The Star Inn at Harome
It fits the bill perfectly, truly everyone’s dream of the ideal English country pub: an ancient thatched longhouse, with cottage windows and low beams, polished wood, old settles and a clock ticking away the time until lunch. Chef and owner Andrew Pern, says out of all his restaurants, and he’s got four, the bar of the Star Inn is his favourite room. ‘ If all of them were like this I’d be a millionaire,’ he says with a chuckle. Isn’t he one already? With the bustling Star Inn the City and Mr Pern’s Curious Tavern, both in York , the Star Inn the Harbour in Whitby, and of course the original Star in Harome, the Pern industry looks to be booming.But it’s a fickle industry too, and he’s known lows along with the highs since he and his wife Jacquie turned an unloved village boozer into a destination restaurant that changed the face of Yorkshire dining forever.
That was back in 1996 when the lad from the Esk Valley, who went to school in Whitby and to Catering College in Scarborough, had a vision to serve a menu tied to the seasons using local Yorkshire produce. It may not sound radical now but it was then. ‘I’d always admired what Nigel Haworth and Paul Heathcote were doing in Lancashire and Terry Laybourne in Newcastle and thought there was no one doing it for Yorkshire.’
In the cosy bar and the cramped little dining room Andrew, championed Yorkshire producers scattering the menu with meat and poultry from the village farms, game from local shoots, fish from Whitby and whatever grew in the North Yorkshire soil. Egg producers, salmon smokers, someone with a hare or a rabbit, they would knock on the back door of the Star and offer the kitchen their booty and Andrew would invariably take it. The result was a menu where you want to eat the lot.
In particular he created what he calls ‘rich man, poor man’ cuisine, pairing luxurious ingredients with the everyday. It became and still is his trademark, best seen in what has become his signature dish of black pudding and foie gras – and one that in 2002 helped earn him a Michelin star, one of the first to win one.
A table in the little dining room soon got ever harder to reserve. They expanded with a new kitchen, a kitchen garden, an extra dining room, accommodation, a village shop and hotel so that local wits soon began naming the village Pernshire.
Then to everyone’s surprise, in 2010 Michelin took away the star. It was a heavy blow but together with his head chef Steve Smith got to work, covering every shift in the kitchen to bring back consistency to the Star. It paid off. In 2014 they won back the star and have held it ever since.
Today Andrew is the public face of the business, tirelessly turning out for shows and food festivals, glad-handing it with guests, always smiling, consistently good natured. Mindful of that coveted star he is also in the kitchen, grafting alongside Steve, creating new dishes, planning menus.
When we meet he’s busy scribbling down ideas for autumn: grouse, hare, lobster, Lindisfarne oysters, sloes, elderberries, venison. He’s back where he’s always been seeking out the best of Yorkshire’s pantry to create the Pern brand of rich man, poor man. Nobody does it better. You still fancy everything on the Star’s gorgeous menu.