Imagine you were on Tenable – don’t pretend you haven’t seen it over lockdown – and you had to name the Ten Things That Make Up The Perfect English Country Village.
Village green, a big one. Duck pond, with Instagram-quality ducks. A collection of centuries-old buildings but not so old they look difficult to live in. That’s three. Erm, a picturesque church with stained-glass windows. A country manor, maybe an old priory. Cottages with so many flowers around the door that it feels like going through a Chelsea medal-winning tunnel to get to them. That’s six. A river, with boats on it. Seven. Open countryside with sheep. A maypole, but a really big one, the biggest in the country until it got struck by lightning and the top fell off. And one more? Oh, the perfect English village pub with rooms so you don’t have to go home and a restaurant that’s a destination for anyone living within a 20-mile radius.
Apart from winning the money, you have just described the village of Nun Monkton in North Yorkshire. And you could have had ‘ten minutes from the nearest station’ and ‘only a £15 Uber fare from York in case you go to The Ivy for lunch and get too hammered to get the train back.’ You have also described The Alice Hawthorn, its cherished pub, so cherished, in fact, that when it looked like it was going to close down a few years ago, the village clubbed together to buy it and elevate it into something extra.
And by something extra we mean not only making the restaurant a magnet for anyone interested in a lovely dinner but creating beautiful, tasteful rooms upstairs, rooms which reflect the 200-year history but are still comfortable and modern and adding an ingenious been-in-all-the-design-magazines barn-like annex with more rooms. Out there, just behind the Alice Hawthorn (it was a 19th-century racehorse, in case you were wondering about the name) those rooms, the Garden Rooms, are perhaps the jewel in the crown of the whole place.
From the outside it’s all tin and Douglas fir, while inside there’s an almost Scandi feel to the timber and concrete with huge stand-alone baths, skylights, ride-in-on-your-bike showers and floor-to-ceiling sliding doors so you can step out through the floor-to-ceiling curtains in a perfect rustic-contemporary fabric. Someone’s put some thought into this, let us tell you.
Back in the main building, you can get a pint or a martini in the little pub (all painted teal with exposed beams: the perfect metropolitan liberal elite/rustic combination, if you ask us), have your dinner in the snug or go for the full restaurant experience in the room where fisherman used to come to get their licences. There’s even an off-shoot restaurant in the garden, that’s how popular the food has become around these parts.
The menu is seasonal, which, yes, everyone says but here you actually believe it because why would you not have food from the countryside that surrounds you? No reason at all. And it covers everything from beef fillet carpaccio through king scallops to roast beetroot and even potted rabbit though that seems a bit churlish when there are bunnies jumping around just outside your door. You can even have a casual beer and pizza in the newly opened beer garden if you fancy.
So, apart from the obvious, why would you want to come to the perfect little English village, even if the food is of an almost international standard? Well, quite apart from the fact you can lay among the buttercups on the green and listen to the ducks and take a walk across the fields and maybe even take a dip in the river (some people were!), and the staff are so lovely we wanted to do a Dolly The Sheep on ‘em and have some to take home, it’s pretty well-connected for a cut-off little spot in a cul-de-sac village (meaning no through-traffic!) seeing as York is half an hour one way, Harrogate half an hour the other. So, day trips!
We think we just got 15 on Tenable, which is a new record.