Anja Madhvani is already working on her retirement plan in the Michelin-starred gastropub
The city centre affords a great lifestyle when the world is open - but the last year has been challenging. I’ve found myself feeling trapped at times, longing to return to my country bumpkin roots. Escaping the hustle and bustle has felt that little bit more challenging than it once did, spontaneous trips have been replaced with military planning. I’ve been on the lookout for moments of escape that are easily achieved and don’t require me to travel too far. The Angel At Hetton provided just the feeling of a retreat I was looking for.
This meal is full not only of surprises, but also nostalgia
The Angel At Hetton has been on my list ever since husband-and-wife team Michael and Johanna Wignall took it on in the autumn of 2018. Michael had already gained two Michelin stars at The Latymer, and a further two at Gidleigh Park, in Devon. There was much excitement about what the couple would bring to the popular gastropub in the Yorkshire Dales. And, true to form, The Angel At Hetton was awarded its first Michelin star just a year after it opened.
Leeds to Hetton is an easy journey on public transport, hop on a train to Skipton and book yourself a taxi from there. We arrive with half an hour to spare, and spend it pottering through the idyllic village playing at fantasy house shopping, cooing at lambs and calves, and gazing out across the rolling Dales. This is a place for daydreaming and conjuring up the perfect retirement plan.
We’re greeted warmly, there’s a brief explanation of the Covid-19 measures in place - nothing obtrusive, it feels very safe and well thought out. A complimentary glass of fizz is offered, and I’m delighted that they have a good alcohol-free option for this, also.
I think this may be the most immaculate restaurant I have ever been to. Interiors are all clean lines and muted tones, but there is somehow a warmth and comfort about the place. Rugged landscapes by local artist Sally Wellock adorn the walls, as well as beautiful pieces made using moss and mushrooms, nodding to the pastoral views. There are also rooms if you want to stay over, these book up quite far in advance, so be sure to plan in advance.
We opt for the tasting menu, there is also a vegetarian tasting option, and they also offer a la carte and Sunday roasts, perfect for locals who dine here more regularly.
First to arrive at the table are snacks. Fresh sourdough is nothing short of perfection, the crust, the crust! It’s accompanied by life-affirming lovage and parsley butter, and raw milk butter. A tiny tartlet of nori, salmon, and wasabi is finished with dill and shiso cress makes for an aromatic mouthful. Toasted brioche is coated in the smoothest, fattiest chicken liver parfait I have ever tasted. Pops of caviar form a peak atop an intensely umami set custard, offset with apple acidity. Everything thus far has been delightful.
On to the fish course, a meaty piece of arctic char and exquisitely prepared razor clam are balanced by acetic gooseberry, nasturtium leaf, taramasalata, and broad beans. There is an intelligent use of texture throughout the menu, the crunch of pickled kohlrabi is a welcome addition.
A tomato dish is served in a wide-brimmed cavernous bowl. It puts me in the kind of pond you might find in a children's book, it’s a thing of beauty. Funky goat curd offsets tomato acidity, gelatinous basil seed adds a little body, and lovage granita brings a touch of spice.
Sous vide lamb is served with BBQ lettuce, which serves as a nod to peas a la Francais. There’s a subtle char on the just rendered fat, and maitake mushrooms bring a strong savoury element. A meaty bite of lamb tongue completes the plate, this is a classic dish with modern cookery, though I’m not overly keen on sous vide, I prefer the texture of meat cooked by more traditional methods.
The tasting menu concludes with two sweet dishes. A strawberry dessert plays again with texture and temperature. Hay clotted cream is unctious and offset by tart marigold jam. Milk and strawberry shards garnish the dish. A mousse-like chocolate sponge is served with sugar snap peas. Milk sorbet neutralises the acidity of compote-like fermented cherries.
What strikes us throughout the meal is the sheer detail and finesse on display, which rivals the likes of Pollen Street Social. If I had any criticism to make, it is that I am not quite full. But this is welcome as it means there is room to order the cheeseboard. Each cheese is at the optimal temperature with a mead quince and seeded crackers that resemble aerated pork scratchings. There is also a booklet detailing each cheese and the makers, which is a lovely touch.
We finish with coffee and petit fours, the restaurant slowly empties, and we take our time, savouring the moment.
Good food does a number of things, this meal is full not only of surprises, but also nostalgia. There are little reminders throughout of common childhood memories, sugar snap peas transport me to my grandma's garden, milk shards take me to savouring Mini Milk ice creams sat on the curb after school.
There is so much to be enjoyed here, the execution of detailed and complex elements, the elevation of classic flavour combinations, and the fantastic and varied drink options for both drinkers and non-drinkers. But perhaps the greatest joy I found in visiting the Angel At Hetton is the talent and passion displayed by a young front of house team. It takes time to hone this level of service, maturity, and confidence. The team assembled here is nothing short of outstanding, and they give me great hope for the future of the industry.
The Angel at Hetton, Main Street, Hetton, BD23 6LT
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All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Snacks 10, arctic char 8, texture of tomato 8, lamb 7, Texture Of Strawberry 7, Cocoa 7, Cheese Board 9, Petit Fours 9
I can’t fault it
I felt at ease and enjoyed the soft buzz of chatter