The first leg of the road trip was Harrogate, a lovely spa town and somewhere I’d not been to before. After some google research, we decided to book a table at Van Zeller before we arrived to make sure we could definitely get in.
A review in The Guardian recently questioned why Van Zeller doesn’t have a Michelin star, something which I found myself thinking too. Not because it was the best meal of my life, more that I’ve eaten at Michelin starred places which were less impressive.
We received a friendly though quite formal welcome and entered the hushed small dining room where we were quickly offered menus and the wine list. We’d already decided we’d be eating from their set menu (3 courses for £50) and so, got stuck in to making our choices.
To start I went with the Quail – heritage tomatoes, samphire and hazelnut. The quail was delicious and worked well with the tomatoes (which were delicious). The stand out element on the plate was the crispy & salty dried tomato skins. Vicky had the Scallop & Wings – Cauliflower & Truffle Dressing. I enjoyed her dish more than she did, she found the combination a little overpowering. For me, I loved the salty truffle and rich chicken skin alongside the delicate scallops.
For our mains, we ordered opposite ends of the spectrum, Lamb – Broccoli & Jerusalem Artichoke for me and Monkfish – Agnolotti, Fennel, Celery & Oyster Leaf. Neither of us liked the oyster leaf – we asked about it and the waiter explained it’s used to help season the dish (i.e. less salt needed) but it tasted pretty bitter. Give me the salt I say! The monkfish was cooked to absolute perfection and the foam was delicate and perfectly flavoured.
On my dish, the lamb fillet was beautiful. The pressed slow cooked lamb though, was not as good. Quite dense and not as delicious as I was hoping. I love tenderstem broccoli and it works perfectly with lamb. couple this with the sweet and smoky baby onions and this dish was overall, a winner for me.
I love a good cheeseboard (sure you’ve heard that one before) so of course, that was what I ordered. Here I must pause to commend Van Zeller on two levels. Firstly, the cracker to cheese ratio was strong and secondly, there was not a sweet cracker in sight. The cheeses were a mix of french and English. The ash rolled goats cheese and epically oozy camembert were the winners for me.
Vicky went for all out indulgence with the Chocolate – Coffee & Salted Caramel which was just gorgeous. We physically felt the calories and embraced them. Wow!
A final shout out to the accompanying elements to our meal – the best walnut bread in the world (yes really), a wonderful pea, ryvita and feta amouse bouche, and a fabulous elderflower palette cleanser.
So, overall, the food was clever and perfectly cooked. Presentation was as you’d expect on this level – precise, clean and very pretty. There were a couple of question mark – the oyster leaf and the pressed lamb, but on the whole we really enjoyed our food. A big shout out goes to our waiter, a very friendly guy who was totally on the ball. Getting the balance between chatting and serving just spot on! I’m sorry I don’t remember your name but thank you! Great service makes a meal!
Would I eat at Van Zeller again? The answer is yes, but probably only at lunch time when they offer the same three course menu for £35. From what I saw, this was the best fine dining option in Harrogate and quite possibly North Yorkshire but, looking on a wider scale, I’ve eaten better at a similar price elsewhere.