Local Food Hero

The Black Swan restaurant is in the most unlikely place to produce a Michelin Star restaurant. Set within the North York Moors National Park, nearby villages include Wass, Kilburn, and Coxwold. Oldstead is difficult to find and indeed you are advised not to use a GPS or Google since they regularly get the location wrong.

But the effort is worth it. A starred Michelin restaurant whose chef is the awesomely talented Tommy Banks, this restaurant is a family affair. The farm is family owned, all the houses in the village are family houses, the restaurant was originally a project for the brothers, Tommy & James Banks as they approached adulthood. Both still work there.

The philosophy of the enterprise is fresh, local, preserved. As they say,

‘The menu is inspired by the ingredients that we grow and forage in and around Oldstead. It might be something outwardly simple but really fresh and delicious or perhaps an incredible flavour developed by fermenting, pickling or prolonged ageing.’

Oldstead Menu

Tommy Banks, talking to Caroline Sanderson of the Bookseller, says he has a ‘notion of three rather than four cooking seasons, based on the actual availability of locally grown produce. The “Time of Abundance” is from May to August, when the challenge is to use up the large quantity of produce then in season, followed by “The Preserving Season” from October to December when as much as possible must be preserved and stored for the barren months ahead. “The Hunger Gap” from January to May is the most challenging period, when ingredients preserved and stored from the previous year are used, along with some foraged new growth.’

Some of the growing area behind the restaurant (cows taken at the nearby Bylands Abbey).

The latest award is from OFM (Observer Food Monthly) who gave the Local Food Hero award to Tommy Banks and it was collected on his behalf by his parents Anne and Tom.

Photograph: Alicia Canter/The Observer

You can stay there too.

It is a little slice of peace, a big slice of relaxation and a huge slice of satisfaction.

The photos, apart from Anne & Tom Banks, are my own.