Tolley's Ryecroft Hall (April 2002)
This is an archived article from 2002.
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Gary Rhodes does it. Jamie Oliver is doing it. So why not Clive Tolley? When he bought Ryecroft Hall in 1996 and added his name to it, more than a few local eyebrows were raised. But the fact is that both the building and the business were in dire need of a shot in the arm. The rebranding was more than just another chef's ego trip - it was a statement of intent. Six years on and there can be no doubting the transformation.
First to get the Tolley treatment was the late 19th century hall. He spent £200,000 adding a classy bar area and a very distinctive frontage to the building. The refurb - particularly the bar - was money well spent. These days, few non-hotel restaurants provide a totally separate bar area where you can enjoy pre-dinner drinks and take your coffee at leisure. At Tolley's Ryecroft Hall the large bar lounge is very tastefully done out -- lots of wood panelling and a fireplace - and it's hard to tell that it's not a part of the original structure.
There have also been major changes on the food front -- no surprise when you consider the chef patron's track record. He left the RAF as Chief Instructor to the service's catering wing and added to his achievements in civvy street, running a Birmingham catering college where he had 500 chefs training under his direction. That kind of experience has translated into a quality and attention to detail at Ryecroft Hall that is exemplary.
The menus have recently been updated at Tolleys with the focus now very much on traditional British favourites. The midweek special menu (3 courses, £13.50; 2 courses, £11) includes Atlantic Prawn Cocktail and Ogen Melon with Strawberries in Cointreau as starters and dishes like Sauteed Pork Tenderloin in a Stilton and Cream Sauce and Roasted Sirloin of Beef in a Giant Yorkshire Pudding for mains. For a supplement of less than £5 you can sample something from the a la carte menu - duck, lemon sole, halibut, scampi or a choice of char-grilled steaks. It's difficult to think of where else you would get this quality of food and service at these kind of prices. At weekends there's a Saturday night table d'hote menu (3 courses, £16.95) and the Sunday lunch menu (3 courses, £11.50).
Of course the proof of the pudding is in the eating. So consider this: When Tolley's Ryecroft Hall opened they were serving 30 at Sunday lunch; now it averages out at between 200 and 300 each Sunday with (well in) advance booking an absolute must. Not bad for a restaurant in out-of-the-way Hambleton.
Tolley's Ryecroft Hall
Tel: 01253 700780
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