Hipping Hall takes its name from the Hipping, or stepping stones that once crossed Broken Beck, allowing travellers to cross the road that for hundreds of years has served to link the north west of England with the major cities of Leeds and York.
Sitting between the beautiful Lake District to the north and the rugged Yorkshire Dales, Hipping Hall is one of the country’s original boutique hotels.
Established around 15 years ago with just five or six rooms, it has slowly expanded, having recently renovated the stables next door, but it has never lost sight of what made it special in the first place.
As with any great place to stay it’s the attention to detail that matters. From the moment you arrive, you are made to feel welcome.
Depending on the time you check in you will often be invited into the lounge for tea and cake while you settle in and they take your bags to the room.
The house has a relaxed feel throughout, striking wallpaper designs are sympathetically juxtaposed with original features and comfy low sofas and leather arm chairs. Your fellow guests seemingly melt into the surroundings, so in spite of it being small and cosy, you never feel on top of one another.
My wife and I have been coming here regularly since it first opened. And over those intervening years we’ve tried plenty of other boutique hotels in the region, yet Hipping Hall keeps drawing us back.
To make a cherished night away from the kids complete, we like our fill of fine food, and in my case a drop of fine wine too. On this front Hipping Hall never lets you down.
Michelin style and quality but without the stuffiness, pomp or ceremony. Beautifully presented dishes with quirky amuse-bouche to whet your appetite, and the odd palate cleanser to keep you on your toes.
Last night we opted to go the whole hog and had the eight course tasting menu, and we shared the accompanying wine tasting menu.
If you can afford to push the boat out I’d recommend doing so, as it’s a great opportunity to sample the clever combinations of food and wine, and how dramatically (or not) the taste differs before and after sampling each course.
All the wines featured are supplied by Buon Vino based at the Courtyard off the A65. So if any really take your fancy you can grab a case on the way home. Likewise the cheeses are all expertly curated by The Courtyard Dairy, also located near Settle on the A65.
So, now for the food.
While the prospect of eight courses may sound daunting let me start by saying I’m not normally a big big eater. At a restaurant I’d probably opt for a light starter and a main, and maybe share a dessert if really pushed.
The Hipping Hall tasting menu courses are big enough to enjoy, but small enough not to fill you up too quickly.
The pacing is also measured and deliberate, we sat down at 7.30pm, and retired to the lounge for petit fours at around 10.40pm (another unexpected delight). Three hours flew by. In fact an unexpected delay before the fish course was actually a bonus in disguise as Becky my wife was beginning to flag.
I’ve often thought restaurants should give diners a pause card for such occasions. Anyhow, returning to the menu, we started with beetroot done in three ways, followed by homegrown courgette and verbena (delicious little pearls of lemon zingyness) then Lancaster eel (a first for me, and surprisingly good, not chewy or tough), a slight enforced delay from the kitchen, then turbot (mine was a little under, but maybe that’s just me), then a large scallop wrapped in coastal greens and sorrel, followed by your choice of either duck or beef (we shared a bite of one another’s, but for me the standout dish of the night was the duck, the skin was done to perfection).
Savories over, time for dessert. First up a zingy palate cleanser to die for – Elderflower, meadowsweet cream and flowering currant (think really posh crushed ice with dainty petals), then a fun strawberry meringue with marjoram, and a nest of homemade doughnuts with jam inside, on a bed of grass – like you do.
The accompanying wine menu was as follows, note the third one down was a cider not a wine, which went with the Lancaster eel, which was a very good match, and quite ballsy of Hipping Hall to stick a cider on a wine tasting menu. The rose was unfiltered, so looked really cloudy – which was odd to look at as it made you think it wasn’t right to drink. Or in my mind it was going to give me a bad head. It didn’t, even after a digestive or two at the end of the night.
Jose Meyer Pinot Blanc
Stone Cross Cider
Le Duc Du Naues
Juracon Domine De Souch
The food was beautifully presented, expertly prepared and cooked to a tee. The flavours took you on a culinary journey, with a few quirky twists and turns along the way.
Head chef Oli Martin is only 28 years old, yet he’s already an accomplished gastronomic. Fiercely proud of his Lancashire roots, and someone who clearly takes his food seriously, he puts creations on the plate that make you smile when you see them, and grin once you’ve tasted them.
For me Hipping Hall fully deserves its reputation as one of the north’s best value boutique hotels.
Over the years it has consistently delivered on its promise to provide the very best service to ensure our stay is both enjoyable and relaxing.
I’m pleased to say the stepping stone to the lakes didn’t let us down. If you would like to find out more about staying in one of their cottage rooms like we did then you can check the Hipping Hall website. cheers all!
Hipping Hall Revisited – In Winter
A wonderful December mini break on the border of three counties. Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria.
When we last visited Hipping Hall in the first half of this post it was in the heart of the summer. The heat wave at the end of July was in full swing.
A lot can happen in five months.
Not least head chef Oli Martin has shot to fame in Masterchef the Professionals.
So it was with great anticipation that we headed up the A65 from Shipley to the border of Yorks and Lancs to our favourite boutique hotel. First things first. Before the food comes the walk.
It’s a gentle hour long dander out the rear of the hotel garden, up through a knotted wood, reminiscent of the dark hedges from Game of Thrones, over a stone stile into the fields.
An old barn mid rennovation greets your entrance to the field, soon to be a guest house of sorts I’d imagine, take a left, head for the big tree, then cross the field, more stiles, and a little stone bridge towards the church in Leck.
We then headed on the public path through the school playground before taking a right then left along the village road, and back to the path to follow the river towards Cowan and the pick up the A65.
It was the perfect way to stretch the legs and test out our LLBean boots.
We were back home in time for a mid afternoon beer.
Dinner was an 11 course affair, accompanied by five wines to compliment each shift in style and culinary twist.
The room, an old wooden beamed pitched barn, was brighter than I remembered. Perhaps because so many diners now like to take pictures of each plate of art.
I’m conflicted on this entire topic, as clearly it helped me chronicle each course for you. But I’d also support a blanket ban on the pesky phone over dinner, the lights dimmed for ambience.
The courses themselves were each presented by the individual chefs. Each one in turn explaining what it was, and happily clarifying ingredients or techniques deployed.
It was a lovely addition to the spectacle. Adding a personal touch, but also showing how the menu is a team effort, not a one man show.
My highlights of the night were the butter pie, deliciously light, with an onion chutney surprise hidden inside. And the beef tartar with toasted hay.
The duck was cooked to perfection, with the added twist of parsley roots, which are like mini parsnips. Who knew?
The pictures and menu can’t really speak for themselves, in that they have to be tasted to be believed. But hopefully they give you a flavour and whet your appetite.
The only one I struggled with was the beetroot, as the liquorice burnt bisque was a bit rich for me. But as my wife pointed out, it didn’t stop me polishing it off. Fair point.
We were then treated to a now infamous TV classic, Pine-Apple.
Once again I have to doff my cap to Oli and his team. He is a masterful chef, but in spite of his recent glory has retained his humility. It was almost as if he wanted share the limelight with all the others behind the scenes.
Turn the lights up full and take a bow Hipping Hall. You nailed it once again.