As some readers will know, we were very disappointed when Mirabelle closed suddenly, earlier this year, in part because we had an unused voucher which had been a Christmas gift and in part because it was one of our favourite restaurants in Harrogate.
After a bit of judicious detective work we discovered that Lionel Strub had popped up as chef patron at the Clarendon Hotel in Hebden. It was eventually established that he would honour our voucher at his new venture so it was with high expectations that we set off this week for lunch at the Clarendon Hotel. We had looked at the spring menu on the website and it looked promisingly similar to what had been on offer at Mirabelle.
To begin with we wondered if we had walked into the wrong place as there seemed to be no sign of a restaurant. It turned out that the restaurant was in fact just an extension of the bar area – not a good start. Luckily the bar was quiet with just a handful of customers but I can imagine that at times when it is busy the noise could be a big downside for anyone wanting to enjoy a quiet meal.
First impressions continued to be poor with our table being full of scratches and ringmarks. I’ve heard of trendy distressed furniture but this was pure pub grot. Surely if you can’t afford decent tables it’s simple enough to put a tablecloth down! Likewise the barman who doubled as waiter, whose black shirt was covered in stains. It’s not rocket science to insist that staff at least wear clean clothes. He was a pleasant chap but certainly didn’t make a good first impression.
Our hearts sank even further when we were presented with the menu which contained nothing but the usual pub grub such as fish and chips. Where, I wondered, was the more imaginative food shown on the website. It turned out that the board at the opposite end of the pub showed a smallish selection of specials, but certainly nothing like the variety on the website and no mention of the three courses for £26.50. It seems from Tripadvisor that the evening menu is more extensive but if you ask, it may be possible to have something at lunchtime which is normally only available in the evening. It all seems pretty muddled and it would have been good to have known exactly what was what before we selected.
We started with rabbit terrine which was served with cranberry bread. The terrine was tasty, unlike the bread which looked far better than it tasted. Portions were generous, in fact, at the risk of appearing churlish, too generous for a starter. A couple of walkers in the bar were having it as their main and I can see that it would keep them going nicely for their yomp over the Yorkshire Dales. An arty smear of coulis on the side of the plate failed in its attempt to turn the dish into an elegant appetiser.
I decided to have the fillet of halibut on lobster risotto as a main, the risotto accompaniment having been one of my favourites at Mirabelle. Maybe it was the surroundings or maybe the amount of lobster had been reduced but it just didn’t hit the spot as it had done on previous occasions. The halibut on the other hand was moist and nicely cooked.
My husband had opted for a slow cooked venison which whilst beautifully tender lacked flavour. He had been put off slightly by seeing it being carried uncovered across the yard which we looked out across. Presumably it had been cooked ahead of time and was being brought across to the kitchen to be re-heated. We don’t have a problem with this but it might have been a good idea to have covered it!
A small dish of vegetables was served with the mains, which included some boiled potatoes, which struck us as a little superfluous given that my dish was accompanied by the risotto and my husband’s the mash.
Having seen two boxes with “Baked Cheesecake” written on it, apparently defrosting in the yard, we decided to skip dessert!
Anyone going to the Clarendon hoping for a reincarnation of Mirabelle are going to be sorely disappointed. If you’re looking for a similar dining experience to Mirabelle in Harrogate, then LeD2 will suit you beautifully. If you want a more scenic setting then the Devonshire Arms at Bolton Bridge fits the bill (either their brasserie or their Michelin starred restaurant). If it’s imaginative food in a pub that you’re after then look no further than the Red Lion at Burnsall, not a million miles from the Clarendon Hotel.
To be fair, perhaps our experience would have been different in the evening, but as far as lunch goes it was very disappointing. Luckily Yorkshire is not short of great restaurants, no matter what your taste or budget is, so we’re not stuck for lots of exciting alternatives to the Clarendon Hotel.
Categories: Restaurant reviews