The Best of Harrogate's Eateries
Restaurants come and go in the Spa town of Harrogate. Some good, some bad, others pretentious and over priced and those who provide a good experience are sometimes hard to find.
Somerset House at 11 Parliament Street is certainly the best restaurant I have visited in the town for a very long time both as a reviewer and an ordinary customer. Independently owned it provides quality, its reasonably priced but most of all I just love the way it draws its inspiration and uses produce from the local area.
Situated in a former town house the exterior reminds me of some of the most exclusive and prestigious London restaurants. The painted exterior and the bay windows lead into a cool and beautifully furnished interior with a long tiled bar and an eclectic mix of décor which is relaxing to say the least.
After a busy morning of retail therapy, my colleague and I were ready to relax over leisurely lunch. We were seated in the bay window area with its comfy, sinkable chairs, which we were highly delighted about as we just love people watching!
Anyone visiting Somerset House has to start with one of their cocktails. I decided on Planters Punch, exclusive to the bar. Unusually for a rum based cocktail this was very refreshing. It consisted of a 7 year Havana rum, pineapple, orange, sugar syrup, bitters and grenadine to name but a few of the goodies. It was not overly sweet and its description was spot on it did pack a punch!
Not as adventurous as myself, my colleague chose the French Martini, which the bar gives its own twist to. Considering herself somewhat a martini expert she was very impressed when it arrived and even more impressed when she took her first sip.
The starters list gave us problems as there were so many good things to choose from. My choice was the red wine poached pear, Yorkshire blue cheese and candid hazelnut salad. Quite an unusual combination, beautifully presented. There was a lovely contrast between the crumbled cheese and sprinkled walnuts and the pears poached in red wine.
The Severn and Wye smoked salmon and prawn cocktail with capers and leaves was my colleague’s choice. This came with ample proportions of the salmon and prawns to which the capers added an interesting flavour. But most of all, The Bondgate of Otley granary bread that accompanied the dish really tasted as if it had been made in the local bakers.
For ‘the main event’ as the menu calls it my colleague chose a vegetarian dish of homemade gnocchi served with basil pesto, spinach and caramelised leeks with a side order of onion rings. The fusion of flavours made this a ‘dish to remember’. The side order of onion rings arrived hot and coated in a crispy but light batter.
I opted for the 10 oz Wensleydale Gammon steak which was really more than ample for any appetite yet with its clever presentation it didn’t appear too overbearing. The gammon was succulent and juicy, even though I requested it well done, and grilled to perfection.
The dish comes with a poached egg, one of the most difficult things to get right in any kitchen, a side salad and a tasty pineapple relish. Now what do I say about the chips! They were the best ones I have ever tasted since I was a kid and gran used to fry them for me. Obviously fried in beef dripping they were hot, crispy with a fluffy inside.
We got through a lot of people watching before we could even bring ourselves to order a ‘guilty pleasure’. My pink lady rhubarb tart was filled with tangy rhubarb and came with a cream anglasie. The pastry was crispy as if it had just come from the oven – which I later learned it had!
The chocolate brownie with Northern Block hazelnut and Tonka bean ice-cream, ordered by my colleague, did not disappoint in fact she declared “it was to die for”. The brownie was perfect it had a soft texture, melted in the mouth, was crisp on top and you could really taste the hazelnut.
Somerset House is blessed with some friendly and helpful staff that really make you feel special. It can be whatever you want it to be and suits any occasion from a girlie or business lunch to a special celebration, family outing or a meal with someone special.
Somerset House No.11 Parliament Street, Harrogate. Tel: 01423 531 735
Open: Mon-Thurs: 12-23; Fri & Sat: 10-1.00am; Sunday 12-23.