A PUNTER’S VIEW OF Shaun Rankin at Grantley Hall, Ripon, North Yorkshire, by Savour Writer Dave MacKay
As we pulled up at the front of Grantley Hall, after a picturesque drive up the gravel drive through the extensive gardens, we were compelled to enquire of the taxi driver as to whether there was some sort of car festival on that night given the plethora of Bentleys, Porches and other associated Special Editions which were parked along the impressive frontage.
“No” was the answer, “They’re just the customers’ cars”. Thus it was that we were introduced to the grandeur and splendour that is Grantley Hall.
It has 47 rooms, three bars, a spa, a gym and five restaurants including our destination, the Michelin-starred Shaun Rankin at Grantley Hall.
Grantley Hall sits on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales within easy reach of Ripon and Harrogate and features stunning grounds and gardens including an English Heritage Japanese Garden which dates back to 1910.
Built in the 17th Century, Grantley Hall has passed through various hands over the years, until it was bought in 2015 by Yorkshire woman, Valeria Sykes – who set out about fully refurbishing and renovating it until its re-opening in July 2019. In the short time since re-opening, it has won a host of awards culminating in it being named as England’s “Hotel of the Year” in the AA’s 2022 Hospitality Awards.
As part of the renovation, Mrs Sykes brought in Shaun Rankin who had previously been awarded Michelin stars at Bohemia in Jersey and his own restaurant, Ormer in St Helier. In January 2021 he completed his hat-trick for Grantley Hall and he retained his star in 2022.
The welcome at Grantley Hall is as impressive as the facade and the service was, as you would expect, exceptional. It was almost as it if the management had deployed some sort of covert AI and tailored the level of formality specifically to us.
In Shaun Rankin at Grantley Hall, the “Taste of Home” menu focuses on herbs and vegetables from the kitchen garden and locally-sourced produce all of which, we were informed, comes from within 30 miles – excepted, of course, from the seafood.
As ever Mrs Punter went for the vegetarian option. We went for the signature wine pairing and the sommelier was able to accommodate Mrs Punter’s “no reds” policy.
The restaurant itself is large with plenty of space between the tables but the was still a warm and welcoming atmosphere. The décor is classical but with a modern twist. Look at the portraits and you will see they are not “old masters” but modern originals with the eyes of each scrubbed out so that you are not being watched whilst dining.
A couple of amuse bouche led to the first course which was bread and butter accompanied by a delightful beef tea – and a mushroom broth for Mrs Punter. Despite our requests, the tea could not be served in buckets. We were then served an English truffle “cruffin” which was a truffle/croissant hybrid served with a Yorkshire pecorino soup which, annoyingly, was also not served in bucket-sized quantities. Each plate was devoured.
The fish course was an extravagant combination of turbot, caviar, cabbage, dill and lemon verbena and it was the best of the wine pairings with a delightful Bulgarian Enira.
The main was an exquisite venison dish with blackcurrant and celeriac. Mrs Punter’s version swapped broccoli for venison and this was the only, and I mean only, time that we were not blown away by the food. The broccoli was cooked al dente and it was difficult to cut with the knife provided. Had she been given a steak knife like mine this would not have been an issue. The staff, as we had come to expect, explained why the broccoli was cooked that way and promised to feed back the comment about the cutlery.
Then we came onto the absolute highlight of the meal, and the whole evening. The pre-dessert, or as Susan Calman put it on her brief stint hosting The Great British Menu, “Pre-pudding pudding”.
The menu simply said, ‘Hen of The Woods, Meadowsweet, Magnum”’ Parts one and two we understood but we could not figure out what the Magnum part was about. Then the dish turned up and all was clear, there on the plate sat a tiny Magnum ice-cream topped with crispy Hen of The Woods mushrooms and a meadowsweet gel. The ice-cream inside, also mushroom flavoured.
Sounds horrible right? Wrong! This dish was in the top five taste sensations we have ever had. It was clever, surprisingly and infinitely enjoyable. Regret one: it wasn’t the size of an actual Magnum. Regret two: we think that the chef wasn’t being entirely honest when he told staff that he would ‘think about’ our suggestion that he should mass produce them and sell them in supermarkets, specifically the Co-Op at the end of our road.
The two actual puddings were a light but punchy: rhubarb soufflé with custard and then cheese and crackers which were followed by petit fours to finish. Before we knew it, three hours had gone by and our taxi was waiting.
We ate at our first Michelin-starred Yorkshire restaurant in 2015 and vowed to dine at all of them. Grantley Hall was the last on the list and what a way to complete the set. Glorious grounds, exceptional staff and a menu which delighted, entertained and amazed. Magnums will never be the same again.