Manicured gardens, opulent interiors, and an excellent restaurant make Middlethorpe Hall the finest hotel in York.
York, unlike most northern cities, escaped much of the urbanising wrath of the industrial revolution, and so today remains one of the country’s prettiest, greenest, and most unpolluted cities. Londoners might not like venturing too far from their metropolitan bubble, but the train from King’s Cross only takes two hours making York ideal minibreak territory.
The city is full of quaint cobbled streets, charming tea rooms, and independent shopping, while the surrounding Yorkshire countryside boasts world famous rambling against a backdrop of outstanding natural beauty. For culture buffs there’s the York Museum, York Castle, and York Art Gallery, home to the important Centre of Ceramic Art. York has a number of good hotels, but one stands out: Middlethorpe Hall.
Middlethorpe is a handsome William and Mary mansion on the outskirts of the city, perfectly combining town and country living. Just a mile and a half from the centre, the hotel is set in 20 acres of immaculate grounds and boasts a spa, lounge bar, and top notch restaurant.
Middlethorpe Hall is part of the National Trust’s Historic House Hotels group which pride themselves on the authenticity of their offering. In this 300 year old mansion you’ll find no unnecessary refurbishments or vulgar embellishments. The building and interiors are sympathetically maintained and offer old school, opulent luxury. It’s all antiques, oil paintings, thick carpets, fireplaces, and brocaded fabrics. Grand, yes, but welcoming and warm.
The hotel’s numerous drawing and sitting rooms are well decorated, perfect for reading a morning newspaper or curling up with a book. There’s a darling little spa built into a small cottage moments away from the main building. It’s very small – seasoned spa-goers will need to adjust expectations – but nicely formed, with a sauna, steam room, spa café, and decent sized pool, large enough for swimming lengths in.
There are 29 bedrooms which are split between the main house and a series of converted stables. Rooms in the main house feature high ceilings and views over the lawns, while the stable suites are spacious but cosy. All are true to the hotel’s sense of style with antiques, tastefully patterned fabrics, and comfortable beds. Bathrooms – some suites have two of them – are well appointed and stocked with Floris toiletries.
The restaurant at Middlethorpe Hall is widely known by discerning locals as one of the best places to dine in the area. The wood panelled dining room is over 300 years old and is complete with a large fireplace, white linen tablecloths, and three huge windows overlooking the lawns. When softly illuminated by candlelight it is surely amongst the loveliest dining rooms in the country.
Head Chef Ashley Binder has created both an a la carte and six course tasting menu for guests to choose from. We tried the tasting menu, which began with a flavoursome broccoli veloute. Following this were starters of wood pigeon with black pudding and scallop with cauliflower and caviar. Both were carefully presented and cooked to perfection. Next came a real blast from the past – a sorbet refresher course. It was flavoured with elderflower and cucumber and turned out to be delightful.
Next came the main course, Jacob’s Ladder, a tasty cut of beef flavoured with black truffle and served alongside baby leeks. The first pudding was a dark chocolate mousse with blood orange ice cream that will keep all chocoholics happy. A delicate plate of speciality rhubarb closed the meal, served poached with white chocolate fondant and pistachio ice cream. A superb finish to a meal of highly accomplished cooking.
Breakfast is also served in the restaurant. The typical continental buffet is on offer, alongside a hot menu of local dishes and breakfast classics. Traditional afternoon tea is served daily in the main drawing room.
Middlethorpe Hall is not cutting edge, and it doesn’t need to be. Guests come here for old school charm, a sense of history, and bags of welcoming hospitality.