Chef Steve Smith not only regained the Burlington's Michelin star a year after joining the fine-dining restaurant - the following year he added four AA rosettes. Kerstin Kühn pays a visit to North Yorkshire.
With its rolling hills and rich history, the Yorkshire Dales is arguably one of the most beautiful parts of England. But it's not just the ancient architecture and lush countryside that make this area worth a trip up North: the Devonshire Arms Country House Hotel in Bolton Abbey is equally beguiling - not least thanks to its fine-dining restaurant, the Burlington, where executive head chef Steve Smith is in charge of the kitchen.
Known for his innovative and skilful modern cooking, which he describes as ingredient and flavour driven, Smith has held a Michelin star for the past decade at establishments including Holbeck Ghyll in Cumbria and Seaham Hall in County Durham. He joined the Burlington in 2008 following the departure of Michael Wignall and continued his run of accolades, regaining the restaurant's star in 2009 and, this year, winning four AA rosettes.
The 55-seat restaurant typically serves between 40 and 50 covers a night with about 65% of diners staying in the hotel. Smith currently serves dinner five nights a week as well as lunch on Sunday - overseeing a brigade of eight chefs whose remit also includes breakfast, bar food and the popular afternoon tea.
Diners at the Burlington choose from three different menus: the à la carte priced £65 for three courses; a six-course tasting menu for £72 (plus £40 with paired wines); and the nine-course menu prestige at £80 (plus £50 with wines).
Added extras include a palate cleanser of grapefruit and basil mojito comprising a basil sorbet served with a surprisingly fizzy grapefruit foam - the fizz comes from a soda cartridge - as well as a rich and brightly coloured amuse-bouche of pumpkin soup, which, spiced with juniper berries and served with a range of mushroom textures, is a lovely nod to the changing seasons.
Of the first courses, the most popular option is a scallop dish, which is served with celeriac purée, truffle, smoked eel and apple and accounts for nearly 50% of all starters served. Sourced from the west coast of Scotland, Smith gets three weekly deliveries and goes through anything up to 300 scallops per week. "It's a classic combination of scallop, truffle and celeriac but it has evolved over the years," the chef says. "I added smoked eel to give it a bit of earthiness and apple to add an element of freshness and crispness."
Set within the Duke of Devonshire's 30,000-acre Bolton Abbey Estate, the chefs at the Devonshire Arms - and its sister property the Devonshire Fell - have access to the estate's kitchen garden during the warmer months. Here they harvest a variety of lettuce and herbs, including wood sorrel, mint, baby onions and peas, as well as root vegetables such as beetroot which Smith uses in his starter of venison tartare.
While there is deer on the estate, the chef rarely gets access to it and 90% of his venison comes from Cartmel Valley Game in Cumbria. "Three different textures of beetroot accompany the venison in this dish - marinated candy beetroot, roast red, white and yellow baby beetroot salad, and white beetroot purée," says Smith. "They add really vibrant colours to the plate which is great, especially in the autumn." The dish is then finished off with a tarragon emulsion - almost like a mayonnaise - and fresh sorrel, also from the garden.
"It's great to have the garden. While we don't save an awful lot of money as we have to pay the gardeners, it makes all the world of difference to have access to produce that is so fresh."
A stalwart on Smith's menu is the smoked beef, which stays on throughout the year although the garnishes vary according to the seasons. While the meat is accompanied with nettle risotto during the summer months, more recently this has been replaced by a risotto of flat-leaf parsley and will again change to Jerusalem artichoke and vanilla come January.
"The sirloin is aged around 50-55 days and we cook it sous-vide before smoking it lightly with oak chips in a digital smoker for 25 minutes," Smith explains.
He serves it with bone marrow, grelot onion, snails and braised cheek. For service, he blows smoke underneath a cloche, which is then lifted at the table giving the diners a lovely scent of the oak chip smoke the meat has been infused with. "It's a bit of theatre to give the guests an added wow factor," Smith says.
The Burlington, the Devonshire Arms Country House hotel, Bolton Abbey, Skipton, North Yorkshire BD23 6AJTel: 01756 710441http://www.thedevonshirearms.co.uk" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">www.thedevonshirearms.co.uk
What's on the menu
â- Foie gras ballotine, Goosnargh duck textures, cherry gel, brioche
â- Salmon "mi-cuit", crab, avocado and wasabi, caviar
â- Veal sirloin, sweetbread, tongue sweet corn, girolles, Madeira
â- Sea bass, shallot, nettle purée, bacon, snails, red wine
â- Textures of lamb, broccoli purée, tomato, olive gnocchi, goats' cheese, rosemary jus
â- Mascarpone parfait, coffee, Amaretto, liquorice ice-cream
â- Mango cannelloni, passion fruit and banana gel, coconut sorbet, lime jelly
â- A selection of cheeses (£8 supplement)