After arranging a trip to tour North Yorkshire I swiftly reserved a table at the much hyped and well loved Yorke Arms, both my partner and I well very much looking forward it. We arrived ten minutes early for our eight o’clock table and we were swiftly shoved into the lounge for a drink rather than given the choice of going to our table. I should have realised there and the that something was up as the lounge was full of people who appeared to have been there for sometime.
The menus were eventually supplied by a rather dull and uncharismatic maitre d, who’s only interaction was a rather poor attempt to sell the days specials, there was no warm smile or friendly chat that you’d expect or want from a country inn.
The clientele were all fairly old, nothing wrong with this of course but we did feel somewhat uncomfortable, we are both in twenties, yet are professional people who have experienced many ‘starred’ restaurants. There seemed something rather unwelcoming about the place if your under 50.
After around 30 minutes our orders still had not been taken and I was beginning to wonder if the place was just very relaxed or very slow, either way, after a day of driving I was becoming ravenous.
To cut the story short we weren’t seated until after an hour and ten minutes of our arrival. On being seated our white wine was ‘dumped’ on the table in a warm tatty plastic ‘cooler’ and the lid left in front of me. The table was wonky and the awkwardly positioned legs meant I couldn’t even adjust my chair. The dining room itself is an unsuccessful attempt to blend old style country pub with modern art gallery, imagine your granny buying a job lot of Warhol to put in her front room then you‘ll get the idea, this in addition with the uncomfortably positioned bar (complete with lone drinker) and vastly inadequate toilets leaves one with the impression of (attempted) style over substance.
By the time our starters had arrived (around nine thirty), I had refilled our wine and water glasses a few times, this apparently being a Michelin quality place. I had no idea who our waiter was, as different staff drifted in and out, all with a dead eyed look of boredom. By this stage I was adamant that the service charge was not getting paid, we had been ignored, made to wait with no explanation and felt as if though they were doing us a favour by letting us eat there.
The starter itself was ok at best, a cheese soufflé with scallops and vanilla is an odd choice, for the reason that the flavours don’t really go, my partners crab and salmon affair was greeted with mute smiles and an affable ‘its nice’, not really good enough when your charging £15 a pop.
Another twenty or so minutes passed, and by this time I had done more waiting on our table than any of the staff, when the final nail was driven in. The couple behind were obviously revelling in their exulted surroundings, with much clicking of the fingers and ordering of champagne, the Maitre d made his first foray into the room only to fill up their glasses, smile and chat with them, before casting a gaze at us and our empty glasses before strutting out the room. I left the table and caught up with him, bit my tongue and politely explained how, the whole experience was seriously below par, I asked for the bill for what we’d eaten and drunk and that, when paid we were leaving.
The chap tentatively approached my table a few minutes later and apologised, he explained that they had a large party in and were behind, this was of rebutted with the fact that their tardiness is no concern of mine and that there were other faults which had frankly ruined our much anticipated date. We were informed that the starters and drinks were to be ‘comped’ with his apologises, but would we please stay and enjoy our main course on the house as it was being plated up. We agreed and had our mains, all the time being fussed over by the staff who filled our glasses after every sip, by this point it was just uncomfortable and we wanted to go. The main itself was again a strange dish, Hare and red pepper. It was without doubt skill fully cooked but just didn’t work.
We finished up and told the maitre d that despite everything we would leave the money as we didn’t want to be thought of as some of those chancers who complain about everything in the hope of a free meal. He was adamant that no money was required and that he again was sorry, so we agreed that we would leave behind a contribution to the food charity the restaurant supports.
In summary, if like me, you take a Michelin star as a sign of good food, good service and a nice environment in which to enjoy these things, the Yorke arms will leave you bitterly disappointed. I have the impression that all the awards and accolades have perhaps got them resting on their laurels. Despite everything, I’m grateful for the apology and for the refusal to take any money, I am however more grateful that we didn’t end up spending over £200 on an experience that would have been wholly disappointing, if you’re going to charge an average of £38 a main course, expensive for even the best London places, you’ve got to be on top of your game, and this place just wasn’t. Over the course of the weekend we ate in many wonderful, local family run pubs, who’s food and service had more honesty and integrity than the Yorke Arms, I suggest you do the same.