much further that The Black Swan Hotel – a wonderful place.
For more information on The Black Swan Hotel, head to their website http://www.blackswan-helmsley.co.uk/