We are in the dog-friendly ‘No Man’s Land’ between restaurant and pubby bit. If I wanted, I could cross to an actual bar with hand pumps and order a pint of cask ale brewed under a mile away in an old Dales laithe (hay barn). Instead I sip my 125ml measure (I’m driving) of Swartland Chenin Blanc and contemplate the tranche of turbot on my plate. It has come from Cornwall, as I also expect have the squares of seared cuttlefish that book-end this exquisite main. Perigord supplied the wafers of black truffle; the provenance of the fermented turnip that contributes so much to the ensemble remains a mystery.
We are eating Michelin at The Angel at Hetton five miles from Skipton. Its chef/patron Michael Wignall has been a serial star holder since winning his first in 1993 at The Burlington, Devonshire Arms just down the road. After quitting two-star Gidleigh Park in Devon in 2018 the plan has been to put The Angel back on the culinary map. Touted as the first gastropub, its best years – which we were part of as regular customers – were long past.
Our first visit to Angel Mark II was exactly a year ago on a glorious Dales summer day, only lockdown restrictions still in place muting our excitement at the transformation. Since when it has retained its star and been named No.4 (two places behind The Parkers Arms across the Lancashire Border) in the Estrella Damm Top 50 UK Gastropubs list. More recently it came in at No.12 in their NRA Top 50 Restaurants and, with The Parkers down at 44, romped home as that list’s ‘Top Gastropub’. The nod there was to its ‘high end’ food. In its 90s heyday under Dennis Watkins there was muttering that pilgrimages to sample its seafood specials and interesting wine list ruined it for the locals.
Yet it did retains an old Dales pub feel. Now with its spacious, almost Scandi makeover that’s not the case.
Would I ever pop in while passing for a pint of that Dark Horse Pale Ale? Probably not. Would I once again drive the 60 mile round trip to make the agonising choice between a la carte (£85) and tasting menu (£95 at lunch)? Yes, I’m already planning my next booking. The temptation is to do an evening and stay over in one of their 15 en suite rooms.
Whatever, The Angel unusually opens Mondays, happily accepts dogs (that ‘no man’s land’ has a hugely comfortable corner booth) and who needs beer when the food is this outstanding?
Our chihuahua Captain Smidge’s last Michelin meal was at Yynshir, UK’s newly anointed No.1 restaurant. Under our table he snoozed through a four hour, 30 course plus, spice-driven tasting menu with deafening house music, mirror balls, fire pits and leathern-aproned disciples serving on. Check out my report on this astonishing place.
This time, in a more relaxed setting, the hound is more up for it, accepting his hand-fed tithe of sourdough, rabbit, confit chicken and Yorkshire spring lamb, off the a la carte this time. Most of this comes from my wife’s order choice. Before the turbot I have crab, razor clam, buttermilk, Oscietra caviar, green strawberries and a Nigiri topped with crab claw meat. Definitely not Smidge’s kettle of fish.
Contender for prettiest dish is my wife’s intricate starter of Loire rabbit, loin and tiny best end chops, linseed and garden peas, but then her pudding of English cherry with pistachio and a woodruff custard is a looker, too, with equally intense flavours to match. Ditch any pub pretensions, The Angel is one of our great, heavenly places to eat. Certainly in God’s Own Country.
The Angel at Hetton, Back Lane, Hetton, Skipton BD23 6LT.