Michael Wignall's love of quality ingredients and the location of his new restaurant in the produce-rich Yorkshire Dales is a match made in heaven. Stephanie Sparrow pays a visit
Most chefs dream of having quality produce on their doorstep, but for Michael Wignall, this is an everyday reality.
From the threshold of the Angel, his new venture in the Yorkshire Dales village of Hetton, the chef-patron can see a pond used by the same wild ducks that he serves with boudin noir in his restaurant, he can glimpse the estate that produces farmed trout that will be smoked for a salad, and with a renowned beef producer mere minutes away, he appreciates that the Angel sits in the middle of a well-stocked larder. Wignall is thrilled by the locale, but his passion for quality does not prevent him from buying "from wherever the best is. I believe chefs have a duty to source amazing ingredients and producers."
Having arrived in Hetton eight months ago, Wignall is overseeing what he calls the "evolution" of the restaurant, introducing the complex artistry that rewarded him with two Michelin stars during his two-year stint at Gidleigh Park in Chagford, Devon, from which he departed in January 2018.
Wignall took over the inn in September 2018, together with his wife, Johanna, and investors James and Josephine Wellock of the family-owned produce business. "James wanted to give me the platform to fulfil my aspirations," he says. "Here, we have a clean slate, in a lovely location, where I can put my personal touches."
Wignall is about to remodel the 15th-century, 70-cover property to create a more fluid space and a wine tasting room serving small plates, as well as redecorating the nine bedrooms. Of the undisclosed budget, he says: "We will spend what is needed to make it amazing."
Wignall has hung artists' impressions of the redesign on the restaurant walls, alongside one of his own artworks. The chef is renowned for sketching his dishes and his beautiful design for Snickers, a peanut parfait and salted caramel dessert (£9.50), appears on canvas.
The menus are headed by a six-course, £65 tasting selection, which he describes as "a showcase of what is to come". It is proving to be increasingly popular, with Wignall admitting that he is using "£700 of truffles every month".
The à la carte offers a choice of five dishes at each course, with the likes of English asparagus, Yorkshire pheasant egg, wild garlic, chicken winglet and skin (£11.95); followed by aged fillet of Yorkshire beef, forest mushroom, caramelised onion and wild garlic (£32); and poached apricots, ginger cake and ice-cream, chocolate bubble and biscuit glass (£8.95).
When asked what he would label his food style as, he suggests "sophisticated rural" as a shorthand for how he presents local produce in dishes that have been globally inspired. So the side order of buttery Ratte potatoes (£3.50) acknowledges the late French chef Joël Robuchon, while other aspects of his food celebrate Asian cuisine.
"I love Japanese food because of its purity and its respect for the ingredients," he says, pointing to the short rib beef dish whose many components include salsify roasted with the seven-spice togarashi sauce.
Closer to home, he describes the poached and roasted loin of Yorkshire lamb on the tasting menu as "an homage to Bradford". "I found an amazing tandoori recipe in India during a charity event, and I interpret that with Yorkshire carrots, which we marinade with a tandoori spice," he says. Other elements on the plate include a ewe's milk cream, braised neck and shoulder of Lake District lamb, spiced aubergine and tamarind purée.
The wine list, furnished by Wright Wines of Skipton, aims to be "broad and interesting", including wines from Eastern Europe.
While establishing its culinary identity, Wignall respects the Angel's reputation, both as a centuries-old pub and as a place for casual dining (the former owner, the late Denis Watkins, brought fame to the Angel in the 1980s).
"We're the only pub in a few miles, and we want to support the local community and offer a really smart place to come and drink," he says.
Supported by a brigade of six, Wignall averages 100 covers a day, five days a week. Next January the Angel will close for two weeks for an open kitchen to be installed. And beyond that? "We will open a fine dining restaurant, but we are still in the planning process," he says.
From the menu
- Bresaola (own charcuterie, confit hen's yolk, nasturtium, blue cheese and gherkin)
- Trout salad (Kilnsey park smoked trout, beetroot, fresh cheese, seaweed and carrot)
- Short rib (short rib, sweetbread with miso-cured hen's yolk, fermented mooli, salsify and Japanese barbecue)
- Lamb (poached and roast loin, braised neck and shoulder, tandoori carrot, spiced aubergine and coriander yogurt)
- Rhubarb (forced Yorkshire rhubarb, white chocolate, custard and ginger)
- Hazelnut (hazelnut parfait, toasted hazelnut cake, salted caramel yogurt and bitter chocolate)
Tasting menu, £65 per person
The Angel Inn, Hetton, North Yorkshire BD23 6LJ www.angelhetton.co.uk
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