From the outside The Angel at Hetton is a quintessential Yorkshire pub. Inside, however, has been hollowed out and filled with crisp plaster, living fungus screens, and bonsai trees in a series of linked rooms. It’s clever, because Japanese nods aside it retains the feeling of a cosy local with the preservation of low-slung beams and crackling fires.
However good the interiors, the food is the biggest draw. Michael Wignall is a man who’s been collecting Michelin stars for decades. In fact, he’s one of the UK’s most awarded chefs yet flies somewhat under the radar as a bit of a chef’s chef rather than a media personality. This is his first family-run venture, and the passion is palpable.
There’s no doubt there’s a nerdy approach at play. Michael is well known for precision and love of technique. You can see it in the intricate, layerd dishes, but behind the scenes there’s also automation used on super yachts to moderate the kitchen’s power usage and home-grown hydroponic herbs.
They’re the herbs that are woven throughout the tasting menu. First, topping a fermented white asparagus tart and a ripple of silky chicken liver parfait for canapes and later crowing a clever cheese course which is balanced via tannin rich tea granita made with liquid nitrogen. If it all sounds a bit mad scientist, it is, but in a good way. Wignall conjures up food that’s easy to love with surprise elements along the way. Early on, a set savoury custard is an umami hug in a bowl, while later a dainty plate of hand cut pasta with mushroom dashi, a quail’s egg and tiny potato crisps is inspired, somehow seamlessly blending Italian and Japanese techniques in a little flavour-bomb.
Everything – from the warm, well-briefed team through to the specially made crockery and own-brand gin – speaks of Michael’s obsession with perfection; he’s a man hellbent on giving guests a good time while in his care. It's food that's not just exciting but patently comes from a lifetime's work. You don't get to this level without years of hard graft.
There’s a lot you could say about The Angel at Hetton, you could write a dissertation on the incredibly detailed tasting menu alone, but ultimately, it’s just a joyful place to be.