Yorkshireman Paul Leonard has returned home to take over as head chef of the Burlington restaurant at the Devonshire Arms in Bolton Abbey, with a mission to do his county proud. Tom Vaughan reports
Leonard was given a simple brief when he took over the reins at the Burlington in July 2017: to get a buzz about the place again, and to do it in a style befitting the rural, country house hotel vibe of the Devonshire Arms. "If I started getting chefs serving food out of a nitrogen tank table-side, I think people would be raising eyebrows," he says. "It's about getting the food to fit the venue, and I knew that if we could do that, we'd be alright."
The result of the past eight months is a pared-down, classically inspired menu that puts Yorkshire front and centre, but also draws on Leonard's stints at the Isle of Eriska hotel, Andrew Fairlie's two-Michelin-starred restaurant at Gleneagles and London's Pétrus.
Witness a starter of scallop served with turnip and caviar. "When I was at Eriska you could see the Isle of Mull from my window, where diver Guy Grieves goes hand-diving for scallops. They're the best in the business, so we try to keep it light." Plump, meaty scallops are served with diced turnip and apple, diced raw scallops, fermented ramson capers and caviar. Before cooking, the scallops themselves are brushed with the ramson juice. "We use these extra seasonings here and there that we don't talk about, but they lift the whole profile of the dish," Leonard explains. He finishes the dish with an apple dashi sauce, refreshed with cider vinegar immediately before service.
Looking closer to home is a dish courtesy of the Duke of Devonshire, who owns the hotel and the surrounding Bolton Abbey estate. The vegetable garden at the duke's ancestral home, Chatsworth House in Bakewell, Derbyshire, provides beetroot, which Leonard serves salt-baked, pickled and raw.
nard's favourite dish is the pork cheek. "It's influenced by so many things - by my time at Eriska, by how I learned to make sauces at Andrew Fairlie." The cheek is braised with ginger and stock and with a cartouche of kelp. "We used to pick it from the beach at Eriska. It keeps the pork moist but also provides seasoning and a hit of umami," he says. The cheeks are served in the sticky reduced cooking liquor with plump langoustine, slices of lardo and sea kale for a glorious, sophisticated surf and turf.
Leonard's duck dish is the result of his proud Yorkshire roots. "Duck is associated with Gressingham in Lancaster, so I knew we had to find a Yorkshire duck. It has taken us months."
The ducks are sourced from a farm close to the hotel and are salt-aged for 12 days. When the legs are removed Leonard only needs to confit them for a few hours before folding them with duck liver and wrapping them inside a Hispi cabbage leaf that has been barbecued to bring out its sweetness. This meaty parcel is served alongside a roasted hunk of breast, a honey and five-spice sauce, some fresh curds with preserved lemon, and black garlic for a touch of fragrance, which Leonard describes as "just another one of those subtle flavourings". The result is a testament to his classical, unfussy cooking, built around sourcing exquisite ingredients and giving them enough space to sing.
f the first seven courses don't see anything as flashy as a water-bath or espuma gun, Leonard allows pastry chef Phil Harris the freedom to get technical. For an exceptional dish of pickled Yorkshire rhubarb with a nasturtium foam, Harris makes nasturtium oil, infuses it with cream, then aerates and freezes it. "The end result melts in the mouth," says Leonard. This is served with crème fraÁ®che and mini nasturtium leaves. It's an uncommon flavour combination, but it works - the pepperiness of the leaves really complement the sweet yet slightly tart rhubarb.
As Leonard is more than happy to point out, he is following in illustrious footsteps at the Burlington. How far does he want to take it? "I had a staff briefing the other day and I said that we can talk about accolades if we want to because that's how we are measured by our peers. But if we have a full restaurant with 50 happy customers, accolades will come."
The Burlington, the Devonshire Arms, Bolton Abbey, Bolton Bridge, Skipton BD23 6AJ
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