Malcolm Warne, ever with an eye for a bargain, has lunch at international auction house Tennants

EVERY time I go to Tennants in Leyburn I never cease to be amazed that the place exists at all.

If you were setting up an international auction house with a multi-million pound turnover, you wouldn’t choose to locate it in a small market town on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales would you?

But there it is, a vast stone-built structure on the edge of Leyburn, a massive statement about what can be achieved in rural North Yorkshire with the right level of ambition, a following wind and a lot of hard work.

And they are a canny lot the Tennants. Having built the auction centre into an international success story, they realised they could do a lot more with the site and The Garden Rooms came along in 2014.

So little ol’ Leyburn now has an entertainment venue, exhibition space and function room complex that Las Vegas would be proud of let alone a small country town. Harmby Road should renamed The Strip. Well, perhaps that’s not the best analogy, but you get the idea.

A couple of days before we called in for Sunday lunch in the Garden Rooms’ restaurant the Manfreds featuring Paul Jones had been in concert in the main auditorium. We would have been there had there not been another engagement which we could not escape from.

Sylvia would have loved reliving a Monday evening in the Majestic Ballroom in Darlington about 50 years when Manfred Mann where appearing and the aforesaid Mr Jones (a bit of a dish back then by all accounts) passed within clutching distance of a rather excited Sylvia Gibson.

I’ve been sworn to secrecy about exactly what happened next but suffice to say she wasn’t just after Mr Jones’ autograph. Maybe it was a good idea we couldn’t make it down Memory Lane the other night.

Sunday lunch in The Garden Rooms is certainly a more sedate affair than a Monday night in the Majestic. The light and airy restaurant room has the feel and ambience of a contemporary hotel dining room and one that’s been finished to a high standard.

You can tell little expense has been spared with the fixture and fittings because despite the fact the restaurant has open four years now it still seems new. And it all feels very calm thanks to a deep-pile carpet which is really quite unusual in typically noisy modern dining places these days with their mirrors, tiles, slate, brick surfaces and hardwood floors. I love carpets me.

Once we were seated, staff glided across proffering menus, drinks, jugs of water and bread. Very civilised, very cosseted.

The Sunday spread at the Garden Rooms is extensive with seven starters, five mains and five deserts plus cheese offered. All are individually priced.

Sylvia started with soup but not just any old soup. During the interminable wait for spring this year, we’ve been longing for those well known harbingers of warmer temperatures – fresh-cut grass and wild garlic by the river.

So wild garlic veloute with herb oil (£5.50) was her choice and that would have been mine too had we not been on duty and endeavouring to sample different dishes (and for those who think it was not very gentlemanly to mention Sylvia’s youthful excesses a few paragraph ago, she always gets first choice of what to eat from any given menu and I always opt for something else).

It was lip-smackingly and aromatically fresh and deep, deep green in colour. Sylvia wholeheartedly approved.

I was happy too with my tangy smoked chicken, watercress and chorizo salad (£5.95) and its rather lovely sticky-sweet pomegranate dressing.

The main talking point with our main course roasts were the Yorkshire puddings which were of historic proportions. Sylvia thought she had not experienced anything quite so big, crisp and light. I thought the crispness was a bit overdone in that I prefer the contrast of a little bit of doughyness to soak up more gravy but that’s bit nit-picky even for a adopted Yorkshireman talking about the county’s signature dish.

My sirloin of beef – Waterford Farm (near Kirkby Malzead) 45-day aged (£14.50) – was butter-soft medium rare and completely on the money. Great gravy, duck-fat roasties, carrot and truffle puree, half a roasted red onion, chantenay carrots and beautifully glazed roast parsnips completed a pretty peerless plateful.

Sylvia’s leg of lamb (£14) was almost as good and shared the plate with the top-notch roasties and the veg I enjoyed plus some spring cabbage. Super-tender and lean, she thought it ranked only a seven (out of ten) on her patented Lambyness Flavour Scale. Not bad but not up there with the very best.

I liked the lavender shortbread biscuit which came with my dark chocolate and orange crème brulee (£5.50). The brulee itself was a little disappointing. Rich certainly but I prefer a crunchier topping and a smoother custard.

Single glasses of house fizz and red and white wine, plus a latte, added £17.50 to the £62.95 bill. Service was smoothly discreet and very good.

The Garden Rooms at Tennants

Harmby Road, Leyburn DL8 5SG

Tel: 01969 621146 Web:

Open: Monday-Saturday 11am-5pm; Sunday 9am-11am (breakfast) and noon-5pm (lunch)

Vegetarian and gluten-free options available. Disabled access.


Food quality: 9/10

Service: 9/10

Surroundings: 8/10

Value: 8/10