Restaurant Review – Star at Sancton

New Yorkshire Post restaurant review.

Interior of the Star at Sancton

Among the Firmament

Driving through theEast Yorkshire countryside to The Star @ Sancton I was hoping it would be good. I hadn’t visited since the pub had been transformed from scruffy-looking village boozer into gastronaut’s delight; previously it had been the sort of place you’d stop off at for a quick pint and a sandwich – good but nothing exceptional. A small time boozer was never going to be enough for the ambitious young owners, however, and so they set about utterly transforming their pub; they turned the front into the back, the bar into the dining room and the dining room into one of the best places to eat expertly-crafted, ultra locally-sourced dishes in the whole of Yorkshire.

Those owner’s – chef Ben Cox and wife Lindsey – took a major gamble when developing The Star, it wasn’t familiar to many people in the region and Sancton is a little out of the way for passing trade. Nor was Ben, with all due respect, a well known face on the local culinary scene. He’d served his time in some of the better-known East Yorkshire establishments but I’d imagine the bank looked long and hard at his mortgage application before lending him the cash to build his dream restaurant.

The gamble paid off. On a packed-out Friday evening we were presented with dish after dish of wonderful, colourful, tasty delights in an atmosphere of cosy country warmth. The layout of The Star manages to be at once intimate and open; there are three eating areas, all splendidly furnished and arranged to create an oxymoronic feeling of communal intimacy. The décor is very much trad pub, with solid wooden tables and comfortable leather chairs – there’s even the odd toby jug – and it’s all nicely under lit so you almost feel at home.

The wine list is inviting, cheerily presented and reasonably priced (£20 upwards) but the real star of The Star is the menu. It has a choice of eight starters and eight mains, each containing at least one locally sourced ingredient and leaves you scratching your head wondering what you’re not going to choose. The dishes are all English classics or classics-in-the-making and the menu is designed to ensure that you know you’re eating local; it’s not steak, it’s Laverack’s of Holme steak. That garlic taste? That’s Raywell wild garlic. Nothing is pretentious and all of it sounds delicious.

After much prevarication we went for starters of York ham and East Riding honey terrine with pancetta, Jersey Royal and chive salad and a dressing of Bracken Hill grain mustard, and Blue Ribblesdale and red beet salad with Pickering watercress and chive and sesame straws. The terrine was rugged and packed with superbly moist ham, it came with a pig stick (think pork scratchings shaped like matchmakers) and I was so glad I still had the pint of locally-pressed cider I’d ordered pre-meal as enjoying the two together left me feeling like a farmer pausing for lunch on harvest day. The salad was, if anything, even better; it looked amazing on the plate – all deep reds and vivid greens – and tasted so much better than you would believe mere cheese and beetroot ever could. It’s the sign of clever cooking when such simple ingredients are so perfectly balanced and so well prepared. There was an artistic smear of beetroot reduction on the plate which had a welcome sharpness to it – it was later confirmed to be a touch of mace, an ingeniously bang-on addition.

Mains were going to have to work hard to compete, and they almost fell short. But not quite. We had Braised Broomfleet lamb shoulder and minted faggots with garlic crushed Jersey Royals, sauté baby onions and red wine jus, which (compared to the starters) looked a little colourless, as if the saturation had been turned down on the meal. My dining companion went for braised and crisped belly pork with sauté black pudding and cyder juices. We were expecting, perhaps unfairly, the pork to be crispier but all our initial reservations soon vanished when we tucked in. Both the lamb and the pork joints were fall-apart succulent, the black pudding (local, of course) was soft and flavoursome and the minted faggots staked a very strong claim to best accompaniment of the evening. Both plates were, once again, perfectly balanced and supremely tasty.

It’s worth noting that by this point both of us were rather full (a creditable reflection of the portion sizes) but felt obliged to press on with dessert, if only for the purposes of research. The choice was temptingly eclectic with parkin ice cream andLancashirecheese and ale rarebit coming into strong consideration. In the end we went for hot chocolate fondant with ice cream – a test for any kitchen and one which delivered in spades – and the wonderfully named ‘A celebration of strawberries’. When the plate arrived a small cheer rose from our table. Before me was the most delightful child-like tableau. It featured meringue, panna cotta, shortbread and, of course, strawberries arranged to form flowers and sandwiches and other alluring shapes. There was even a small glass filled with jelly, mint and fruit to mimic a Pimm’s cup. Possible the most fun dessert I’ve ever had.

On the 15-ish mile eastward drive home we passed the farm where The Star’s cider is made, the woods where they pick their wild garlic and the fields where the goats that provide the milk for one of the pub’s cheeses graze. If we’d travelled for 15 miles in any direction I’m confident that we’d have passed yet more of the ingredients we’d eaten that night and that’s the real delight of The Star @ Sancton – it’s not the friendly staff, the imaginative chefs, the superb surroundings or the incredible menu that make the place so memorable, it’s the fact that you’re eating the world around you and the world around you tastes so good.

Dave Lee

Starters: £5 – £7.50

Mains: £14 – £20

Desserts: £6 – £8

Open: 12–2 and 6 –9.30 Tuesday to Saturday, 12 – 3 and 6 – 8 on Sunday

The Star @Sancton

King Street

Sancton

Market Weighton

York

EastYorkshire

YO43 4QP

Tel: 01430 827269

www.thestaratsancton.co.uk

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Categories: Restaurant Review, Writing, Yorkshire Post

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