The team at the Hovingham Inn do straightforward food very well and Elaine Lemm applauds them for it.

The Hovingham
90%Overall Score
Reader Rating: (6 Votes)

The Hovingham Inn.

There’s only a good handful of chefs in Yorkshire who have stood the test of time and all the changing fads and fancies yet continue to cook great food, food that people want to eat. It is an even rarer gem if the chef has their partner supporting them out front, a role key to the success of any restaurant business.
So, cue Richard and Lindsey Johns, the couple who brought culinary recognition to the Hessle region with the award-winning Artisan. Following a bit of travelling, cooking here and there, they landed in North Yorkshire in 2016 with Rascills at Raskelf. At the time they said this was going to be the last. But hey-ho, famous last words, as after a few years and despite rave reviews, they closed and moved a smidgeon north over the Hambleton Hills to Hovingham. And what a lovely place they have created there.
The former unassuming Malt Shovel pub has been taken apart and put back together to become a cosy, subtly elegant, in a laid-back kind of way, pub-restaurant. The whole place from bar to dining room exudes welcome. I can only imagine in the winter this could also be a super place to hunker down in its cosiness. Especially, with the promise of good food, an excellent wine list and the fireplace begging to be lit. Plus, I hear there may be some bedrooms in the offing for those who have to travel. The bar is busy on a Thursday night but sadly the lovely dining room less so. Still, it’s early days.

Duck Salad.

Joyously, Richard has eschewed small plates and abbreviated descriptions. In what has become a bit of a rarity, he has a precise menu with starters, mains and puddings. There’s pillow-soft bread to start and a potato and horseradish soup, so simple in its promise but gosh it is delivered well, coming all velvety with a delicate tickle of horseradish and crispy croutons; a classic and very well executed. Our second of the five starters – there’s smoked haddock fishcake, a home-made sausage roll or seared mackerel as well – is a classic French duck confit, but without the pommes sauté. Instead, it comes as a cracking salad with hints of Asia from watermelon, pomegranate and a rather good Hoisin sauce.
I may not be a big meat eater, but when the craving comes, I usually turn to a simple steak. One of my favourite cuts is flat iron; it has excellent flavour and good marbling. But it requires a careful hand in the cooking not to destroy it, especially as I like mine barely wafted over the flames. Thank you, Richard, this one was bang-on. The huge hand-cut chips were a little overpowering, and I could quickly have passed them over for more of the Parmesan, onion and tomato salad, it was so, so tasty as was the recommended Italian Castel Firmian Merlot with it.
My friend was delighted with her pan-fried fillet of seabream, though had dithered back and forth with the rump of Nidderdale lamb. Again, there was a deft hand in the fish cooking, and it came with more of those substantial chips so good for dipping in the saffron aioli and lemon oil. Though it wasn’t the recommended wine, she also seemed very happy with her choice of an unusual Ionos Greek white.

Creme Brûlée.

If there was ever a pud to test the merit of a kitchen, it has to be the crème brûlée. This dessert is easily the one I have seen most messed around with and almost always to its detriment. The one here would have had Escoffier cheering from the sidelines – it was technically perfect and tasted sublime in its vanilla-silkiness and not mucked around with at all.
Were there any niggles? Only that service was a little slow to say there was only a few of us in, but that service when it did come was excellent.
I had a good nosey at the lunch menu, and the food is lighter with sandwiches, charcuterie plates, ploughman-style pork pies and salad and other goodies. Sunday lunch also looks promising with a slow roast 35-day aged rump of beef and Yorkshires plus a host of other stuff.
I do hope the locals embrace this place; they should, it is befitting of the pretty village. As for the rest of us, it is well worth the drive for sure. I wish Richard and Lindsey all the best with this venture, what a team they are.
■ The Hovingham Inn, Main Street, Hovingham, York, YO62 4LF. Tel: 01653 628428. Food: Wednesday to Friday, noon – 1.30pm, 6 – 8.30pm, Saturday, 6 – 8.30pm, Sunday, 12.30 – 3pm. Bar open longer. Dinner for two with two glasses of wine, £71.

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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