So, cataclysmic change. You’ll find an entry (eulogy) in this blog for the Yorke Arms at Ramsgill, in Nidderdale. Place of worship, scene of many, many celebratory meals over many years. Not in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, but the Nidderdale AOB, and maybe all the better for that. After Francis Atkins decided to sell up in 2017, our hopes rose as Jonathan Turner bought it and persuaded Francis to stay. After a fairly thorough (and some might say needed…) refit we went to stay, in ‘Rhubarb’, and had simply the most delightful tasting menu. We’ve always liked the Yorke Arms for its straightforward menu, but we were more than happy. Delirious. Relaxing in the lounge, studying the menu, felt like home.
You certainly couldn’t describe us as regulars – not in the ‘we come here every week’ type – but every major birthday with/without friends and family saw us don our boots, walk up to Middlesmoor and maybe across to Scar dam and the Dales edge, before back for a glass of wine, dinner and bed.
So what went wrong? Covid, that’s what. We went for a ‘set lunch’ in mid-March, just before lock down. After that the Yorks Arms closed, finally to reopen as a ‘destination venue’ for parties. What? Apparently you can have ‘fine dining’ or fish’n’chips. Or noodles we expect. So, off the list. A few years ago we tried (three ‘phone calls) to book it for a wedding anniversary party (our hundredth from memory) but no one rang us back. Now it’s all you can have.
But wait, all is not lost! Francis and team ‘pop up’ in a shiny Airstream caravan parked in a Garden Centre carpark, in the ominously named Killinghall, a short bun-throw from Harrogate. It might be liberating but it does seem a bit strange. After the precision and discipline of 16 years of a Michelin Star this is definitely different. How different we set out to find out.
The shiny Airstream caravan is parked right outside the entrance to Daleside Plant Nursery, with a couple of outside tables and then perhaps 7 or 8 inside the glasshouses. Simple, delightful food, cooked on the spot and served by the Yorke Arms trio. They seem to have found their niche without all the pressure of endlessly repetitive Michelin style cooking. You can see why chefs give up their ‘Stars’ and concentrate on producing good, tasty food we can all enjoy. We’ve remembered how to fold our lamb ‘wrap’ now, so the juices don’t all run out of the bottom. We’ll try it again soon. Go quickly before Jay Rayner gets there first…