The Coniston Hotel
Coniston Cold Skipton BD23 4EB Tel: 01756 748080 Fax: 01756 749487
E: firstname.lastname@example.org www.theconistonhotel.com
50 bedrooms including 10 luxury bedrooms with lake view from £99.00 per night inc. breakfast
Dining in either the restaurant, orangerie or summer terrace. Bar food is also available. Open every day from breakfast.
It is hardly surprising that a hotel and restaurant owned by the same family for over thirty years will exude warmth and care throughout. This was certainly my experience at The Coniston Hotel near Skipton. The Bannister family own the 1400 acre estate and 24-acre lake in the Yorkshire Dales. They even share their private home, Coniston Hall, also on the estate, for wedding parties.
When the Bannister’s textile business suffered with the decline of the industry in the sixties, there was a need to diversify and it was to their estate they sought an answer. Beginning with a farm shop and tea rooms, they rapidly expanded by converting the tea rooms to a restaurant and added rooms. Now they boast 50 bedrooms and a host of outdoor activities including clay pigeon shooting, falconry, fishing and off-road driving. Mr and Mrs Bannister are seen often out and about the estate and son Tom, the hotel’s managing director, busy in the bar or serving breakfast.
The day of my lunch, the hotel and stunning surroundings basked in warm spring sunshine. My lunch was served in the once teashop-now restaurant. A slight closeness to its former life remained with rafters and dark furniture. The cream coloured cloths and fresh flowers however lifted the whole and it sparkled as brightly as the sunshine outside.
The first course of a Coniston fish cake took my breath away. I was now glad I had missed the canapés so big was it. The coating was crisp and held a tightly packed filling of the freshest, succulent fish. The pool of thick, creamy sauce surrounding it added softness to the whole.
My choice of wine for the starter was outstanding;
A Chardonnay from Puglia was fresh and flavourful, light, yet packed enough punch to balance with the fish cake. A Pèppoli Chianti Classico for the main course was a typical modern wine of the region. The young wine was fruity and fragrant with an intense aroma. It had work to do alongside the food and achieved it with ease.
If you subscribe to the notion that here in Yorkshire we like our portions big then the Coniston is the place for you. The size of the main course made the starter seem microscopic. There was a half duck on the plate, and a stack of vegetables. Food of this proportion I find overwhelming. The true professional though, I ate something of everything before me. A tender, flavoursome duck had been cooked to a rosy perfection. A gin sauce with cherry sauce was a timeless combination for duck; the cherries cutting through any fattiness. I couldn’t detect the gin but maybe because there were many flavours to work through on the plate. The only casualty of the dish was the vegetable bundle which seemed a touch lacklustre.
A sigh of relief with pudding of a trio of rhubarb .The trio served was light and refreshing after the sturdy courses before. The Coniston prides itself on the use of regional produce and here was a great example of a good Yorkshire product used to its best.
They weren’t stopping there though. A huge plateful of English cheeses came with homemade chutney, Dundee cake, grapes, celery and biscuits. A sweet Tuscan wine for pudding and cheese was unctuous and not too sweet as some pudding wines can be, owing to adding concentrated must and alcohol in the making. The Donato is typically drunk with sweet almond Cantuccini biscuits and I feel is a better match for that than rhubarb, but it would be hard to find a wine that would work. Good match for the cheese though.
It took much effort for me to leave my seat at the end of lunch but I left feeling well-fed with good food, excellent wines and exemplary service. The bedrooms from this vantage point looked especially appealing and next time I visit I will ensure I book one, just in case.