An unassuming little gem found inside Aykley Heads House. A place that transforms from midday to night; a light and airy inn by day, the perfect backdrop for laid-back lunches, and a cosy, twinkly bistro-style spot for intimate dinners come nightfall. We popped in for some midweek lunch, but would definitely consider grabbing some supper here come the weekend.
It’s recently been revamped to reflect its classic food offering. Think freshly-painted cream walls, rustic beamed ceilings, crisp white table cloths, plush mahogany seating and sparkling silverware. There’s a gentle, easy-going vibe here – a one that makes a lunch break feel like a lovely, lazy affair – and it’s comfortably full pretty much all day. Very popular with locals and visitors, who stop by to tuck in to traditional grub with a sophisticated twist.
All your usual wines, beers, ales and ciders, including a few locally-brewed favourites. A glass of red and a G&T suited us just fine on this occasion.
Lovely seasonal plates, pairing high-quality meats, fish and seafood – everything from Yorkshire and Raby Estate venison and North Sea cod to whole-roasted sea bream, duck breast, seared scallops and oxtail – with uncomplicated, vibrant sides (buttery greens, new potatoes and fresh mixed salads) imaginative dressings and extras (ever had cod with onion bhajis?). Even simple dishes, like the kitchen’s version of haggis Scotch egg, pea and ham hock soup, crab salad and its version of bruschetta, are crafted with care and flair – really good-looking and bursting with fresh flavour.
For us, fresh halibut (£24.50) – a thick, juicy fillet – simply grilled, with smooth pea puree, homemade tartare sauce and golden hand cut chips for dipping. A posh version of fish n chips, really, that went down like a treat. There’s nothing quite like a big, flaky hunk of fish, served fresh as-can-be and so delicate that it melts in your mouth. The puree was surprisingly fragrant; well-seasoned, with a gentle hum of garlic running throughout, and the tartare was chunky and tart – just how we like it. After polishing off a bowl of velvety artichoke soup, our dining chum went for confit pork shoulder, part of a special lunchtime offer on at the time (look out for a similar menu when you visit – they change seasonally). The meat arrived pull-apart tender, smothered in a rich, jus-like gravy, with a side of black pudding mash (a fluffy mix of creamed white potato and smoky black pudding) and crunchy green beans for some bite. Demolished in seconds. We shared a pud – iced banana parfait with roasted, almost caramelised, hazelnuts and a generous drizzling of hot chocolate sauce. Again, posh banana and chocolate, but oh-so delicious.