A WARM welcome – and a perfect poached egg – awaited us when we took refuge from the blizzard in a roadside inn.
INCREDIBLE, really. On a journey from Thirsk to Askrigg in the recent appalling weather we got stuck at Constable Burton. Or rather I refused to go further than Constable Burton in the face of a raging blizzard. Everyone behind me carried on regardless of the build up of snow and ice and Ian assured me it was do-able – but not for me it wasn’t. So I pulled in at the first opportunity, which happened to be the Wyvill Arms on the Bedale/Leyburn Road. Did I photograph this lovely coaching inn nestling in what felt like several feet of snow? Or the surrounding fields and trees laden with pristine snowflakes on every branch? Or even the dogs romping happily in the drifts? No – but I did capture the perfect poached egg, cooked for Ian’s breakfast by Nigel, the owner and chef. He even shared the secret of how to do it. Never again will I grind my teeth at the sight of the ticked poached egg box on the guests’ breakfast sheet, for now I have the recipe for perfection.
It wasn’t just the best breakfast ever, but the best welcome ever. The lights were out and the hotel shut when we arrived mid-afternoon. But within minutes a fire was blazing in the grate, endless supplies of tea and coffee were offered, a room made available and – best of all – the dogs welcomed to share whatever space in the place we were occupying.
Nigel was stuck at home and the post-new year dinner guests had cancelled. We were resigned to beans on toast or a cheese sandwich. But by dinner time Nigel had arrived after a perilous journey to offer us a full and delicious menu. His mum, Terri, showed us to our room and invited us to let the dogs share it. We put them in the car when we weren’t there to see that they didn’t go on the bed (they are border terriers after all who don’t take kindly to floors) but we didn’t have to. ‘We love dogs. Let them stay with you,’ said Terri but for us at least it was too much of a risk.
After that nothing was too much trouble. Nigel came in again the next morning – having been home to be with his family – and produced breakfast, including the poached eggs. He told us he’d spent six years in Paris as part of his journey to owning his own restaurant, and it showed. Immaculate but simply-laid tables, sparkling glassware, gleaming crockery and attentive service. They even offered to let us stay an extra night at half price. I would have done – any excuse not to venture out of this idyll – but Ian insisted. And even I could see that by then the traffic was moving easily.
Good service – you either get it or you don’t, whether customer or provider.