A pretty 14th century thatched inn located in the picturesque village of Harome on the edge of the North York Moors is as good a place as any to hide away The Star Inn, a famous Michelin-starred restaurant. York on a Fork‘s Ben Thorpe puts it to the test…
Fine dining and informality don’t always make for happy bedfellows, but when the appropriate quantities and the right setting come together, they can do a great job of removing the stifling formality that can frustrate some people’s efforts to enjoy great food.
While up here in Yorkshire we can certainly provide you with plenty of places that will happily turn formality into an occasion, we also have a strong contingent who are happy to let the food be the occasion, such as the Michelin-starred Star Inn at Harome.
This pretty thatched pub has been a fixture in Harome, just 20 miles north from York, on the edge of the Moors, for many years and has earned many accolades under the stewardship of Chef Patron Andrew Pern, including that coveted Michelin star. The success that Pern has enjoyed here has led him to open two more restaurants, The Star Inn the City in York and The Star Inn the Harbour in Whitby, expanding his “Pernshire” empire.
Harome is also home to The Pheasant, which I was invited along to only a few weeks ago, and it’s also possible to book packages that include meals across both of these superb restaurants through The Pheasant’s website.
Despite its gilded reputation, the Star at Harome has never lost sight of its role as a village pub and, while it’s off the cards at the moment thanks to the complications we face at present, it’s perfectly possible to rock up for a pint and a sandwich at the end of a walk. There’s even a “locals menu” that, while limited in scope, offers two courses for £20.
Thankfully budget wasn’t an issue for this visit, so we made the most of a warm welcome before taking a table and settling in for the long haul.
We kicked off with a few snacks, including Lindisfarne oysters with a sorrel and elderflower dressing, mini game kebabs, and mini potato and onion pie with black garlic ketchup. Oysters don’t feature toward the top of my to-do list but, when they’re as fresh and well accented as these, I’ll happily live with them. The pie was artfully constructed and packed powerful overtones of black garlic, while the cute mini game kebab brought aioli and fermented cabbage into the mix for a well-developed mouthful to finish on before we began on starters.
We’d chosen octopus and halibut, the former being slow-braised and coal-roasted before being served with a “Goose Fat White Bean Whip”, black cabbage and studs of bold chorizo. Well cooked octopus is a joy, as was this dish which was a luxuriant start to the meal proper. The fatty “whip” balanced with the chorizo heat perfectly, and the octopus was given plenty of space to breath.
Halibut tartare was inevitable as soon as I realised there was something raw on the day’s specials menu and didn’t disappoint with a heady combination of black garlic, Pommery mustard and cured egg yolk drawing every ounce of potential out of the fish. This came accompanied by a shot of red cabbage gazpacho, delicately balanced with herbs and happily refreshing. Next up was a mid-course of scallop with a deeply nuanced dashi that kept up the meal’s momentum beautifully.
For mains, we went with locally shot fallow deer and Rievaulx partridge, zeroing in on the sense of locality central to the Star’s offering. A relatively rare meat, the partridge came with smoked beets and quince as well as spiced fruit and nuts for a delicately balanced plate.
The deer pushed things up another notch too with perfectly cooked loin joined by parsnip and an elderberry topped “Pluck Tart”, which will ensure that this dish remains in my memory for a long time. While the meat had been treated with the utmost care and was beyond reproach, the tart paired a deeply flavoured earthy, gamey filling with huge flavour that never threatened the balance of the element, particularly being reigned in by the elderberries. The key question of this was the constituent of the tart’s filling, which perhaps is best left mysterious for those particularly squeamish, suffice to say it was “offal-y good.”
I lack much in the way of a sweet tooth so the presence of a savoury finale is the proverbial red rag for me, this time in the form of a Baron Bigod and caramelised onion quiche that called in truffle, marjoram and chive for heavy-duty backup to the brie-style main ingredient. This was a predictably show-stopping end to the meal which pulled off the impressive contradiction of being a refreshing, light cheese course.
I think by now it should be pretty clear that I’m a fan of The Star. It’s been a feature of the food scene in Yorkshire for a long time and continues to be one of the finest in the region. That’s only half of the trick though; this meal gave the kitchen ample opportunity to show off, but what’s most striking is how the sense of occasion is derived.
I’ve had plenty of meals in starched restaurants in which you feel that the clientele wouldn’t be too bothered if the standard dropped off a bit as long as the staff continue suitable deference. Here though the surroundings are relaxed enough to facilitate a convincing role as a village pub while giving staff the platform to deliver the sense of occasion that a meal such as this deserves.
The Star Inn has had a starring role in my love of food and Yorkshire over the last decade or so and I don’t doubt will continue to play a key role, both for me, its locals in Harome, and those that make it a destination.