My friend, the gorgeous Mary McCoy is a great actress and cook. Mary loves baking and cakes are her speciality. Mary's been doing bespoke tea parties for a while now and everything is handmade in her kitchen at home. I thought having an afternoon tea at my house would be an unusually civilised thing to do and it's a good excuse to have a catch up with friends. Saturday afternoon was perfect as the sun came out at last.
Mary's cakes and a whole stack of Tunnocks
Mary comes from a very talented family with a long history of excellent cooking. Mary's dad Eugene McCoy owns McCoy's at The Tontine, a renowned family-run restaurant and hotel in North Yorkshire which was formerly a coaching inn which was built in 1804. Mary and her brothers grew up in this wonderful place and all worked there from a young age. Mary's done everything from working in the laundry to reception while she did her degree in acting and dance. Her brother (also called Eugene) is currently starring in the Jersey Boys in the West End. The Actor has been wanting to go and see that since it opened. We must get it together.
Photography by Tim Walker
Self Portrait with cake. The picture that inspired the shots of Mary above
McCoy's is frequented by many well known faces and regulars. Eugene has lots of friends in the music business and random people are always dropping in for dinner. I hear Steve Winwood came in for lunch one Christmas and ended up getting on the grand piano in the restaurant and singing for the customers.
Mary was making me laugh with a story about Brigitte Nielsen arriving by helicopter in their garden. Brigitte came to have dinner and was up for partying afterwards. After failing to get Mary to go clubbing with her she ended up having a mad night out in the nearest town and was still running round the village with a local farmer at 5am. I would have gone! I bet clubbing with Brigitte would have been hilarious!
McCoy's at The Tontine
The Actor and I are going to go for a weekend at this beautiful hotel very soon. The food has glowing reviews and I love the eccentricity of the place. It's a total one-off and right up our street.
Albert Roux, Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay are friends with Eugene, they've all eaten there and love it. Eugene was Marco's best man at his wedding.
How beautiful does this look in the snow?
About the McCoys
(In their own words)
For as long as we can recall our family has been involved in the food and drink industry, going back several generations as publicans. Our parents, Eugene and Mary, ran the well known Masham Hotel in Middlesbrough, specialising in great food and fantastic hospitality, a family trait that we continue today.
Our mum was a great cook and that's where it all began.
For us, the brothers McCoy, it all began in the 1960s, with our eldest brother John's club, Mr McCoy's in Bottomley Street, just off Linthorpe Road in Middlesbrough. From there to the original Purple Onion, again in Middlesbrough, where we, Eugene, Peter and Tom worked with artists such as Stevie Wonder, Georgie Fame, The Who and Rod Stewart to name but a few.
Music has been always been a constant in our lives. Eugene was childhood friends with Chris Rea, David Coverdale of Deep Purple and Whitesnake fame, and Paul Rodgers who went on to form Free.
Around 1971, our John opened The Kirklevington Country Club, more affectionately known to locals as The Kirk. It played host to future greats such as Jimi Hendrix, Ben E King, The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, the Small Faces and many, many more. It was at the Kirk that we really "got into food".
The restaurant at the Kirk was a big hit, but no-one was more surprised than us when the doyen of food critics, Egon Ronay, turned up for dinner one Tuesday night, late in October '75.
Eugene vividly remembers the evening, "Finishing off a bottle of 1955 Chateau Climens (Sauternes), he announced that he would like to make us restaurant of the year". By that time, however, we'd already decided to move to the Tontine so we said, "You can't, we're moving." It obviously did not phase Egon as once we opened the Tontine, he came, gave us the award and the thing just exploded!
Marco Pierre White still says we got more publicity for that award than any restaurant before or since, which always makes us laugh. I suppose it was because we were up north, and very non-establishment. There we were ... three long-haired brothers in flared jeans and all the girls working for us were hippies.
We opened the Tontine Bistro in 1981 when young Eugene entered the kitchen. It was a relatively small at the time with only 40 covers, however, over the years it has expanded to now in excess of 80, as well as earning numerous awards along the way, the Bistro is what you see today.
Due to the recognition and awards, Eugene was invited to be a regular guest judge on Masterchef.
This high regard continues to this day, with us most recently winning the North East Restaurant of The Year Award 2009.
We still cherish our wonderful team and equally enjoy our dear customers.
"Eating in the Bistro - which takes on the air of a bordello at night, with low ceiling, candles and boho bits and bobs. Yorkshire Moulin Rouge.... Music is The Beatles, replaced by The Who in time for the cheese course. Great atmosphere... In the morning, breakfast is served in the upstairs dining room. A cat is sitting on a stool by the grand piano. Light floods the room, illuminating the floral wallpaper that makes a William Morris design look tame... Such pretty cups and saucers. Such reassuringly dainty pots of jams. Proper butter dish. And a full fry-up, including flat mushrooms that taste like they were picked that morning.... This is the real McCoy. Rating 4/5"
An Inspector Calls - Daily Mail, November 2010
"A perfect place to get away from it all, this time a dimly-lit, stone-floored bistro where the velvet drapes give it a Pre-Raphaelite feel. Eugene McCoy shows that you don't have to do anything fancy to really impress, turning out simple classics like beef Wellington and steak and chips."
Top 11 Restaurants - The Times
The Real McCoy - Eugene rocks
"Eugene McCoy, of McCoys at the Tontine is so central to the eating experience there that no account of a visit could omit the role he plays. Watching him at work is pure entertainment.
Looking like an ageing rock star, he prowls around the bistro with a benevolent but watchful eye, making sure his excellent staff are performing to his exacting standards, one minute bringing food to tables, the next pouring wine, taking orders, checking diners are happy and nipping into the kitchen to monitor progress. It’s rather like watching a mechanic squirting oil into the constituent parts of a complicated engine, staving off any slight stickiness in the moving parts"
"...With so many indentikit pubs and restaurants about, we need to treasure the personality of McCoy's, and Eugene in particular"
Read the full review HERE
I'm really looking forward to our visit!
The tea party
Mary made us some fabulous food and brought absolutely everything including her collection of vintage china which is on the mantelpiece
Mary, Samantha and Jo
We thought we'd better start the afternoon with one of my specialities, a spicy Bloody Mary to kick things off. The secret is using green and red Tabasco, plenty of Worcestershire sauce and celery salt and a pinch of chilli flakes
Then we got really hungry. We polished off this lot in no time and Mary just kept bring more out.
Above is smoked salmon, cream cheese and caper sandwiches, tarts filled with dark chocolate, whipped cream, and raspberries drizzled with more chocolate and mini lemon meringue pies. They were all delicious!
Here'a a close up. We also ate Mary's amazing homemade pork sausage rolls with fennel seeds and garlic which had a kick to them (I'm going to have to ask her to make me some as my dad will absolutely love them) and very light orange and rosewater scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam.
I managed to get snap of the remainder of the cucumber and fresh mint finger sandwiches before they rapidly disappeared - they were really good, the mint was a nice touch
Mary's blueberry and coconut cake was fabulous. We ate absolutely everything. We remembered to save a huge piece of cake for The Actor
Sam gets the tea sorted looking fabulous in a vintage Seventies jumpsuit
Phoebe doesn't drink tea but I made another jug of Bloody Mary, which of course we got through
Jo and Frances
Samantha said something that cracked me up. Jo was talking about getting a train to Ibiza as she felt bad about her carbon footprint due to going travelling last year. Sam piped up "I'm not being funny but that plane will be going anyway whether you're on it or not!" Which we had to admit was true.
Daisy wasn't well so couldn't make it - Dais, you were missed my darling. I invited a couple of boys but they were too hungover. Boys always manage to peak too early on a weekend! It made a change to just have the girls.
One of Mary's sample menu's
I can highly recommend a bit of afternoon tea made by Mary
We had a fabulous time. Thanks Mary, you're a star! xxx