As everyone knows, food is a necessity; it’s up there with water, shelter and of course, love. Apparently, that’s all you need. Being a busy full-time working mum of three, I’m certainly not short of love, however when it comes to food, food has become a luxury. I class myself lucky when, after dinner my children leave a floret of broccoli on their plates prior to me whisking them off to yet another football or ballet class.
“I’m a Yorkshire lad and The Devonshire is the flagship of Yorkshire”
So when offered the opportunity to visit The Burlington Restaurant at The Devonshire Arms Hotel & Spa, Bolton Abbey for an evening titled ‘Provenance meets Decadence’ there was no hesitation, for one night only I had the good fortune of being able to sit down and eat all at the same time.
The evening promised to be an evening of fine dining and wines, sampling seasonal dishes created by their new Head Chef, Paul Leonard. Paul joined the Devonshire team in July this year and was so keen to secure his position at Burlington’s Restaurant, he literally drove all night from Oban in Scotland to Bolton Abbey, and as part of the interview process cooked up a ‘storm in the kitchen’ having his dishes scored by a Rosette judge. Previous to joining, Paul was Head Chef at the Michelin starred Isle of Eriske and has a string of foodie accolades under his apron, working alongside two Michelin starred Andrew Fairlies at Gleneagles, Senior Sous Chef at the Samling, Michelin-starred and Sous Chef at The Feversham Arms, Helmsley, which held three AA Rosettes.
“I was overjoyed to be offered the position of Head Chef. I’m a Yorkshire lad and The Devonshire is the flagship of Yorkshire. It’s the one restaurant that is the ‘go to’ place in Yorkshire.” When it comes to food, he really knows his onions. His passion is evident and he would be a millionaire overnight if his enthusiasm, skill and ardour could be bottled.
A stone’s throw away from the hotel is the Hotel’s very own kitchen garden and after afternoon tea Paul proudly gave me a guided tour. “It’s exciting because it changes every day,” he enthuses. “We’re digging out for next year and getting excited, although, I’m impatient. There’s nothing as fulfilling as planting then picking from the garden, bringing it into the kitchen, washing it, preparing it and then placing it on the plate. It’s the completeness of the job. Next year we’ll have a formidable operation here.”
A true food missionary Paul has many tasty plans, inspired by organic kitchen garden specialist, Ken Holland, his plot to plate, plate to palate philosophy has me salivating as the late autumnal afternoon slowly greets the evening. I, like Paul, am eager (and hungry) to try his new seven-course tasting menu with each of the courses incorporating an element of home-grown produce, whether it be from the Hotel’s Walled Kitchen Garden, or reared on the Bolton Abbey Estate.
While casually sipping on Champagne, prior to being seated for the evening meal, I was invited to the Duke of Devonshire’s wine cellar, or should I say cellars…stacked from floor to ceiling, there was wine from all four corners of the globe. An impressive stash and the perfect place to frequent if ever you were snowed in.
“Despite my initial reservations, I can honestly say ‘I’m a convert”
Each course of the delicious menu had been paired to perfection with the right wine by the sommelier to compliment Paul’s dishes, which, in effect, was six glasses of wine. I made a mental note, ‘I must behave myself!’ especially as I was dining with The Devonshire’s Hotel manager, Adam Dyke. Adam began his apprenticeship at The Devonshire before working his way up to becoming the manager and has gained a credible reputation in the hotel arena; recently he was named Boutique Hotelier General Manager of the Year, and it’s easy to see why. He too, shares Paul’s passion for fine dining, but puts his staff ’s happiness at the heart of the business. It’s not just about the vegetables growing, it’s about the people. Investing in people is paramount for Adam, like Paul, he too strongly believes that the two vital ingredients in the kitchen are confidence and happiness. Not only does The Devonshire grow its own produce it also believes in growing its staff. “We’re on a journey. Everyone is looking after each other and there is enjoyment on making people smile which I think is important,” grins Paul.
Now, I love food, however, since an early age I’ve never been a big fan of fish or seafood, I’ve tried it on numerous occasions and on each occasion decided, ‘never again’. However, I don’t want to appear churlish and after preparing myself, I decided to take the plunge and go along with the flow of the evening and taste everything despite it coming from the deep.
The first course was pork cheek and langoustine, fused together with truffle and celeriac, that’s right, the first course was seafood…and despite my initial reservations, I can honestly say ‘I’m a convert’…so when the second dish arrived, the fact that it featured smoked eel, didn’t faze me at all. The dish was accompanied by homegrown heritage carrots sprinkled with edible flowers. It was delicious and I finished the dish in a rather triumphant manner.
Radish from the garden daintily balanced on the Rose Veal; with dabs of Nasturtium leaves was my personal favourite. It was so ornate I was left unsure whether to eat it or wear it as an accessory, but eat it I did, having to stop myself from asking for more.
Every day at four in the morning, is when Paul orders his fish and seafood to ensure its quality and freshness and it was certainly a good morning’s fishing when John Dory landed on my plate along with artichoke and clams, each element of the dish complimented its fellow component beautifully.
The Chateauneuf De Pape proved to be the perfect accompaniment for the Yorkshire venison fused with onions and kale, yet another offering from the Devonshire Estate. “I like to cook dishes which contain a real feel of Yorkshire in them,” smiles Paul, and this was simply Yorkshire on a platter.
After a perfect palate cleanser of greenage (a type of plum), cucumber and Crème Fraiche, the meal was finished off with garden apples, blueberries and Yorkshire skye.
There’s something really happening here, Paul may be a talented Yorkshire chef, but he’s also an artist, a gardener and a visionary, and when Paul says: “This place is special and it deserves to be where it is,” I wholeheartedly agree. My luxurious stay at The Dev coupled with the amazing food isn’t something you forget about after leaving, it’s an investment in your memory bank that will stay with you forevermore.
Paul’s Quick fire questions
Yorkshire pudding or Lancashire hotpot? Yorkshire pudding
Jam roly poly or spotted dick? Jam roly poly
Cornish Pasty or Sausage Roll? Sausage roll
Scon or a scone? Scon
Stew and dumps or sausage and mash? Stew and dumps
Dripping butty or pork scratchings? Pork scratchings
The Devonshire Arms Hotel & Spa, Bolton Abbey, Skipton, North Yorkshire, BD23 6AJ. thedevonshirearms.co.uk 01756 710441 — Rooms start around £178/night and the tasting menu is £79.50/person plus wine.