Horto offers some glimpses of culinary magic in the elegant surroundings of Rudding Park writes Elaine Lemm. Pictures Kyte Photography

What excellent news that one of my, and I suspect the rest of Yorkshire’s, favourite hotels scooped a significant award last month. Rudding Park, near Harrogate, won Independent Hotel of the Year at the Catey Awards, the Oscars of the catering and hospitality industry. I was headed to Horto, one of its two restaurants, as there has been a bit of a shake-up with the departure of head chef Murray Wilson.

Try as I might, I have asked what happened, but there is a silence at Rudding and outside surrounding his leaving.
Much was made of Murray’s food and relationship with Rudding’s outstanding kitchen garden and gardener when Horto opened in 2017. My review was glowing not least because finally, the hotel had its longed-for fine dining restaurant and a unique one at that. Seasonality, freshness and creativity was the focus, and it worked.
Everything certainly looks just as it was then at Horto’s rather glamorous location a few steps on from the spa reception. As always, the front-of-house staff here display the consummate professionalism found throughout Rudding Park. The individuality of the decor is far removed from the stuffy fine-dining of yore with its zinc bar, striking artworks and multi-coloured chairs and bench seating. There are no starched tablecloths or hushed tones; this is a bright, contemporary and sophisticated place.

Cornish Turbot Horto by  ‘Kyte Photography’

The nine-course Tasting Menu, with its pared-down description of four words or fewer, is still in place but alongside is a Choice Menu – three courses and side dishes to you and me, and this what we opt for. There is a marvellous detailed wine list and many available by the glass, but with the diverse flavours on our chosen dishes, we had to call in the sommelier for help. An excellent Albarino for me, a Pinot Noir and a surprising Zero-G red for the fish dish
Out came homemade bread and rather tasty whipped butters, one of chicken skin, the other with bee pollen and honey, plus a lovely local rapeseed oil and balsamic. Then, first up, an aged Yorkshire beef tartare with artichoke and sourdough which looked exquisite. The 100-day aged meat sat on artichoke jam (unusual but very good) surrounded with sourdough tuiles cooked in beef fat, flowers and herbs.
However, as amazing as that dish looked and tasted, my tomato and lobster pipped it. Tiny dice of tomato and lobster sat in a neat circle on the plate interspersed with blobs of tomato jam, intensely flavoured slivers of dried tomato and nasturtium leaves from the garden and with what came next, I wished I had ordered a more substantial portion as a main course.
Tortellini with trompettes and Gran Mantovano came as the vegetarian main course, and with what I had just eaten, I could only imagine what delights were in store; but it didn’t work out that way. The pasta was heavy, and a little gluey, the filling of trompettes (de mort, to give them their correct name) are insanely challenging to get right. They have tons of flavour, but their trumpet shapes make them impossible to clean and believe me, I have tried many times. Here they were gritty and sadly the cheese, which is a real beauty, was far too strong for the funghi. Had this dish not been £27, it may have been passable, but knowing what this kitchen is capable of, it wasn’t, sorry. Cornish hake with mussels and leek though, restored all faith in the kitchen.

Coconut White Chocolate Egg

Everything was eclipsed with the dessert though. The four words on the menu, coconut, white chocolate and mango, did not prepare us for what arrived no matter how we had tried to figure it out. A perfectly formed white chocolate speckled egg, sitting in a nest of toasted coconut, when tapped and opened oozed a perfect yellow yolk, the mango. This was one of those memorable desserts that had us both laughing and fighting over it.
The magic is still here, even if the former chef isn’t. The secret weapon behind this fabulous food is chef Callum Bowmer and a brigade, none of whom are over 26 years old. That is a staggering amount of talent at such young ages. Callum worked under Murray and clearly some of the magic has rubbed off; so, get the pasta sorted and everyone can breathe easy that Horto is clearly still way up there.
Horto, Rudding Park, Horto, Rudding Park Hotel, Follifoot, Harrogate HG3 1JH. 01423 871350. Open: Wednesday to Sunday, 7pm with last orders 8.30pm,pre-booking advised. Dinner for two with four glasses of wine, £149.

About The Author

Following a successful career as a chef and restaurateur, Yorkshire's Elaine Lemm is a highly respected food and drink writer and recently voted one of the top 50 in the UK. Elaine is a member of the Guild of Food Writers and author of three books,The Great Book of Yorkshire Pudding, The Great Book of Rhubarb and The Great Book of Tea.

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