On their website The Wensleydale Heifer describes itself, as a boutique hotel and restaurant, in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. We chose to meet up with friends for dinner there, as an early Christmas celebration, as we live so far apart and were all busy over the festive period. The Wensleydale Heifer caters for many dietary requirements, including vegans, with a full menu offered. I have dined at many similar places, one being a fabulous experience only two days prior to our visit, so my expectations were high.
I made an enquiry as to vegan wines and had a lovely email back from Emily on Reception, listing all the suitable ones, after contacting their wine supplier. I also did my own research and found a few more to add to the list, so I had a good choice.
On arrival I was a little underwhelmed, the frontage did not shout luxury, but country pub and the inside, though cosy was country cottage rather than boutique hotel.
The rooms are themed, so we were in The Four Poster, a little small, but with a large bathroom, tea and coffee making facilities, two apples, bottles of Wensleydale bottled water and a small decanter of sherry, but at £200 for the night, I would not expect anything less.
Our friends suggested we have lunch, so met up in the lounge for a drink and placed our order. We were shown into the bar area, so our friends two well behaved dogs could be accommodated and were brought bread, houmous and some balsamic oil for me, as for some strange reason, the houmous was not vegan. I ordered an excellent Delas Vigonier, which was a perfect lunchtime wine.
The vegan main courses were pricey at £15.50, so when my Indian pakora with sweet chilli and cucumber salad arrived, I was disappointed, it was a starter kind of dish, not a main course. The pakoras were tasty, but the dish did not warrant the price tag. Steven's vegan Thai curry, was a more complete meal, as can be seen from the photos, served with a jug of extra sauce, so I pinched some of his rice.
Our friends commented, that it was like sitting in the staff canteen though, as members of staff sat at the bar drinking, or wandering in for a chat, or with a box of vegetables for another, so rather distracting.
When we returned to our room, we found complimentary goodies, what a shame there was nothing for me, a little lacking in attention to detail, but I had my apple I suppose.
Our dinner reservation was 20.30 pm so arrived at 19.30 pm for drinks, but as 20.00 pm came and went, no sign of our dinner order being taken. At 20.40 pm, by which time food and wine orders had been taken, we enquired and were told diners were still sitting on our table. By 21.00 pm we were getting impatient, finally sitting down at 21.10 pm, on what was the worst table, slap bang in between the two kitchen doors either side, with one door slightly screened off. It was apparent they were rammed, so even if we had asked to be moved, where to. There was a constant stream of staff either entering the kitchen, by kicking the door if carrying things or leaving the kitchen with plates of food. We sat for ten minutes, wondering where our wine and water was and our waiter seemed oblivious we had ordered either and went away to investigate, returned and found our wine on the table across from us, hidden behind a pile of pots and glasses.
Finally we had a glass of wine to chill and relax, one I sampled last month in Ambleside, Mezzacorona Castel Firmian Pinot Grigio, highly recommended if you see it on a list anywhere.
We were brought bread, houmous and four complimentary nibbles, unsuitable for me, until two small pieces of melon and two slices of strawberry arrived in a bowl, how creative!
So onto starters, a roast tomato, pepper and fennel soup with extra virgin olive oil, very nice it was too, but at £8.50 probably the most expensive soup I have eaten.
I ordered a Delas Cote de Rhone wine to accompany the mains, mine being wild mushroom, spinach and truffle risotto, with crispy shallots and dressed rocket, which arrived at nearly 22.00 pm, with apologies from the kitchen. It was a more robust dish than lunchtime and I was asked for feedback, as it was a new addition to the vegan menu, so I did. Unfortunately the lack of mushroom and truffle flavour was astounding, yet the rice was perfectly cooked, the dish well seasoned, so I thought my taste buds were playing games, so Steven tried it and agreed. Interestingly both Steven and one friend had dishes with truffle on, both saying it was overpowering, maybe they got mine.
It was nearly 22.30 pm by this time and we were past wanting desserts, so we had a quick drink in the bar and retired to bed. However dessert was sorbets or delicious sounding caramelised banana and pineapple, toasted coconut and rum syrup.
Breakfast the following morning, was much more relaxing, a better table and not as frenetic, with a good selection of cereals, fruits, juices and smoothies to start. I kicked off with fruits, nuts and seeds and then an excellent bowl of porridge, served with golden syrup and lovely coffee.
When it came to ordering hot breakfast, in my case fried potatoes, mushrooms and tomatoes, the waitress assured me it would be cooked separately in olive oil, which I thought was attention to detail. The breakfast was really nice and I could have eaten the potatoes twice over, would have been great with my pakoras, they were wonderful.
I am in two minds about The Wensleydale Heifer, they understand a vegan diet and offer a nice vegan menu, however I feel that it is overpriced, as did Steven and our friends. One thing I cannot fault though is the staff, who were polite, welcoming and helpful, although under pressure I think that night.
I dine out regularly, be it fine dining or coffee and cake and everything in between and feel The Wensleydale Heifer is charging fine dining prices, in a pub atmosphere. It has a big following, apparent by how busy it was, its Tripadvisor reviews and is in an area, devoid of much competition, so gets away with top end pricing. If visiting the area again and wanting a fine dining experience, I would be heading off to the Michelin starred Yorke Arms at Ramsgill. Would I return to The Wensleydale Heifer, well sadly the answer would be no.