Neatly tucked into the parade of shops and cafes facing The Stray, from the outside the rejuvenated West Park Hotel betrays little of the exquisite dining experience it offers inside.
The restaurant is larger than it first appears with corners and alcoves providing intimate spaces to enjoy your meal almost privately.
Tastefully decorated and mood lighting just right the ambience was set to start the evening.
From taking our coats to handing us a menu, I had already become confident that the food was going to be something spectacular in what has become one of Harrogate’s most popular destinations since it was redeveloped.
It wasn’t long before it delivered on my expectations.
Our host for the evening recommended the Scotch egg, served with piccalilli and crackling, to start and while my companion decided to take him up on his recommendation, I opted to try something from the specials menu.
Tucking into two piping hot and perfectly-sized smoked haddock fishcakes, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the chilli sauce complimented the dish, for someone who very scarcely enjoys spicy food.
Across the table my dinner date claimed his starter was “the best scotch egg he had ever tasted”.
While sipping on a gin and tonic (Slingsby’s of Harrogate, no less) and waiting for our mains, waiters brought out a shot of mushroom soup to each table to cleanse their palates.
The tasty teaser was delicious enough to prompt a number of us to ask if it came as a soup option on the menu!
For a second course, my companion had put his faith in our host and ordered the fillet of beef with sweet potato and roasted shallot, as recommended from the evening’s specials.
For myself, the beef bourguignon, which was about to pit its wits against my grandfather’s undefeated recipe.
The mains didn’t disappoint - quiet fell over the table as we savoured each mouthful - and although we had declined the offer of wine in a bid to stay compos mentis our host brought us each a small glass of 2013 Argentinian Malbec to complement our beef dishes.
As well as being a perfect accompaniment to the meals, the gesture reflected the considerate and professional service we had received all evening.
Having more than proved himself, we had implicit trust in our host to decide our deserts and chose to finish the night with a treat so good it was on fire… quite literally.
The sweet smell of the flaming baked alaska wafted through the restaurant and it was a mesmerizing sight too.
After one bite, I was already considering negotiating a swap, before I’d even had chance to try the chocolate fondant I’d ordered.
Complete with pistachio ice-cream and salted caramel flakes the fondant was exactly how any fluffy chocolate dessert should be; moist and succulent.
We were offered coffees and although full to the brim, we contemplated trooping on, in genuine fear that if the menus so far were anything to go by, to decline would be seriously missing out. But, defeated by delicious food, we turned it down.
It had become crystal clear why the West Park has built a reputation of being an exceptional offering among Harrogate’s endless list of options to wine and dine.
Getting up to collect our coats, I felt almost a tinge of disappointment that it was time to leave.