The Black Swan at Oldstead

Gold Award

SquareMeal Review of The Black Swan at Oldstead

Gold Award

“Special, unique, warm, unpretentious” is one reader’s verdict on The Black Swan, while another settles for “inventive, sublime, always pleases”. Either way, you shouldn’t mistake the Banks family’s 16th-century pub-with-rooms for a bog-standard country boozer – even though it still has a rustic flagstoned bar, ‘Mouseman’ furniture, local ales on tap and lovely views of the rolling Yorkshire Wolds from the highly productive kitchen garden.

The serious business takes place upstairs in the Michelin-starred dining room, where chef Tommy Banks – a two-time winner of Great British Menu - offers “exemplary, creative AND tasty food” built around a challenging 12-course tasting menu of “gutsy flavours dressed in finery”.

Banks’ family has lived in the area for generations and the menus reflect the best of Yorkshire’s seasonal larder and produce from the family’s smallholding or foraged from the surrounding hedgerows and woodlands.   

The “knowledgeable yet approachable” staff “explain every course in detail”. Langoustines are paired with salted strawberries, scallops are cured in rhubarb juice, lamb is given the salt-aged treatment, and a signature dish of crapaudine beetroot is cooked slowly in beef fat – although other dishes such as cod with cauliflower and parsley strike a more conventional note.

As proceedings head towards their conclusion, you might be offered ‘damson and kernel’, sheep’s milk with Douglas Fir oil or even ‘root vegetable toast’ – not exactly your run-of-the-mill desserts. Saturday lunch is a trimmed-back version of the full works, while vegetarian and vegan tasting menus can be provided with advance notice.

To drink, the impressive global wine list offers a staggering selection by the 100ml glass (thanks to Coravin) and there are “interesting cocktails and juices”, too, with homemade cordials and liqueurs to the fore. The atmosphere is engagingly welcoming with a “great vibe”, the rooms are “beautifully furnished” and the whole place has alluring appeal. Quite simply “a wonderful experience”.

Good to know

Average Price
££££ - Over £80
Cosy, Lively, Luxury, Traditional
One Michelin star
Food Occasions
Dinner, Lunch
Perfect for
Birthdays, Celebrations, Romantic, Special occasions
Food Hygiene Rating


Does The Black Swan at Oldstead have a Michelin star?

The Black Swan at Oldstead has one Michelin star.

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Meet the team
The Black Swan at Oldstead

Tommy Banks

Shoved in the kitchen at 17 despite having no cooking experience, Tommy Banks struggled to find his feet and when the recession hit things looked bleak. Another chef was brought in to make the food at his family's Olstead pub more upscale and a Michelin star was achieved in 2011, but this was not the panacea it was expected to be, and the chef that had won it left a few years later handing the reigns back to a now more experienced Banks. Against all the odds, he and brother James - who runs front of house - have turned the family business into one of the country’s most respected pub restaurants, serving distinctive, clever dishes based on produce grown on their family farm.

The Black Swan at Oldstead is featured in


Oldstead, North Yorkshire, YO61 4BL

01347 868387 01347 868387


Opening Times

Mon-Sun 6pm-8.30pm Sat 12N-2pm


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9 Reviews 

Zara D

26 January 2024  
Food & Drink 5
Service 5
Atmosphere 5
Value 5

Wow, just wow! Food fabulous, service spectacular, surroundings wonderful. Nothing more to say.

John S

27 December 2022  
Food & Drink 5
Service 5
Atmosphere 5
Value 5

The Best Food in the North of England 


23 November 2022  
Food & Drink 5
Service 5
Atmosphere 5
Value 5

An amazing culinary experience. Course after course of fascinating and delicious flavour pairings. Worth every penny.

Paul A

29 July 2019  
Food & Drink 3
Service 3
Atmosphere 3.5
Value 2.5
Not up to the hype

We were really looking forward to the Black Swan with all the favourable press, chef’s appearances on national television and in the press, and the inevitable popularity which has followed, meaning that booking is needed three months before your preferred date and then the only way to be guaranteed a table is to book a room and meal package and pay in advance, so there was a lot to live up to. We were shown upstairs to our table in the smaller dining room to one side of the main one and almost before we had sat down the first starter was in front of us, a Jerusalem artichoke crisp with pickled onion and Tunworth cheese filling, which we found very enjoyable and got the taste buds working nicely. Crab and asparagus is a bit old hat, but in this case the brown crab hollandaise on an asparagus purée with small disks of white crab with lovage and horseradish combined in a very good blend of tastes. The next dish was also shellfish, this time langoustine cooked on a Japanese indoor BBQ and then disappointingly somewhat overwhelmed by the whey caramelised with palm sugar. We were not sure whether the sourdough bread, with its strange texture, and the sour butter, which was precisely that, was meant to be a course or not as no information was forthcoming. The following course seemed to be something of a contest between the ferment of chilli from the garden and local raw deer, the main contestants being backed by wild sorrel leaves, onion rings and a rye cracker, and the deer not that tender although with a good taste. Next came lovely Skye scallops with a tastily creamy sauce made with smoked butter and white onion, some rhubarb, again from the garden, and, again, a purée, this time the inevitable Jerusalem artichoke version. All this worked well enough, but we could not but draw comparison with better scallop dishes we have enjoyed elsewhere. The ferment theme continued with the excellent monkfish, roasted in butter for a luxurious finish, but not in harmony with the fermented celeriac which was rather sharp and out of kilter with the caramelised butter for the mushrooms and asparagus. The best dish for us was the crapaudine  beetroot cooked in beef fat for five hours, deliciously meaty on the palate and craftily balanced with a sesame seed crisp and horseradish cream (again?). Aged sirloin on the menu but far more  beef on the plate with a slow-cooked rib in a (too thick) suet bun, onion and lovage (again) and sirloin which, for me, suffered from being below the ideal temperature and had to be reheated, which made us wonder whether we were eating too slowly for the kitchen, and would this have happened if Tommy Banks had been present? On we went to the desserts - a brown sugar meringue on top of a rhubarb ice cream sandwich, sweet Cicely and a crispy buckwheat wafer; freeze-dried granita-like apple, hay-infused cream and meringue (again); one of the better courses in the form of sweet and savoury crunchy chicory root biscuit and potato custard; and finally, apricot schnapps toast with sour cream and soft, sweet and satisfying candied vegetables. We were surprised that in a restaurant with the Black Swan’s reputation there was no sommelier, no bottles presented, the staff lacked polish and the dishes were removed almost too swiftly (again us eating too slowly for the kitchen?), there were no petits fours, too many occurrences of similar ingredients and, generally, perhaps too much striving for effect. As far as we were concerned it does not live up to the hype. Tip: if you do decide to go to the Black Swan get a taxi from Helmsley unless you are used to country roads.


29 March 2019  
The 13 course tasting menu is stunning including Jerusalem artichoke, Venison, scallop, monkfish, sirloin and four desserts. The staff are exemplary and explain every course in detail. There are interesting cocktails and juices. The wine list is very extensive. A wonderful experience.

Jean T

29 March 2019  
Amazing tasting menu and excellent wine list in a cleverly laid out dining rooms with knowledgeable yet approachable staff.

David D

24 April 2018  
A lively restaurant with great atmosphere set in Wivenhoe House Hotel as part of Essex University and run by hospitality students.

David D

04 May 2017  
Innovate cooking with great attention to local products and seasonality. Lovely informal atmosphere BUT all staff are always 'on the ball', attentive and helpful.

Jon B

19 June 2013  
Food & Drink 4.5
Service 3.5
Atmosphere 3
Value 4.5
Bargain Quality Lunch
Whilst browsing the menu, an amuse bouche was presented. This was a demi tasse of celery soup, with almond and goats cheese garnish, (I couldn’t detect the almond) it was hot and tasty. With the set lunch menu offering two choices for each course, we opted to have “one of each”, to cover all the options. (full a la carte is also available) We were soon shown to our table where a bottle of chilled tap water was on the table, and one of each white & brown warmed bread rolls. These were a touch salty (though it could have been the butter but I don’t think so). Having swiftly devoured these between us, we were offered more bread when the starters arrived, which we duly accepted. The mackerel fillet was crisp skinned, the finely cut ratatouille had a nice hint of spice, the courgette puree a touch of mint, for overall a nice combination. The terrine was well pressed and seasoned, and with the crisp shards of bacon and peas three ways (puree, whole peas and pea shoots) a sweet contrast. For the main dishes, the coley was from a large fillet, with the flakes having just that hint of translucence, showing perfect cooking, the mussels plump and moist, and the lettuce still having texture although “creamed”. One minor complaint here. The sauce was a little thin, so although delicious, it would have to be left in the bowl. So a spoon had to be called for, to enjoy the luscious broth. (another table near us had to do the same – so you would hope they take the hint!) Four large cubes of belly pork graced the other plate and this was very tasty and nicely seasoned. The crackling thin and crispy, an apple julienne for contrast and wilted baby gem lettuce leaves refreshing. Not sure where the “parsley” mentioned on the menu was, and the “boulangere” potatoes seemed to be randomly shaped small chunks cooked in stock, slightly firm but flavoursome none the less. The white onion puree needed “something”? to make it more part of the dish than “just a puree”. Dessert of a raspberry and vanilla pavlova was a deconstructed dish. The raspberry in the form of fresh, dried, coulis and sorbet, the cream in two lightly set cubes, with vanilla seeds evident in them. The meringue in the form of sticks. Sometimes such as this can be too sweet, but the sharpness was contrasted well with the sugar of the meringue and cream. The other “dessert” taken was a cheeseboard, after they had first tried to serve the “other” lemon dessert until my brother pointed out he had asked for the cheese (another mark gone for service!) Three types of cheese, quince jelly, assorted crackers and a homemade chutney. Nothing wrong with that once it arrived. A coke and a coffee were the drinks, and petit fours served too. A nice touch, but the “garden mint” chocolate was a little strange taste. Overall an excellent meal, with a couple of minor faults, although the service could have been a little speedier, given the small number of other diners, I wonder how it would transpire if the place was full? A bill for £56 was well acceptable (coke £2, coffee & petit fours £4) for 1* Michelin lunch. Absolutley another fine eating establishment not far from the A170, well worth a visit.
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