It’s late November and the latest lockdown draws to a close, being replaced by a ‘Tier’ system which sees almost all of England in Tiers 2 and 3, and a huge proportion in Tier 3. With either system the hospitality industry is hammered; in Tier 2 you must have ‘a substantial meal’ with your pint, and in Tier 3 the places are all shut. All of this started in March and quite few people (including a large posse of Tory MPs) are revolting…yes, you know what we mean though. Protesting, right? It doesn’t bode well if Boris manages to pick fights with even his own side. Theresa May was better than Boris at that and look what happened to her.
So, apart from the Angel at Hetton quite a while ago, we haven’t managed to grace a restaurant with our presence for weeks. Nonetheless we soldier on, aided by a growing selection of recipe books. After years of reading Ottolenghi’s recipes and deciding life was too short to get to the end of the list of ingredients, we’re now avid fans; our copy of ‘Simple’ has many, many splattered and stained pages of wonderful recipes. Do try it.
Being sunny North Yorkshire there are lots of wonderful walks to be ticked off. Almost every day sees the intrepid pair set off discovering new or revisiting old treasured favourites. Striding out through the Dales under a cobalt blue Yorkshire sky…
We were all geared up for a short family Christmas in Scotland but – and we have to say we weren’t in the least surprised – Boris called the whole thing off. We weren’t going to drive 200 miles each way for one day – we can wait until better times. So, looking forward to dining à deux, we broke the habit of a lifetime and [having rightly anticipated the boosterish change of mind from on high] pre-ordered a take-away. And some take-away it was.
We’ve seen quite reviews now of ‘restaurants at home’. Some, like Northcote for example, might be great but you have to sit by your computer ready to order between 12:00 and 12:01:15 – otherwise they’re all gone. Worse than Glastonbury. We opted for Christmas Dinner by Tommy Banks of the Black Swan at Oldstead, and Roots in York. OK, so not cheap at £120 – and you had to go to York on Christmas Eve to collect [hurrah a day out!].
A sturdy cardboard box, lined with sheep’s wool insulation, and an un-wrapped bottle of Newton Johnson’s 2019 Walker Bay Pinot Noir [very, very nice] thrust into your hand. Yes there’s some plastic inside, but it’s fairly minimal. Inside beautifully prepared and neatly packed treats. We start off with a loaf [yes, a whole loaf] of Haxby Sourdough and Haford Cheddar Custard, followed by Cold Smoked Salmon. The stuffed turkey and associated trimmings, chicory root and chocolate fondants, and root vegetable mince pies completed the feast. Truly a feast.
Tommy Banks went into the take-away venture properly. Partnering with True Foods just outside Ripon, who normally provide lots of sauces for the catering trade, meant that a first-class production line already existed. So successful is the venture, that it will continue beyond proper restaurant opening. If you haven’t heard of True Foods, their 10-place ‘restaurant’ in a shed in North Yorkshire [their experimental kitchen] achieved a perfect score of 10 from Giles Coren. Yes, unbelievably, he’s been out of London…
So popular are the Tommy Banks meals that, booking through the website, you’re now in a queue. At a recent try we were number 17,441 in the queue, with a wait of several hours, and then most was already sold out. Definitely worse than Glastonbury…but worth it.