Six best places to eat in Richmond, North Yorkshire – updated for 2012

The first version of this blogpost was published in 2009 and has proved to be one of the most searched for things on this blog so I thought it was about time it got updated for 2012.
Taking into account some off the feedback, some re-visiting and some new ventures opening have led to this new version of the whistlestop tour.
1. Pub grub
Last time I recommended the Black Lion Hotel in Finkle street but I’ve updated this after a few disappointing meals there more recently. This year’s recommendation is the George and Dragon in Hudswell. Just a couple of miles out of town and well worth the trip, the community pub that’s found favour with the television programme makers and locals alike has got into its stride with the food. You’re unlikely to encounter much Fijian food in these parts so it’s worth trying out the specials for that experience. The chicken stir-fry with noodles or the fish with banana are both easy introductions to an unfamiliar cuisine. Call: 01748 518373. Map on n0tice.com.
2. Cafe
Last time I mentioned the Cross View Ream Rooms (which remains good for home-cooked food) but this time I’d like to recommend Deli 10. On Darlington road near the island for the Co-op, this small venue has a well thought out menu of freshly prepared sandwiches, panini and cakes. The homemade soup is always well seasoned and piping hot and the salads with an interesting selection of leaves, walnuts and olives drizzled (not drowned) with dressing. The always friendly service is another bonus in a town where surly teenage waiting staff are the norm. Call: 01748 822114.
rustique
Salmon fishcakes

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3. Fine dining

We’re still struggling in this category with the Frenchgate Restaurant and Hotel the only place coming close but…. of the two more casual dining places to open up in the past few years, Rustique in Chantry Wynd is worth a try. Aside from the cliche theming of the decor (cancan, chat noir etc.), the food on offer is well priced and well-cooked. The menu is very much on the traditional side of French – rich and buttery. The meat dishes are large and attention is paid to the customer’s cooking preferences. The pleasant service also adds to make for a relaxed evening out. Call: 01748 821565. Map on n0tice.com.

4. Smart lunch
Last time I mentioned the Seasons Restaurant at The Station which is OK as far as cafe style service and menus go but the other addition to the town which is worth a try is La Piazza 2. The stylish decor and prompt service have quickly made this into one of the busiest eateries. Basically pizza and pasta which are well done. My only criticism is the lack of any dinner salads (just rather a dull side salad) and the extremely costly soft drinks. Call: 01748 825008.

5. Take-away
The Delhi-cious kitchen made the list last time and is still working away to deliver curries across the town but I thought I’d make an addition for the town centre itself in this update – Shanghai City in the Market Place. With it’s hand-written menu additions scribbled on bags pinned up on the wall, perusing the choices can be a bit haphazard but worth struggling through. Although the main menu is fairly standard Cantonese stuff, these specials include items such as massive dishes of udon noodles cooked in your choice of sauce or salt and pepper squid from the Malaysian cook. Call: 01748 825955.

kingsheadhotel6. Missed opportunity
I’ve added this category in because of the disappointment first at the closure of the excellent Frenchgate cafe and also about the way the landmark King’s Head Hotel has proved to be in recent times. What a fabulous building, what lovely new decor and add to that the interesting menu and the selection of wines – this should be the jewel in crown for the town. Why then is it so often empty? Having seen people wait more than an hour to be handed a menu and then marching out in exasperation as teenage waitresses gossip ignoring their efforts to order or have the tables cleared – it’s not difficult to understand why. I seriously hope summer 2012 will see its return to form as well as the Frenchgate cafe finding a new owner.

The Bolton Arms, Downholme

The Bolton Arms is one of those pubs where food writers rarely tread. Not because it doesn’t deserve writing about, but because country pubs in northern locations rarely figure on the radar of any national news organisation and really rural ones like this stand even less chance – unless of course you can get a celebrity name on the door.

Tucked away a little from the better trod honeypot Dales locations, it’s a place well-known to locals, but of little interest to those seeking to fill  newspaper column inches.

There’s just two framed and presented newspaper clippings on the wall – one from The Northern Echo’s brilliant Mike Amos (who rated its crackling as ‘fit for royalty’) back in 2001 and a faded page from the Darlington & Stockton Times in 1936. (The D&S also published this online review back in 2007).

So, while you can enjoy browsing a copy of Yorkshire Life tucked up in the bar, it’s unlikely you’ll ever read about this place in the Sunday supplements or the London-centric world of food critics.

Maybe the approach road isn’t the most conventionally welcoming.

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Driving past the sign, and then two very wet looking snipers lying in the mud under canvas pointing watchful eyes and guns in our direction, we crossed the high MoD land and soon dropped down the hill into the pretty village of Downholme, surrounded by the spectacular scenery of the rugged Swaledale.

At busy times there’s a conservatory style dining room to take advantage of the views, but on a wet Wednesday, the cosy bar become our shelter.

The speciality of the house is its kleftiko (£13.95) which the chalked up menu board helpfully advises is “a Cypriot lamb dish cooked long and slow”.

The pub’s been selling this for years and it’s one of the reasons so many people seek it out.

A huge piece of the tenderest lamb on the bone you’re likely to encounter, served with a redcurrant gravy. Quite how long it is cooked to get it quite so tender I have no idea – it certainly is an experience although one I have never yet managed to finish.

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The accompanying veg are plainly cooked and plentiful but my one criticism is the huge helping of gravy you get whether you want it or not.

This compulsory sea of brown is commonplace around these parts, no doubt even mentioning it will prompt an eye-rolling acknowledgement of bringing along my city ways!

But would it really be a problem to ask if gravy is welcome? Or too gimmicky to offer it in a separate jug?

This is small criticism though as the meal, the service and the ambiance at The Bolton Arms are warm, friendly and straightforward.

The rest of the menu follows the traditional meat cuts route – steaks, roasts stuffed with black pudding, liver and mash etc.

17062009118This isn’t really a place for vegetarians – there’s usually just a couple of dull sounding pasta type offerings  on the board – but there is a good selection of fresh fish dishes for the less carnivorous visitor.

Puds are as large and traditional as the mains, if you could ever manage one, and the whole experience is one of robust home-cooking.

It’s a Black Sheep pub and there’s a decent wine list with weekly specials.

Nothing fancy, just hearty fare, happily free of journo types –  well, until now 😉

Find The Bolton Arms at Downholme – DL11 6AE. Map here. Grid ref: SE113979. Tel: 01748 823716. There’s also B&B available.

Heading over the hills

The foodie trail is leading me over The Pennines for while.

Expanding out of north west, I’ll be having a look at what’s on offer in what has to be England’s most scenic landscape – North Yorkshire.

There will be a short break in postings here while I get my bearings and broadband,  then normal service should be resumed, Dales-style.

And recommendations or suggestions, as ever, gratefully received in the meantime.