IT is arguably one of Richmond's most iconic buildings, and while I knew a few people who hate its striking gothic architecture, I have always loved it and was delighted when I heard it was to be transformed into a new hotel, restaurant and flats in 2015.

With its imposing archways, turreted towers and balustrades, The Fleece in Victoria Road is a real feature of the town.

I'd always thought it was wasted as a grotty nightclub – I'm aware that comment might cause some people to take a sharp intake of breath – but as I'm not a lifelong local of the town, it doesn't hold the same nostalgia for me.

The Northern Echo: The Fleece, RichmondThe Fleece, Richmond

Created by renowned Darlington architect GS Hoskins in 1897, the Grade II listed property began life as a hotel, but after a period of decline at the start of the 21st century, it became dilapidated. Local development firm Within Reach completed the challenging task of bringing the building back to life in May 2018, but sadly by the end of the same year they had gone bust and the hotel closed once more.

Thankfully, one of the original investors, Chris Miles of Delcon Construction Limited, took it on and re-opened the restaurant in April 2019.

We sampled a Sunday lunch with our extended family shortly after the re-launch, and it got a glowing report from the whole party, but I hadn’t managed to make a return visit until August.

My husband James and I booked a table for 7.30pm for a Saturday evening and when we arrived shortly before our allotted time the bar was busy, full of chatter and had good background music.

We ordered a cocktail and a pint of local ale at the bar before we were taken through to the rear of the restaurant which was much quieter and the lighting a bit too bright, meaning some of the atmosphere from the front bar was lost.

Our table was set within a large booth, and I bagged the comfy seat with plenty of thick cushions so I could wedge myself in comfortably.

There was a regular menu and specials to choose from, and we were given enough time to make our decision. I chose salmon gravlax from the main menu, which came with a giant blini, lemon crème fresh, and potato salad (£6.95) while James opted for mussels in tomato and chilli sauce with focaccia bread (£7.95) for starters.

The Northern Echo: Mussels at The FleeceMussels at The Fleece

I found my salmon to be plentiful and delicious. It was delicately smoked and a generous slice, but the zesty crème fresh cut through nicely and the potato salad was a good addition to the dish. James enjoyed his mussels – the sauce had quite a kick to it but it was to his taste – however he thought the portion was a bit measly. He counted 12 mussels, which he declared to be stingy, even for a starter.

The Northern Echo: Trio of porkTrio of pork

For mains, I had the pan seared duck breast with orange risotto and jus (£17.95) from the specials menu, and James chose the trio of pork, which came with black pudding mash and braised red cabbage (£18.95). Despite him claiming he doesn’t like black pudding, he declared the full plate to be delicious and thankfully it was a generous serving.

The Northern Echo: Duck breast at The FleeceDuck breast at The Fleece

My duck was beautifully pink and the risotto was light and creamy. The jus surrounding the meal was dark, thick, sticky, and absolutely gorgeous.

Both the dishes were filling, but I’m never one to pass on the offer of a dessert menu. I chose the chocolate marquis with praline ice cream (£4.95), after asking the waitress what a marquis was.

The Northern Echo: Desserts at The FleeceDesserts at The Fleece

She didn’t know so went to ask the chef, and I was told it was like a mousse but without the bubbles. That sounded good enough for me, and thank goodness I didn’t make the fatal error of ordering something else because it was seriously chocolate heaven. Super rich, velvety and indulgent. Perfect.

James chose the strawberry bakewell (£4.95) and it was a decent slice of homemade tart, but not a patch on my pud.

We had a bottle of rose with the meal and it came to £97.50. A bit pricey, but the food quality was excellent and service was friendly and efficient. We stayed a while longer in one of the tall tables at the front of the hotel to hear a singer perform, which rounded off the night well. I’ll certainly be back.


The Fleece, Victoria Road, Richmond, DL10 4DW

Tel: 01748-503104

Facebook: The Fleece Yorkshire

Opening hours: Sunday to Wednesday: 8.30am to 9pm, Thursday to Saturday: 8.30am to 11pm

Disabled access, dog and child friendly

Ratings out of ten: Food quality 9, Service 8, Surroundings 9, Value 8