The Baby Swan Restaurant, Rendezvous Hotel, Skipton

I’m no food critic. In fact, I can’t see what all the fuss about food. As long as it tastes OK and looks reasonable, I’m happy. All these Masterchef, Great British Menu, Raymond Blanc’s Kitchen Secrets-type TV programmes leave me cold. Yet here I am, having something to say about the Baby Swan Restaurant at the Rendezvous Hotel in Skipton. What’s going on?

Well, I may not be a foodie, but I do like great service. And a great location. And that is something the Rendezvous provided in spades.

Dinner ‘a deux’ plus voucher

We headed to the Baby Swan restaurant because my wife had come up trumps in a prize draw. We don’t normally win anything so we were giddy with excitement when the voucher appeared. £40 to spend on food at the Baby Swan. Anything we liked from the menu. If we pushed the boat out we’d just pay the extra.

So this weekend we booked, got dressed up and strolled into the restaurant on time (a minor miracle for us). We were greeted warmly and showed directly to a table in a conservatory area right next to the Leeds-Liverpool Canal with picturesque views across the sheep-dotted fields opposite. A good start.

We weren’t the only ones in but there was a waiter next to our elbows within seconds, handing out menus and the wine list. My partner opted for a Vodka and tonic and, as the designated driver, I stuck with water at this stage. We pored over the good selection of meal options, decided on two courses – there’s no way I can battle through 3 or more courses these days – and selected a main course each. I had lamb, a rather odd sounding concoction involving olives, saffron potatoes and a poached egg. My partner went with sea bream. While it was being prepared the staff were attentive without being intrusive, always on hand when we needed it. I requested a glass of Merlot and the meal arrived soon after.

The portion size was fine – smaller than your standard pub grub – and we were glad that we’d chosen additional vegetables. The odd Lamb Nicoise worked reasonably well to my uneducated palate and we both cleared the plates. After a reasonable interval, the table was cleared and desert menus appeared. Canal boats puttered along the Canal occasionally, and dog owners passed the windows usually with a cheery wave.

Paying … or not

Once the meal was over we produced the voucher with a triumphant flourish, and was taken away to calculate the balance owed. Given the price of the dishes we’d selected, and the drinks, our estimate was an additional £12-£15 would have to put on my credit card. I dug out my wallet in anticipation.

The head waiter appeared again to thank us for coming and, spying my wallet at the ready, said, “No, no, you don’t owe us anything.” We were a bit taken aback and I reminded him that we had gone over the allowance. “Don’t worry,” he said, “It was only a little over. You got the voucher as a prize, it’s our pleasure.”

And that was that. The Baby Swan had done us proud. We’d had a lovely meal, in a pretty setting, with terrific service, and paid nothing thanks to the generosity of the Rendezvous Hotel. There’s no doubt we’ll go back as paying customers. And if others try it, I hope they will have as agreeable an experience as we did.

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