Stuart Forster heads to Malton in North Yorkshire to participate in the inaugural Malton Food Tour. A gentleman wearing a cream coloured Malton Cookery School apron greets me with a cheery smile at the entrance to the Talbot Hotel. “I hope you’re hungry,” says Tom Naylor-Leyland, welcoming me onto the first Malton Food Tour.
Tom’s family has owned land in and around the small Yorkshire town since 1713. As a passionate foodie, he helped established the annual Malton Food Lovers Festival and was a driving force behind the food market now held in the town centre on the second Saturday of each month (except January and February).
As we chat, Tom reveals he’s a friend of the chef and restaurateur Antonio Carluccio, who first used the phrase ‘Yorkshire’s food capital’ to describe Malton. Glancing down I notice those words emblazoned in capitals on Tom’s apron.
Clearly proud of ongoing efforts to encourage artisanal food producers to take premises let by the Fitzwilliam Malton Estate, Tom discusses how the foodie reputation of the town of less than 5,000 inhabitants is growing. The new food tour follows in the wake of the founding of the Malton Cookery School plus the Malton Game and Seafood Fest.
I can’t wait to get my teeth into what lies ahead, so I’m raring to go when Tom encourages myself and fellow guests to follow him across the road into the Talbot Yard, the location of a handful food production units.
As we pass through a gateway, known locally as Vanbrugh Arch, Tom reveals, with self-deprecating humour, that it’s not really part of architect John Vanburgh’s portfolio then bounds up the steps on the far side.
Our first stop on the Malton Food Tour is Roost Coffee and Roastery, where master roaster David slips Costa Rican beans into a gas-heated Diedrich machine and begins explaining the art of roasting coffee beans. “I roast by hand, sight and smell,” he says before the ‘first crack’ of vapour and gases are released. Soon beans are cracking like popcorn. All of the coffees roasted at Roost can be traced to their estate of origin.
Before popping next door to view pasta maker Aldo demonstrate his craft we sip a cup of coffee and tuck into a frangipani cake.
Stalls on the nearby marketplace are thronged by visitors sampling and buying products by the time we get there. I spot cheeses, sausages and cakes but Tom bids us to follow him into The Milton Rooms to try a slice of the spinach, cumin and chickpea roll baked by Al Kippax of the Bluebird Bakery.
On the far side of St Michael’s Church we then pop into Costello’s Bakery. “This is not just a pie, it’s a famous Costello’s steak pie,” says Tom, suggesting I add a dash of HP sauce to bring out the flavour of the succulent pie. I can’t help thinking that maybe I should have skipped breakfast.
In a lane off the marketplace, Sharon Foyle welcomes us into Mennell’s traditional confectioners. Jars of boiled sweets pack the shop’s wooden shelves. Sharon encourages us to sample some of the Belgian style chocolates she’s made and chats about her business.
Down by the Methodist Church, on Saville Street, Tom jokes how Malton Cookery School has become a “new temple of Yorkshire cookery”. The spacious premises host workplaces set out ready for a class. Enviously I eye the range cookers and imagine how one might look in my own kitchen.
After taking a peek at the tanks used by Brass Castle Brewery, the microbrewery whose Helles Lager won the national gold medal in the Keg Standard Lager and Pilsners category of the at the 2016 Society of Independent Brewers Awards, we take nips of a number of brews. The brewery’s founder talks about each one, tasting them with us. I can’t help but wish I’d booked another night in Malton. With ten pubs, the compact town centre would be a good place for a night out with the lads.
In an alley called Chancery Lane Tom explains how the building in front of us was, long ago, the offices of Mr Smithson, an accountant. Charles Dickens, his friend, visited and drew inspiration for the premises of Ebenezer Scrooge in his classic tale, A Christmas Carol.
From there we stroll to Butterbees, which in May 2016 opened as the UK’s first butter boutique. Lucy, the owner, has a surprise for us. She produces bowls and wooden paddles for us to shape pads of butter. As we do so she explains the process of churning butter from local milk.
Back on the lawn of the Talbot Hotel we sample Yorkshire cheeses plus dressed crab that was caught on the coast, 18 miles from Malton. The heart of York is also 18 miles away. Fittingly one of the platters we’re now sampling includes shavings of genuine York ham. As we taste, Tom discusses the provenance of the products.
“Hope you’ve got room for ice cream?” asks Tom enthusiastically. I’m not sure I have but the idea of Italian style gelato made with Yorkshire cream—plus all of the food I’ve consumed over the last three hours—gives me the energy to wander over to Groovy Moo Ice Cream Co. to sample a cone.
There is, it seems, always room for ice cream, even after an enthusiastically led food tour which has showcased the culinary offerings of a town.
All images (c) Stuart Forster
Tell me more about the Malton Food Tour
Getting to Yorkshire
Where to stay in Malton
The Talbot Hotel (01653 639096) is a recently restored, 26-room heritage building that has seen use as an inn since 1740. With expansive, landscaped gardens, a fine-dining restaurant plus a bar and an informal brasserie, the hotel is a five-minute stroll from the heart of the town. Keep your eyes open for the first-edition of Charles Dickens famous novel A Christmas Carol, kept by reception. If you’re planning on shooting while you’re in Yorkshire the hotel offers secure gun storage facilities and is dog-friendly.
North York Moors National Park is easily accessible from Malton. The moorland offer good walking and cycling country. It is dotted with historic sites, from Iron Age remnants to the ruins of grand monastic settlements, such as Rievaulx Abbey, whose ruins survived the dissolution of the monasteries in the reign of King Henry VIII.
If you enjoy historic seaside towns, take a day trip to Scarborough or Whitby, and breathe the air by the North Sea. If you’re a foodie, don’t pass up the chance to eat fish and chips while you’re on the coast. Find out more on the Discover Yorkshire Coast website.
More Information on Malton Food Tour
The Malton Food Tour starts at 11.30am and last approximately three hours. The guided walking tour includes a visit to a brewery and costs £35 per person.
The Malton Yorkshire website has more information about the town.
Find out more about the region on the Welcome to Yorkshire website.