It was a surreal end to a very enjoyable date. Sitting on a velvet settee in the deathly quiet lounge of Crab Manor, all heavy drapes, ornate walls and strange artefacts, was like the Yorkshire equivalent of a scene in Twin Peaks. An enormous Russian doll watched us with big round eyes as we sipped coffee and canoodled. Up on the staircase stood a stuffed bear, ready to pounce if my date got too frisky. A lone barman shuffled around behind a dated 70s bar while fish in glass cabinets gaped in the hallway, next to old hunting guns.
I had arrived earlier at the Crab & Lobster in the dark and made the fatal mistake of parking at the adjacent hotel instead of the restaurant car park. Thus ensued a high-heeled stumble around the low-lit grounds, through shrubbery and down an endless series of steps, before arriving panting slightly at the restaurant door. My date, B, was already there, nursing a G&T after a long week at work. After a drink by the bar, we were led through to the busy Friday night dining room.
This perennially popular place in Asenby near Thirsk has such a wartime flavour about it, I felt as though I had matched my pink tweed dress to the décor. For a start there are the leather chairs, the polished wood, the chandeliers and the candlelight. Then there is the clutter, an eclectic assemble of brass lamps, musical instruments and everything in between. ‘40s jazz piped through the speakers adds to the gentlemen’s club feel. If Winston Churchill was a restaurant, this would be it.
The Crab is an acclaimed seafood restaurant which sources choice produce from local farms and the North-East coast. I had luxurious fish pie; B ate tender slices of braised lamb suffused with rosemary and redcurrants. Afterwards, we decided to share a crème brûlée. The dessert menu featured a fussy version with chocolate orange and Baileys or some suchlike, but we agreed that what we really wanted was a simple, un-messed with, straightforward crème brûlée. Upon which B embarked upon a long rambling request with the waiter, detailing exactly the sort of pudding he had in mind, using hand gestures and finishing with “and perhaps a few berries in a small dish on the side”, miming the sprinkle of fruit with his fingers. With his decidedly well-spoken accent it was quite a funny thing to behold, though I imagine the waiter didn’t share my affection.
Really, these are the sort of moments during a date, the realisation that you’re on exactly the same page with pudding, that make you imagine, for a second, spending the rest of your life with your companion. Our mutual appreciation of B’s room key – an actual key, as opposed to a plastic card – reinforced my inkling that we could be a match made in heaven. Especially after a heady glass of Malbec.
Of course the crème brûlée came out pretty much as it was described on the menu, but it was delightful all the same.
My date (he told me the previous day) had booked a room at ‘The Manor’ so he wouldn’t have to do the long drive back to the Lakes, where he lives, after dinner. No, I would not be staying with him, but we did climb back up through the grounds after our meal to have a post-dinner coffee. B was assigned the ‘Oxfordshire’ room – classic English manor – and there are others styled in various themes, taking the guest around the world from Venice to Mauritius, Tahiti to Marrakesh. Crab Manor is a five-star hotel, but the best thing about it is its slightly crazy character, and of course its wonderful winner of a restaurant.