We arrived in Pickering (a pretty little market town) late Monday afternoon just as the market was packing up, pity really as I love meandering round markets. Still, there seemed to be plenty of interesting little antique, art shops etc right on the doorstep (worthy of a little retail therapy I thought) - now where did I put that credit card!
Talking of shops, Clarissa Wright of Two Fat Ladies fame recently opened Swans the hotel's new specialist food shop providing a good selection of home made preserves, fresh local produce, wines etc and situated just a few doors away.
The White Swan originally built in 1532 as a cottage and later extended to become a coaching inn, used by smugglers moving salt from Whitby to York, is certainly steeped in history (if only those walls could talk!) This 12 bedroom hotel has all the modern amenities today's guest expects, yet with the traditional and the modern happily intertwining.
At reception we were greeted by a very courteous Angela and shown to a Junior Suite on the second floor (a favorite with visitors). The room is very large, light and airy, with views over the patio and countryside in the distance. The focus of one end is the outstanding antique bed with beautiful fabric covered headboard and matching bed cushions, side table, desk and an en-suite bathroom. At the other, a large comfy sofa beckons, just right for relaxing with one of the magazines provided, or watching TV. Everything in the room is individual, tasteful and clearly selected with great care.
Having settled in we headed off to the bar for pre-dinner drinks - an exploration in itself as you wander down the corridors finding something of interest at each turn. The bar is full of olde worlde charm, small but intimate, with beamed ceiling and a quaint open fireplace complete with basket of logs. Locals as well as residents frequent the bar and On entering the bar, where locals and guests intermingle comfortably, we readily joined the casual banter. Everyone, including the hotel staff, were friendly making for a very pleasant atmosphere.
Our friends, Wendy, Sandy and Susan from Ajax Canada, would have loved it here. (We say this because one highlight of their recent trip was visiting Whitby where Heartbeat was being filmed. It has been known for the cast of Heartbeat to drop in for a drink at the hotel!) A bar meal in the "snug" would also have been a great hit with them. A definite must for their next visit!
The Restaurant's excellent reputation for quality food was affirmed by more than one person; raising our expectations which were not disappointed. Each dish is beautifully presented and there's a huge selection of wines.
Malcolm opted for the Potted Crab with local watercress salad as a starter, which he thoroughly enjoyed and I, the Galia Melon with York Ham. The contrast of melon and smokey flavor of the ham was very interesting.
I followed this with Char grilled Fillet Steak, Chipped Potatoes, Bernaise, Field Mushrooms and Grilled Tomatoes and since my request for smaller portions and well cooked steak were met, I thoroughly enjoyed my meal. Malcolm's Steak and Kidney Pudding with Caramelised Onions, Creamed Potatoes, and market vegetables was equally delicious.
In addition, we came away with the recipe Marinaded Leg Of Lamb With Slow Cooked Tomato Sauce to get a sense for what we enjoyed.
For desert Malcolm ordered Glazed Lemon Tart with Lime Curd Ice Cream whilst I chose the Chocolate Pot with Grandmarnier Biscuits, a "must have" for the serious chocaholic. Oh, and I must own up to pinching some of Malcolm's Lemon Tart which I couldn't quite resist!
To summarize, we enjoyed our short stay and can understand why the hotel has visitors such as Jennifer Ehle - star of Pride & Prejudice, and Jeremy Northam who starred in Gosforth Park. Guests frequently convert to regulars, as has our new American friend. Victor Buchanan, the owner, said "He feels like one of the family".
Although Pickering is small and may be a bit quiet for those seeking the bright lights and razzle dazzle of the big city, it has many attractions including the famous Pickering steam railway (featured in the blockbuster movie Harry Potter and in Possession with Gwyneth Paltrow), a small museum, trout farm, and the showground which hosts special events throughout the year.
The Yorkshire Dales, Moors, coast, Flamingo Land for children, historical houses, and York, are all within easy driving distance. And it's great walking country.
Why not visit the hotel's website? It's full of information, describing all the rooms and facilities in detail. www.white-swan.co.uk
Tel: 01751 472288
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Malcolm & Jeanie Reid, May 2002
Tel: 01751 475554
Tel: 01751 472288
Malcolm & Jeanie Reid, May 2002