The Star Inn – Yorkshire
Mike Barnes reviews The Star Inn at Harome, Yorkshire, a great place to stay before a day's driven pheasant or grouse shooting.
When we told friends that we were going to North Yorkshire for a couple of days, the response was ‘where are you shooting?' It was, after all, the end of November. “We're not – it's strictly R&R.”
If they were shocked it didn't show. “So where are you staying?”
“The Star at Harome,” I responded.
“Have you been – it's excellent?” We hadn't.
Just two miles from Helmsley (Pheasant Grand Central), The Star could be described as a pub with rooms, but that does it a serious disservice. The area has a number of first rate hotels and restaurants, but we are talking about an establishment with a stand-out reputation.
Not that it hasn't had its moments. How many restaurants could survive closure through novovirus, a marriage break-up and the loss of a Michelin star? Andrew Pern, The Star chef/proprietor, has had this and more, and yet he has won the Michelin award back and has also opened a 130-seater sister restaurant in York called The Star Inn The City. Plus there's a new lady with whom he has a new baby.
The dramas were clearly not on his wish list – each could have seriously damaged his trade and reputation. Not a bit of it. If anything, he has become busier than ever.
But we are talking about an overnight success that started 19 years ago. This was a business built to last. It was 1996 when Andrew and ex-wife Jacquie took on the Star, then a small run-down village pub. By 2004 they had not only restored the thatched roof building, but nine fabulous bedrooms had been created from old farm buildings, literally over the road. They also bought and restored Harome's other pub, The Pheasant Hotel (now owned by Jacquie).
All of this was made possible by the food on offer. Andrew is self-taught; his mother was diagnosed with MS when he was nine years old, so he ventured into the kitchen. He discovered Robert Carrier's cookbooks and the rest is history. While still at primary school he began making dishes such as woodcock terrine, stroganoffs and pâtés. He studied catering at Scarborough College and then went on to Paris. He was in his element, and by the age of 22 he was head chef at the Milburn Arms in Rosedale, North Yorks.
By now he had a style of his own and an ever-growing following. He says it is simply down to great food cooked well. He makes good use of the game meats so readily available in this part of the world, although his signature dish for many years was foie gras and black pudding, typically bringing cheap and expensive ingredients together.
His skill also took him into television where he appeared on the Great British Menu.
Flair is a key word, both in food and accommodation. The bedrooms in Cross House Lodge have been imaginatively put together, as has the hugely comfortable lounge area. Not forgetting the Wheelhouse, where breakfast is served at a big 18-seat round table, which is perfect as a private dining room for shoot parties, of which there are quite a lot. Meanwhile, outside, the North York Moors beckon.
So just two days out of a long shooting season made it a welcome battery charger. Great food and great levels of comfort – I also earned a pan-full of brownie points.