The Feversham Arms and Verbena Spa’s Gourmet Getaway package is the perfect mini-break for foodies. Georga Spottiswood tucks into a six-course tasting menu and stays in the new penthouse-style poolside suite.
A digital detox is good for the soul and in the quaint little market town of Helmsley lies The Feversham Arms and Verbena Spa – the perfect place to switch off from the world, tuck into good, honest food and enjoy a bottle of bubbly by the outdoor heated pool.
It had been around eight years since my last visit, and back then, the restaurant served up fancy, small-portioned dishes and the spa suites were decked out in a rustic, county house style.
Now, this Yorkshire hideaway features a tasting menu that strays away from the norm and has recently renovated six pool suites, including a stunning new penthouse-style poolside suite.
Tucked away in the hotel eaves, the penthouse-style suite is cosy, intimate, and modern with shades of grey and teal combined with mango wood furniture and soft gold furnishings – creating a more sophisticated space.
With its own living room, bedroom, and bathroom – featuring a double-ended bath, monsoon shower and Temple Spa products – and a private staircase to the pool, it offers the ultimate luxury and privacy for couples looking for that little bit extra from their staycation.
Management has been mindful to use local tradespeople, craftsmen and independent retailers in the renovation, supporting the rural community in Helmsley, and the neighbouring Kirkbymoorside and Pickering.
Frazzled from sleepless nights due to having a 9-month-old that loves to party at 3am, the Mr and I collapsed into the plump sofas and popped the cork on the bottle of Champagne V. Testulat that’s included in the Gourmet Getaway package.
While this stunning suite is hard to pull yourself away from, The Feversham Arms has so much to offer when it comes to rest, relaxation and fantastic food – so we slipped on the fluffy robes and slippers that were supplied and made our way down the private staircase to the pool.
The Verbena Spa
Songs of the chiffchaffs filled the sky as we sipped on our bubbles in the mild March air while lounging by the pool. Although The Feversham Arms is just over an hour to reach from Durham, 1.30 hours from Newcastle and just over an hour from Leeds, it creates that holiday-mode feeling and you get a sense that you’ve been whisked away to the Mediterranean.
As well as the heated pool there’s an outdoor hot tub as well as an indoor aromatherapy room, saunarium, steam room, monsoon shower and foot spas. The relaxation lounge is the perfect spot to curl up and read a book and there are plenty of Temple Spa treatments available, too.
The sustainable philosophy and community spirit is also one which can be seen on the hotel’s Weathervane Restaurant menu.
It is headed up by Jon Appleby, who is hugely passionate about nose-to-tail dining. Having been at The Feversham Arms for just over a year, Jon’s been on a journey to discover what lies on the doorstep, incorporating the likes of wild garlic and watercress into his menus.
“When I first came to the hotel I stood in the middle of Helmsley and thought, ‘What have I got’? It started this whole journey of discovering local producers: from Willowdene Farm which supplies our watercress and trout to Park House Barns, in Ampleforth which supplies our chocolates. It’s an enterprise for Autism Plus, and the money goes back to the charity.
This is what I have been chipping away at, getting local producers on board – and it’s going extremely well.”
The Gourmet Getaway features Jon’s six-course tasting menu. There’s nothing stuffy about it, just good, honest food with dishes that are simple and flavoursome.
“Tasting menus are often known for being prestigious but I wanted to offer a tasting of the a la carte menu. That’s what I believe a tasting menu should be; smaller portions from the a la carte dishes,” explained Jon.
Two starters, two mains and two desserts can be found on Jon’s tasting menu and first up was the beef dripping and bread. Warm sourdough was served with a rich beef consommé and whipped bone marrow, which was light and fluffy.
I usually always opt for something else over a terrine, but Jon’s cornfed chicken terrine served with a dried-cured ham, Medjool date and a thin slice of parkin was outstanding. The caramel notes from the date and hints of ginger from the crispy parkin worked wonderfully with savoury terrine.
The first of the mains was the North Sea halibut with mussel broth, roast celeriac and saffron potato. Presentation and flavour were a knock-out, and the waiters have some skill to ensure the dish arrives perfectly at the table on those plates.
The standout dish was the Yorkshire braised beef shin with hen of the wood mushroom, baby carrot and black truffle. It was tender and rich in flavour and the black truffle added a lovely, earthy touch.
Jon’s worked hard in the last year to find the right brigade to work with him on curating the right menus for guests. Callum was trained by Jon at another venue when he was just 17 but is now sous chef at The Feversham and Mark has come on board from Middlesbrough College, where Jon teaches once a week.
Having the right kitchen team is something that has hit the hospitality industry hard in the last few years – with many chefs leaving their roles post covid, but it’s clear this brigade is onto a winning formula – as their dedication and passion shine through each dish.
The pre-dessert is a roast pineapple with coconut sorbet, chilli and coriander but the star of the sweet treats is a rich chocolate delice with a brownie base, hazelnut ice cream, candied hazelnut and chocolate glaze.
Although some tasting menus can leave you feeling hungry, Jon and his team are generous with portion sizes and each dish is perfectly balanced with the right ingredients.
“We aren’t constantly changing the menus either,” said Jon. “I am more about changing items when they come in and go out of season. The lamb has changed to dry-aged duck and we use every part of each animal – even the carcass for the sauce. My whole ethos is about using the whole animal and I am massively passionate about nose-to-tail cooking. Fergus Henderson is my hero and I have his book. He gave me the idea of ensuring there’s no waste – and that’s what we try and do.”
Relaxation was still on the menu after our food, and we enjoyed a drink in the hotel’s guest areas which include a snug where you can unwind with a board game or two.
The market town of Helmsley itself has a fantastic selection of independent shops, a 900-year-old Castle and you’ll find 450 acres of spectacular gardens, parklands and nature reserve at Duncombe Park.
The Gourmet Getaway Package
With the Gourmet Getaway package guests can experience the true taste of The Feversham with a gourmet getaway. Arrive from 3pm to a bottle of house Champagne in your room. Relax before indulging in a truly delightful six-course tasting menu per person in the Weathervane restaurant. In the morning, tuck into a full Yorkshire breakfast. The offer includes use of the spa facilities from check in at 3pm until check out at 11am. Valid all week long. A vegetarian tasting menu is available. From £347* for two people in a Classic Room.