Chefs’ Supper Club At Rudding Park, Harrogate
Andy Harris, Motoring and Property Editor
The invitation came from Lexus to attend an evening that would encompass fine dining, good wine and cars. Those who know me well will not be surprised to find I replied in the affirmative and with some haste!
Lexus had partnered with BBC Good Food magazine to offer a hundred or so lucky people the chance to experience a bespoke four course meal, prepared by well-known chefs Tommy Banks, Stephanie Moon and Tom Kerridge, the latter currently starring in BBC2’s Top of the Shop.
Rudding Park was the venue and being one of North Yorkshire’s most prestigious hotels, the landscaped gardens and imposing entrance made a welcoming sight on a wet Friday evening.
In pride of place sat a selection of Lexus cars, ready to be admired. They looked suitably at home outside the upmarket venue.
Whilst guests arrived and the Prosecco flowed freely, I was given the opportunity to interview the chefs. I will admit to feeling a little nervous, but I need not have worried as all three were an absolute delight.
Tom Kerridge was the first to be grilled and his effusive personality meant that the conversation flowed freely.
Owner of the two Michelin star Hand and Flowers pub and a regular on our television screens, I felt I already knew him. His philosophy is to present the very finest food, but in an environment where guests will feel immediately at ease. That I like.
Tom has an association with Lexus, owning three RX models which he uses to transport guests from his pub to his luxury rooms located some distance away. Refined, comfortable, luxurious yet unpretentious, they create the right image for the Hand and Flowers.
Delving a little deeper, I was able to discover that Tom is somewhat of a petrolhead and when pressed revealed he also owned a Porsche 911 for special occasions.
Having lived in Malhamdale where Top of the Shop was filmed, I couldn’t help but ask Tom about the programme. What came out in his reply was his deep love for Yorkshire, its friendly people, beautiful countryside and fine local produce available. Filming had been fun, but he wouldn’t be drawn on whether there might be a second series. Let’s hope so.
Next under the spotlight was Tommy Banks, a bright young talent on the local food scene. He runs the Black Swan at Oldstead near York and quite rightly possesses a Michelin star. Last year his eatery was rated the Best in the World by TripAdvisor.
He confirmed that his already long waiting list for a table had grown considerably and that he was deluged by camera crews from around the world, all keen to interview the handsome chef. Book now for 2019 might be a plan!
I asked whether he had aspirations to leave Yorkshire behind for the bright lights of London and was reassured to hear that he is rooted to his home county and has no such plans.
I was however delighted to hear that he will be opening a new restaurant in York. More details coming soon.
Tommy had been given a Lexus NX for a couple of weeks prior to the event and he seemed quite impressed. Being rurally based, he appreciated the raised driving position and four-wheel drive capability the vehicle offered.
Last to be subjected to my ‘probing’ questions was Stephanie Moon. From a farming background, Stephanie grew up in Craven and has been involved with Rudding Park for nearly 20 years. Clearly on home territory, she was delighted to be sharing the kitchen with Tom and Tommy and I got the feeling that much fun had been had both creating the menu and preparing the food on the day.
With a clear love for her home county, Stephanie spends much of her time promoting Yorkshire as a county and as place for fine food.
She chatted effusively about the kitchen garden at Rudding Park and as she was in charge of pudding with a rhubarb theme, I was delighted to hear that harvesting had taken that very morning.
Stephanie too had enjoyed the delights of a Lexus for a few weeks and an upmarket 4x4 RX model had definitely gone done well. Living on a farm, she clearly values go-anywhere capabilities, but being a high mileage motorist constantly dashing between engagements, she was able to appreciate the RX’s plush interior.
All too soon my time with the chefs was at an end and I joined the now assembled gathering in one of Rudding Park’s impressive salons.
Much to everyone’s surprise, all three chefs joined the guests and were happy to mingle, answer questions and pose for photographs. I suspect this may have been the highlight of the evening for many.
Tommy Banks had been charged with wowing us with the starter course and some debate ensued at our table about his choice. Venison tartare with smoked bone marrow and wild garlic is a dish that he is well known for. The general consensus was that it was lovely to have the opportunity to try this unusual combination, but some, me included, were not enamoured with the texture of the diced venison.
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Moist, soft chicken was the star ably supported by the unusual and flavoursome crunch. The clanger was light and tasty, the sauce had a depth of flavour to delight. I didn’t want to finish the dish and though reasonably satiated would happily have eaten it again...
Puddings can sometimes be an anticlimax to an excellent dinner, but Stephanie had other ideas. She set out to wow her audience and undoubtedly succeeded.
First up came a rhubarb and gin cocktail with candyfloss topping and this ‘amuse’ was followed by an assiette of miniature rhubarb and custard treats, each one a veritable delight. The highlight may well have been the ice-lolly, Stephanie’s take on the Fab variety that us oldies enjoyed when we were children.
A selection of Yorkshire cheeses completed the meal, though the hour was late and most guests had already eaten their fill.
The chefs also took part in a question and answer session, a light-hearted occasion which gave us more chance to get to know them. What came across was their deep-rooted desire to share their love of fine food with as wide an audience as possible.
As the evening drew to a close, once again the approachable, down to earth and undoubtedly talented chefs left the comfort zone of the kitchen to mingle with the guests.
And so, well fed and water and undoubtedly entertained, the happy throng of diners departed. A memorable night and I offer my thanks to all concerned for the opportunity to be part of it.
Chefs’ Supper Club At Rudding Park, Harrogate, 2nd May 2018, 16:19 PM