From the moment I watched Tommy Banks well up with tears on the Great British menu last year I was hooked.

This young self taught chef from my home county of Yorkshire demonstrated such passion and innovation in his creations and taught us all about new produce from his Yorkshire garden. So on the list went The Black Swan at Oldstead and a year or so later I was heading up there with Mum and Dad to celebrate Dad’s birthday.

Set in the most beautiful part of Yorkshire, the Banks family evolved a challenging farm business into something so much more by investing in the local pub and showcasing the farm and new 2 acre garden produce to make it their unique offering. Mummy Banks said they felt the need to differentiate themselves and give people a reason to come to them. And boy, have they done that. Now the proud owner of a Michelin star it is actually very hard to even get a table these days.

Garden salad with 18 different ingredients

The menu is fixed although they are very keen to know up front if there are any specific requests and they make it their business to try and adapt the offering to suit. And from the moment you arrive, you are made to feel at home with Mum welcoming you in and managing front of house. There is a fabulous wine list which is all available by the glass and innovative cocktails made by Tommy’s brother James who clearly makes the most of the garden produce here with interesting flavours and cordials.

Pea and elderflower tartlet

The first couple of courses are served with your drink, which included probably my favourite dish of the day, the pea and elderflower tart. Not only was this stunning to look at but just so vibrant to eat as well. Then it was upstairs to the dining room which is spread across a couple of rooms each with a simple Scandinavian tone and simple flowers plucked from the garden. The waiting staff were certainly armed with every bit of information about each and every dish clearly proud of what they were serving.

Crapaudine beetroot cooked slowly in beef fat

Chicken, onions and rapeseed

Cake made from artichoke, chicory root and thyme

It must be said that some dishes were more of a success than others, and chef clearly has his own particular style. Dad declared that the butter served with the bread took him back to the 1940’s when they used to get butter direct from the farm and I think that sums up a lot. Everything goes back to the raw ingredient and just showcasing natural flavours as best as possible. The Banks’ are after all farmers at heart and so there is a purity that just celebrate great Yorkshire produce.

After 12 courses we were suitably stuffed with a glow from all the goodness that had prevailed.

It was still light as we drove home and enjoyed the sun setting over the countryside. The food may not have been his usual choices, but it certainly made for a special birthday for Dad – one not to be forgotten

 

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