All good things must come to an end. The Cleveland Tontine was built in 1804 and thanks to the London to Sunderland Mail Coach, it became a popular resting place for travellers. With the arrival of the steam engine and the decline of ‘horse’ power the Tontine became a private residence known as Ingleby House. Rush forward a few years and in September 1976 the McCoy brothers took over and within a few years the Cleveland Tontine’s regional and national reputation was firmly established. It was quirky [to say the least…ed] but very, very fashionable – we’re talking fashionable with knobs on here in North Yorkshire.
The McCoy brothers had history. In our youth [!] we went to ‘The Kirk’ – the Kirkleavington Country Club near Yarm – real bands and cool music, run by John McCoy, himself a talented musician who played with many of the bands as they came to the Kirk. Following a spell with John running a restaurant at the Kirk, brothers Eugene, Tom and Peter McCoy opened the restaurant at the Tontine, described by The Independent…
…a curious experience in rural North Yorkshire. Packed with parasols, it was like a stage set from Les Parapluies de Cherbourg and the extravagant dishes were equally theatrical.
Well it was simply fabulous. Downstairs was the bar, where you could order a dish or two from the restaurant above. We shared a table with our electrician one evening, as he and a friend drank some beer, whilst we had a main course from the restaurant above. Upstairs was elegant and eclectic; the boys had visited some great places in Paris, and created a unique atmosphere. Mostly visited by ICI executives, footballers and football managers, we saved up £25 [in 1977!] to celebrate out 3rd wedding anniversary. It was only just enough. Memorable signature dishes – seafood pancake, hot black cherries in Kirsch with vanilla ice cream [not available at Eugene’s new place, the Crathorne Arms] and Chicken JoJo – bring it back! The McCoys expanded – a restaurant on the river in York, one at the top of the Baltic Mill Gallery in Newcastle, designing menus for GNER, a little restaurant in Yarm [in Strickland and Holt’s shop] and a replacement for the Baltic in Mosley Street, Newcastle…but these were short lived. When asked if he would soon retire, he said…
Firstly, I haven’t got the money, and secondly, I’d be absolutely bored rigid.
But, all good things must come to an end. After some financial shortcomings – and Eugene being declared bankrupt – the McCoys sold out to Charles and Angela Tomkins, who made their money in the local oil industry. We did an extension to the Tomkins house when they lived in Northallerton, and Charles was the first person we knew who had a car phone in his Jag. Although they spent lots of money, and brought Raymond Blanc in as a consultant, it was never the same. Oddly put together dishes [lost of meat and fish…on the same plate!], untrained staff and empty tables. In the end they sold to Provenance Inns, who vowed to make it their flagship. Alas, it’s more of the same and, in 2018, it swopped its Michelin Star for a 1 star food hygiene rating. Admittedly the Michelin Star was fleeting and quite a way in the past, but the food hygiene rating was right up to date.
Restaurant McCoys’ at the Tontine; not to be confused with the current Tontine run by Provenance Inns
See also The Purple Onion