Restaurant review: Best country inn in Yorkshire?

Apart from the small minority who like the austere beauty of a Bauhaus building, there can be few people who wouldn't warm to the cosy nature of The Blue Lion at East Witton.

Friday, 23rd February 2018, 2:59 pm
Updated Friday, 23rd February 2018, 3:05 pm
Utterly charming - The Blue Lion at East Witton.

Despite lying 16 miles from Ripon and 28 from Harrogate, this historic country inn has been renowned beyond its Wensleydale location as long as I can remember.It was well-known in Harrogate when I first started dining out regularly in the mid-1990s and its status has scarcely waned since.Nestled in prime walking country in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, it’s not just its homely atmosphere or cobbled driveway which explains its enduring appeal under owners Paul and Helen Klein.That on its own might not encourage so many diners to travel through the winding rural roads that lead to the doors of this charming 18th century restaurant and hotel.Arriving at the Blue Lion always feels like coming home, especially in the dead of winter - the roaring log fire in the bar, the elegance of the more formal restaurant area.With its 15 English-styled bedrooms, it’s also a good place to get away for a short break, without going very far.But a large part of its appeal is due to the sheer quality of its freshly prepared food.The a la care menu is the place to start, broad and varied but always hearty whether that’s the whole roast grouse with bread sauce and game chips; the Yorkshire dales rump, French style peas, roasted vine cherry tomatoes and creamy mashed potato or bubble and squeak with poached eggs, chive and cherry tomato butter sauce.One good tip is to try the set lunch, as I did. Served daily from Monday to Saturday, it’s not only good value for money it contains quite a few of the highlights of the main menu.Jamie Oliver rated it highly when he stayed the night here, clearly recognising its unpretentious values and quietly high standards.At £18.50 for two courses, the choice is still impressive.So when it came to the crunch did I choose the bubble and squeak or the slow cooked belly pork or any of the other dishes which its reputation demanded?Well, no. The Blue Lion is not that sort of place. There is no pressure to be adventurous or take a risk or do anything based on any idea of showing off or fitting in.No. I just sat back, snug as a bug and tucked into Black Sheep battered cod and chips and loved it.