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Shaun Rankin at Grantley Hall Review

Visited January 2022

Shaun Rankin at Grantley Hall

Built in 1710 by Thomas Norton, Grantley Hall is a mightily impressive Grade II* listed country house, situated in the village of Grantley, around five miles west of the town of Ripon. The flagship restaurant (amongst various other dining options) is Shaun Rankin at Grantley Hall, which as you've probably worked out already, is headed up by Yorkshire-born acclaimed chef Shaun Rankin. Having achieved a precious star from our favourite tyre munching inspectors in the 2021 Michelin guide, I was anticipating a suitably stunning experience as my wife and I made the trip for dinner on a January Saturday evening, to celebrate my wife's birthday.

The first part of our journey into the venue involved passing the gatehouse, where we were greeted by a perfectly pleasant gentleman who directed us up the main entrance road. Even in the dark, the grounds and drive up to the house were stunning. They operate a one way system through to the other main estate entrance, very sensibly as the road isn't wide enough for two cars, although that didn't stop a bright spark in some kind of 4x4 ignoring the no entry sign at the other end of the entrance road and driving straight at us. Proof, if ever it were needed, that no amount of money can buy common sense.

Once we'd negotiated that obstacle, we were greeted at the front of the house by another very nice chap who offered to valet park our car; this threw my wife slightly, mainly because the back of our car was full of child related mess, but we thought it best to let him do his thing. The building itself is externally stunning as you'd expect and that splendour continues inside; it's really been finished to a high standard. The modern take for the various large pieces of artwork that adorn the walls won't be to everyone's taste (including mine to be honest), but there's no denying it's a spectacular venue.

We were greeted warmly on arrival and shown through first to the lounge area before our meal. As you'd expect, it's an impressive and comfortable room and the perfect place to enjoy a pre-dinner drink and some nibbles. Those nibbles came in the form of nuts, olives and charcuterie and were all pleasant enough. Drinks wise, there's a healthy selection and comprehensive wine list; I enjoyed my usual Hendrick's and tonic to start but the non-alcoholic selection for my wife was pretty poor in truth, with only three not particularly exciting choices on the menu.

Whilst in the lounge area the menu was explained to us by a couple of the waiting staff, including telling us Shaun Rankin himself was in the kitchen (good to know) and detailing how so much of the menu comes from within thirty miles of the restaurant (more on that later). It's a single tasting menu for dinner of course, but there's a choice of wine flights to accompany the meal, both with impressive names (Signature or Prestige). In a moment of unprecedented wildness, I opted for the Prestige flight; you only live once and all that. Like virtually every restaurant at this level, the menu price has increased substantially in the past year or two (albeit less than a lot of places in this case fortunately), but that's something we've all just got to get used to I think.

We were sat in the lounge for a quite a long time but I didn't really have an issue with that; after a while we were shown through to our table in the main dining room. It's another very impressive room, with a spacious luxurious feel. We were sat on the back wall, fortunately not on the table next to the kitchen door where there was a lot of traffic as you'd expect, and it was a good spot to observe the room I would say. There's a fairly high level of formality here which is no bad thing, the table was moved (rather than the chairs) for us to sit down, and they even provide a little back cushion for all the female diners also. There's no placing of napkins which I thought there would be, but fortunately I am capable of putting a napkin across my lap myself (I know, I'm such a hero) so no issue there.

I'd asked for still water but we were served tap water; in the end I was glad because the topping up of water throughout the night was unrelenting and constant. After our initial pour, even before we'd drunk any, the same waiter returned to add more which I think is the first time that's ever happened to me. I was slightly worried if we didn't drink some he'd just continue to endlessly pour and indeed had visions of the water pouring off the table like an unstoppable waterfall. And just to say, I have no issue with water being topped up and actually think it's a nice touch, but to do it before the guests have even had a sip (and also once or twice across my path whilst I was mid-mouthful eating during the meal) is a little bit too much, even for me.

Dinner began with a couple of snacks; a pleasant if not especially memorable "fish and chips" bite followed by a much more impressive venison tartare tart, which my wife and I both enjoyed. The bread followed after this (which I was happy to see as I do always prefer when the bread comes near the start of the meal) and was one of the best bread courses I can recall; the sourdough was great but the accompany selection of dripping, two types of lovely butter and a beef tea really elevated the course to heady bread heights; delicious.

Next came the first wine from the wine flight (2017 De la Guerra Chardonnay); it was poured at the table (as I much prefer) and explained well, the only niggle here was that it was poured a good ten minutes before the course actually arrived. Menu pacing is something that separates good restaurants from great in my experience, so that was a bit disappointing and seemed to be a recurring theme throughout the evening for most courses.

When it did arrive, the next plate consisting of truffle and artichoke piled atop a moreish chunk of bread, accompanied by a Hebden Bridge cheese foam was worth the wait, it was a very accomplished dish. Our waiter gave a fairly dramatic build up to the next course of langoustine, elderflower and smoked cream, describing it as "an explosion of flavour". I wouldn't go that far to be honest, but it was another high quality piece of cooking.

Next up was turbot served with Exmoor caviar, cabbage, dill and lemon verbena. I really enjoyed this dish; it wasn't anything revolutionary but a nice little twist on some classic flavours. The cooking of the fish was faultless and the accompanying sauce was delicious too; I'd happily eat that dish again any time. The following course was venison loin, served with blackcurrant and a piece of barbecued celeriac (apparently). I wasn't quite as blown away by this dish; the venison was cooked well but the celeriac lacked any of the promised barbecue flavour which was a shame. It was a nice plate overall but I wouldn't rush back for it.

The crossover came in the form of a bowl of parsnip, pear and pineapple weed. I really enjoyed it; my wife wasn't so keen on the combination but it worked for me. Next came a little bit more less-than-stellar service; I took a short trip to the facilities (even the toilets here are suitably grand as you might expect) and when I returned, I was sat for a good few minutes before our first dessert of treacle tart and clotted cream was served. No problem there but unfortunately, it was served before my wine for that course which was a tad annoying. The waitress did apologise but it was still another few minutes before my wine eventually appeared. The sommelier serving the wine did apologise also, and the wine, a 1997 Chateau D'Yquem (albeit a very small measure) was excellent too. So ultimately, there was no real harm done, but it was just another little bit of the service that night that wasn't quite right.

As for the treacle tart, it was given a big build up (apparently it was a winning course on The Great British Menu some time more than a decade ago), but although the accompanying clotted cream with raspberry was delicious, the tart itself had some issues. It was tasty enough but the base was definitely firmer than it should have been, and my wife's piece was pretty singed on top to boot, I was a little bit surprised they'd served it in all honesty. The final course was the cheese course; Lanark Blue cheese (sliced at the table) with a sweet Harrogate bun. Both elements were nice but the combination was a little bit strange and didn't really work.

We were then shown back to the lounge area for after dinner coffee and tea, where a suitably impressive wooden tower of petit fours was wheeled across. I still appreciate when a restaurant provides a good p4 experience and the ones we had here (four different types) were all delicious. It was a pleasant end to the evening, although it did take an absolute age to flag down one of the staff and collect the bill afterwards (complete with 12.5% service charge). I suppose there's always a balance in a venue like this with allowing guests to not feel rushed and looking after those who do actually want to leave.

And that as they say, was pretty much that. Overall we had an enjoyable evening; the food was of a high standard in the main and the wine flight was excellent. There were though several pacing issues with the delivery of the courses, and little niggles with service throughout that I just wasn't expecting. There was no mention of my wife's birthday whatsoever either, even though I'd mentioned it clearly (and had it confirmed they were aware) when booking which was a real shame too. Oh, and they charged me for a bottle of still water I never received also; I just couldn't be bothered by this point to complain about it.

Even being told at the start of the meal that the menu was sourced from within thirty miles of the restaurant grated on me a little, as so much of it (Exmoor caviar, Lanark Blue cheese, the list goes on) wasn't. I have absolutely no issue eating my way around the UK (or indeed the rest of the world) but why pretend it's a locally sourced menu if it really isn't, I just don't like that falseness.

As we departed, there was still time for one more piece of not great service; we collected my coat without issue and the keys for our car and when leaving we expected at the very least there would be someone outside to direct is to where it was parked. There wasn't, and we ended up having to wander around the grounds ourselves at 10:30pm to find it, a less than ideal situation.

I suppose I'd sum up by saying this is without doubt a very good restaurant, at an unquestionably splendid venue, but the overall service, although friendly and well intentioned, just wasn't at the level I'd have expected. For the price, I was expecting better than this in all areas, so although I'd happily visit again in future, I don't think I'll be rushing back any time soon.

Dress Code

It's a smart casual dress code; no jeans, shorts, trainers etc. I don't think they'd kick you out in all honesty if you turned up in jeans, but all the diners there during our visit were dressed smartly.

Top Tip

The wine flights are worth exploring.

Guide Ratings

No issue with the star or three rosettes; I think the food here is really what I'd describe as a textbook one star tasting menu. I wouldn't be surprised to see four rosettes from the AA at some point, although in truth I don't think the meal I ate was quite at four rosette level.
Ratings Michelin Guide AA Guide Good Food Guide
At time of review Michelin Star AA RosetteAA RosetteAA Rosette -
Our view Michelin Star AA RosetteAA RosetteAA Rosette 6

Group size: 2 adults. Total bill (including service): £519.