Anja Madhvani discovers that a night away could be all you need to recharge your batteries, and the Inn at South Stainley is a great place to do just that.
I grew up in the middle of nowhere surrounded by fields and the kind of unique but loveable characters you only find in rural England. But I’ve been living in the city for almost a decade now. While I’ve grown accustomed to the perks of city living - honestly, I’d never had a takeaway delivered until I went to university - there are things about my childhood home that I miss. The stresses of the city build, and I can only manage a couple of months before I need to escape the noise and get outdoors to seek clean air, dark and quiet nights, starry skies, and crisp morning walks.
Where better to find this than just up the road in North Yorkshire? The Inn At South Stainley has undergone a six-month refurbishment and its country charm has been restored. It’s an easy ride on the number 36 bus from Leeds to Ripon via Harrogate, you know you’re in Yorkshire when the stops are announced in the dulcet tones of Harry Gration.
We arrive early evening for our stay and are welcomed by a polite young lad. Having worked in hospitality from the tender age of fourteen, I have a lot of respect for young waitstaff, and the team here are just lovely.
The pub itself is cosy and inviting, with tartan carpets, wooden beams and dark wood furnishings. There are some rooms in the main pub, but ours is in a separate new building, a sort of lodge. I can honestly say I’ve never stayed anywhere so clean, the bathroom was immaculate. Little details like the Orla Kiely toiletries (which I definitely took home, sorry!) and the selection of tea, coffee and biscuits really raised the standard. A lot of care has gone into these extra touches. Some rooms are dog friendly, and they also provide gun cabinets for guests who are on shooting trips. I also noticed when booking online that you can add flowers or champagne to the room booking for your arrival, which is pretty swish.
The menu is quite adventurous for this neck of the woods, I often find rural places a little more traditional. It’s nice to see some pub classics as well as some more challenging ingredients listed. We start with salt and pepper squid (£6.50) and devilled crab (£6.95), both are generous portions and well-seasoned. For mains, I tackle a huge pot of potato gnocchi (£12.50), enveloped in a rich and creamy medley of wild mushroom, goats cheese and pine nuts. My partner has a fillet of plaice (£16.50) doused in a luxurious butter sauce and served with cockles and new potatoes. We also order chips, (£3.50) which certainly live up to the menu description of being ‘proper chips’.
We aren’t drinking during our visit, so I’m really chuffed to find an alcohol-free beer available that I hadn’t tried before, it’s nice to be somewhere that doesn’t just serve Becks Blue. The drinks menu is extensive, with an excellent selection of gins and wines in particular. For pudding we share a lemon meringue cocktail (£5.95), with layers of tart lemon curd, crunchy sweet meringue and melt-in-the-mouth crumbly shortbread. Sean opts for a dark chocolate fondant (£6.50) served with honeycomb and salted caramel ice cream. I help him with this, because I’m kind like that, and it’s one of the naughtiest puds I’ve had the pleasure of eating. There are copies of the Festive and Christmas menus on the tables, which cater to all pallets. I can imagine booking here for a work do or family meal, there’s something to please my partners grandma, and something a little more unusual for the adventurous diners.
We head to our room, no street light seeps through the curtains, and it’s much quieter than our flat. I have the best sleep I’ve had in weeks. The room is a pleasant mix of traditional and modern, it feels cosy and comfortable without being stuffy.
The Inn offers some great deals, you can enjoy dinner, bed, and breakfast from £99, which I think is exceptional for the standard we experienced. The manager also gave us some info about a nice walk that we could do the following morning. The staff were incredibly friendly and eager to make sure we enjoyed our visit, we felt very much at home.
In the morning we wandered across for breakfast, I went all out and opted for the full English, and Sean had salmon and eggs. There’s also a table groaning with yoghurts, cereals and continential meats and cheese, I have to stop myself from smuggling any out for our walk. A special mention for the young waitress who goes above and beyond to make sure every guest has exactly what they need.
My partners mum picks us up and we drive a few minutes to UNESCO World Heritage Site Fountains Abbey for a stroll. There are quite a few things to do in the area, the Inn is situated near a few market towns and there are plenty of beautiful places to get outdoors. It’s also very close to Harrogate, which boasts the UKs most fully restored Turkish Baths, a must if you haven’t been.
When we get home we agree that an evening away and a bit of time outdoors has been the perfect tonic to a hectic couple of months, and are both feeling recharged and ready to slog our way towards another busy Christmas in hospitality. A big thank you to the staff at The Inn At South Stainley for making our stay so relaxing. I’m already looking forward to my next visit.