Christopher Hirst enjoys a seasonal visit to a Yorkshire stately home
Burton Agnes Hall, an exuberant Elizabethan pile near Bridlington in East Yorkshire, would make a wonderful set for A Winter’s Tale. The Hall has been owned since 1598 by the Cunliffe-Lister family and they have embraced winter with enthusiasm, covering three floors with seasonal decorations. My wife was particularly taken by an origami shrub of oversized paper butterflies in the colours of the spectrum while I felt an itch to snaffle a treeful of modernist baubles from the Sixties that included Santa on a Vespa. Lunch in the tea room seems an obligatory stop, judging by the extended queue at noon. By 2.30, most appetites were sated and we were able to consume lunch without a wait. Tomato soup was a highlight – tangy, savoury, finely sieved and a million miles from lurid Heinz gloop. My wife’s panini stuffed with brie, thin-sliced bacon and cranberry sauce was ‘tasty and Christmassy’, while my griddled skirt steak with savoury relish in a focaccia roll was a serious snack, juicy and rare. It wouldn’t have hurt to have had a spot more steak but the accompanying salad of cubed red and yellow pepper, tomato and cucumber with a judicious dressing was excellent. Most visitors went for the cakes, obviously homemade, but we took a rain check. Roll on spring.
Burton Agnes Hall is now closed until 1 April, though the garden and cafe opens 4 February – 5 March for a Snowdrop Spectacular. Visit burtonagnes.com for details