Friday, 2 March 2018

The White Horse and Griffin - Whitby

It's fair to say that Whitby is my favourite seaside town. We go at least once a year but strangely enough, I've never been in the winter time. I'm not one of these people that hunker down during the darker months, I still like to be out and about and I love walking in the cold sunshine. Therefore, it's rather silly that I hadn't been to Whitby in wintertime.

Whitby is a glorious place to go in winter, it's just as nice in winter as in summer. After a brisk and wintry walk beside the sea there are plenty of pubs with open fires to fall in to and drink many of the many varieties of mulled alcohol, ale and quite surprisingly, there are a number of gin bars too.

One of the things that attracts me to Whitby is its sheer charm. Pair this with a heavy dose of nostalgia and history and I'm basically putty in your salty hands. It's a far cry from the shores of Scarborough although only half an hour, at most, away. Yes, there is the 'chavier' side but it's easily escapable. There's also a general feeling of 'acceptance' in Whitby that I love too. It attracts everyone from families, to young teenagers who can pop over on the train, couples of many sorts and ages, goths, steampunks and everyone else and in between.

So when someone asks me if I want to stay in one of Whitby's important historical buildings, there was no chance I would say no.

The White Horse and Griffin is on the east side of town, the side with those cobbled streets and the 199 steps up to the abbey. The building has been there since 1681 and was the first coaching inn between Whitby, York and London. It remained an inn until 1939.

It's said that some chap called James Cook stayed there a few times, I've heard he was pretty big in his day and captained many voyages... Post 1939 however, it descended in to a derelict state and was used as a storage house for the local fishermen. The building underwent a 11 year refurbishment when it was bought in 1982 by a local builder.

The decor inside is a period feature lovers dream. AKA it is my dream, I am sucker for period features.

The front entrance from church street leads you in to a high ceiling-ed room, made so by removing one of the floors, along one side are a number of original fireplaces leading to a gin bar at the back. Go further back and down a small flight of stairs and you'll find yourself in the restaurant. It's low level but not in the basement, there is an old stove with the wine balanced above on the mantel.

Upstairs you'll find a room reserved for guests of the hotel, complete with an open fire a more relaxed and informal feel and is welcome to pooches. Keep making your way up the stairs and you'll find 10 bedrooms complete with modern ensuites.

The rooms aren't immaculate, there are wonky walls, crooked corners and creaky floorboards. I wouldn't expect perfection in a place as old as this, it adds to it's charm, it's history and I'd hate for things to be glossed over in the attempt to cater to those who seek polished uncharacterful hotels.

Despite the building being less refined than a new build hotel with little to say about itself, the service was top notch. We were made to feel welcome as soon as we stepped through the door, there are no fridges in the rooms so you're handed a flask of milk to take up with you, it's not a 5 star hotel but I like that the thought was there even if the fridge wasn't.

The rooms are fairly small, I think you'd struggle to find bigger in any inn from the 1600s. The bathroom therefore took me by surprise. They're modern in comparison to rest of the buidling, pretty sizeable with a separate bath and shower, the bath isn't a small either.

If you're not planning on staying the night, then I'd still recommend making a booking at the restaurant (and it's not often I recommend hotel restaurants). At the very least stop for a gin in the bar, they even converted me to gin, as long as it's served with ginger ale.

The restaurant has recently obtained a new chef, who has revamped the menu and made it a little more refined. It's Yorkshire / British food on a simple menu, of course it includes fish and chips but you'll also find something to warm your cockles after being cuddled by the cold sea wind all day.

The chap and I have started to share all of our food recently, this way we get to try more and it helps in making a decision when we're both hankering after the same dish but don't want to order the same thing.

To start we had the pigs cheek with truffle mash, apple puree, apple caramel and a cheeky piece of crackling. It was beautifully cooked, falling apart at the fork and full of slow cooked flavour.

Our other starter was the ham hock terrine with scotch egg. I learnt recently that Americans think scotch eggs are weird and some have never heard of them, they don't know what they're missing. It was a beautifully presented dish, and the scotch (quail) egg was perfect. The only thing I would improve on is perhaps the terrine to apple puree ratio, a little more puree would have helped mop up the last of the terrine.

For mains I chose the sticky beef cheek with haggis. It came in a pastry parcel and reminded me of an old beef pudding that my grandma used to eat, perhaps with better pastry. It was incredibly rich and I struggled to finish it. A smaller portion may have been more management or perhaps some flavoured mash accompanied with more veg would have brought in a little more balance. It was still wonderfully cooked, it just need a little tweaking.

D opted for steak, his favourite dish to order (ever), which came with some brilliant accompaniments. The steak was cooked medium rare perfectly, on the top were some crispy onion rings, not soaked in fat but lightly batter and seasoned. A cross between a potato croquette and a chip also made an appearance on the plate with roasted sundried tomatoes, spinach and mushrooms. There was no scrimping on the peppercorn sauce either which gains them bonus points in my books.

Despite our bellies feeling pretty full we ordered dessert, we were on holiday (as close as we'll get to one this year) after all.

My dessert was small but served on the biggest plate, this apple and pineapple tart tartin with ice cream was delicious but my ice cream kept trying to escape across my inexplicably big plate.

D beat me to ordering the sticky toffee pudding, currant free (apparently this is a thing?) it was delicious served with a small scoop of ice cream... or so D had me believe when it came to my turn to eat half of it.

We enjoyed a post dinner in the bar before moving on to a couple of other places on the east side of town. The streets were empty but the pubs were filled with live singers, open fires and warm welcomes, just what you're looking for in the middle of January.

The next morning we enjoyed breakfast in the restaurant. Still feeling slightly full from the night before, I just had a sausage sandwich... whereas D had a full English (minus the mushrooms).

Tea is Yorkshire, coffee is filter (not for me) and the atmosphere is light and thankfully it isn't served a crazy o'clock on a weekend morning.

Whitby is a beautiful place to visit, any time of the year, we were lucky to be there when the sky turned pink. Here are some pictures for you to enjoy, if you haven't booked a stay yet, what are you waiting for?

1 comment:

Seren said...

What stunning pictures! We love Whitby and try and get there a couple of times a year - I’ve got a feeling that we’ve had breakfast at The White Horse but I’d certainly give it a go for dinner based on this. We usually stay at The Shepherd’s Purse which is just down the road and is sooooo sweet.