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Restaurant Reviews

A Selection of short reviews undertaken in May/June for the forthcoming excellent Food and Drink Guide 2012, all from Yorkshire. Thanks to those who joined me on such. The published versions can be found at www.foodanddrinkguides.com in the Yorkshire section and by ordering the excellent and FREE magazine at the same site.
 

 

Wentbridge House

Brasserie and Bar

CENTURIES-old trees surround the privately owned Wentbridge House country hotel near Pontefract, mirroring the elegance and sense of reassuring tradition on display at this lovely 4-star hotel.

The award-winning Fleur de Lys Restaurant is famous for attracting cosmopolitan epicures, its wine list being one of the most extensive in West Yorkshire. The restaurant holds Two AA Rosettes and an AA Notable Wine List award for 2010-11. I wanted to keep the wine list as a souvenir.

But the Wentbridge Brasserie & Bar offers more contemporary surroundings and culinary delights.

Many wines are available by the glass, service is less formal and the food modern British - but the sense of quality and style is in no way diminished.

My mussels ‘Mariniere’ in sumptuous white wine and cream was extraordinary while my guest relished his asparagus wrapped in Serrano ham with Hollandaise sauce.

My guest also enjoyed his Croft House Farm lamb with creamed Savoy cabbage with rosemary while my delicate Beef Wellington with dauphinoise potatoes with shallot and port wine sauce was simply the best I have ever tasted.

The décor is split between an easy colonial feel, with palm plants, and a modern dining area with sharper lines and silver frames, beneath a decorous sky-light.

With exceptional service from South African restaurant and brassiere manager Jacques Rossouw and his charming colleagues, dining at the Wentbridge is nothing short of an absolute delight.

 

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The Black Horse, Askwith, nr Otley.

THOSE familiar with chef James Martin’s expression ‘Yorkshire portions’ can expect exactly that at this conservatory-feel country gastro-pub.

Kevin Davis, previously in Wetherby, and his team have only been running this new style eatery and  pub since February 2011 but are making major changes.

Now an Enterprise Inn, Kevin prides himself in knowing where all his produce originates in Britain.

The sardines might come from Cornwall, venison sausages from specialist suppliers, or mussels from Kinsale.

Other meats sourced on the bone are from the Calder Valley; ice cream from the Yorkshire Dales, lamb from just down the road in Wharfedale.

Some culinary inspiration also comes from the Queen Mary, moored on the Thames behind The Savoy.

My guest considered his gargantuan garlic mussels starter to be among the best he had tasted in his life, while I enjoyed my rich duck confit in ravioli.

Similarly my mountainous fillet of beef stroganoff, with rice, was rich and amongst the most succulent I’ve enjoyed, - and my goodness, what portions.

And the shared assiette of desserts – five pulchritudinous portions delightfully served on a rectangle plate including Eton Mess, Black Forest Gateau, two ice creams and a cheesecake tumble topped with raspberry sorbet crown  – is a must.

A carvery is available on Sundays and with pleasant serving staff in equally pleasant surroundings, the new style Black Horse should attract diners at the gallop.

 

ENDS

 

 

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The Living Room, Leeds

7 Greek Street, Leeds.

http://www.thelivingroom.co.uk/

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SOPHISTICATED modern elegance is the winning concept here, with a baby grand piano adding that perfect piece de resistance.

After eight years at the heart of the city and a recent major refurb, this classy venue exudes style, intimacy and a mix of modern urban-chic with distinct classic touches.

Good honest, stylish food rooted in the European tradition matched with faultless, friendly service, and an easy charm complete the perfect combo.

The ethos is to offer a ‘third place’ lifestyle-philosophy, a relaxed venue to complement the other social norms of ‘work’ and ‘home’.

A mouth-watering a la carte menu is supplemented by daily chef’s specials and monthly plates. The menus undergo rigorous tastings to ensure the quality and flavour is spot on, whichever city LR incarnation you visit.

Open from midday until late, you can chance to listen to resident musicians perform on the hallmark white baby grand. Extensive upstairs seating and exclusive private dining/members’ facilities are also available.

After a perfect scallop starter, my pink rack of crusted lamb nested near potatoes gratin in a light red wine jus was exceptional; my guest adored his clever pesto chicken burger with sun blazed tomato mayonnaise and crisp pancetta on focaccia.

Alongside an intelligent but accessible wine list, and listening to the mellifluous tinkle of classics from, say, the American songbook, this easy-reach city centre delight deserves the very best plaudits.

ENDS

 

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The Restaurant, Bar and Grill

City Square, Leeds

www.therestaurantbarandgrill.co.uk

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AT the heart of the city, within metres of the railway station in City Square, Leeds can be proud of this stylish and welcoming modern venue.

What was the old post office, the Leeds incarnation of the popular RBG brand/chain, (which celebrates its 5th anniversary this summer), has firmly stamped its authority as being the height of urban metro-chic.

Eclectic dishes, made on the premises, range from Thai green curry to salmon fishcakes, and fillet steak simply grilled, among a wide-ranging menu, while wines and cocktails from around the world provide the perfect accompaniment to any dish. Style and modern simplicity in perfect harmony.

Highlights include the full length wine rack which greets on entry; the retro-chic pictures of the likes of Hepburn et al which surround diners; the mollifying bar area which is superbly lit, and the ultra-modern horseshoe-shaped seating which flanks the lower area, all beneath lighting a la mode.

But the gem is the mezzanine overlook and the to-the-rear upstairs private dining area which can cater for business, private parties etc in luxury.

My eating highlight was the remarkable tandoori seabass with pak choi, chilli and garlic side, and green salad, washed down with Sauvignon Blanc by the glass, followed by a heavenly American cheesecake with spiced berry coulis.

With impressive service and decor, and overlooked by the famous Black Prince statue, this first class city centre delight certainly delivers.

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Covers: about 120 downstairs; 96 outside seasonally; 24 privately, and around 100 on the mezzanine.

 

ENDS

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Ye Old Sun Inn, Main St, Colton, nr Tadcaster.

THERE’s something quite illuminating about this sensational delight.

Ashley and Kelly McCarthy, here since 2004, have built up an enviable reputation for fine food and drink.

Now masters of their own destiny here, the exceptionally knowledgeable and friendly pair have newly refurbished this bright and airy pub, without sacrificing its old-fashioned bucolic charm. Tradition with flair is their watchword.

Open for business seven days a week, they also offer a collection of events in and around the pub as well as regular cookery demonstrations and classes, and can now boast a new state of the art kitchen.

My pork fillet with wild mushrooms rolled in fine herbs next to a bubble and squeak potato cake with Provencal sauce, washed down with a steely Chablis, was simply one of the best meals I’ve enjoyed in the past five years.

My guest devoured his melt-in-the-mouth Kirkby Malzeard 10oz Rib Eye with mushrooms and roasted vine tomatoes with sauce and herb butter.

Ashley and Kelly’s menus proudly display the suppliers and provenance of their exceptional dishes which are usually wholly from the York environs. Produce and preserves are also on attractive display in the bright dining room extension.

Warm, benevolent and welcoming, and swiftly reached from the A64 York road, this already brilliant pub is sure to reach an even greater stellar culinary magnitude. An absolute ‘must’ which deserves to eclipse its rivals.

ENDS

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The Bull at Broughton, near Skipton.

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There’s something immensely satisfying about the Bull at Broughton – and it’s not just the food.

Just outside Skipton,  it is the latest (Yorkshire) addition to Nigel Howarth & Craig Bancroft's otherwise Lancashire-based Ribble Valley Inns group which also includes The Three Fishes at Mitton, The Highwayman near Kirkby Lonsdale and The Clog & Billycock at Pleasington, nr Blackburn.

Part of the wider Northcote group of companies, Michelin-starred Nigel Howarth is the chef behind the food, while Craig brings the experience of the distinguished Northcote wine cellars to the enterprise to make the perfect match.

Chains can tend to have that awful ubiquitous feel, but given the Bull it is part of a micro-chain of just four inns, a distinct sense of individuality still shines through – and a strong ethos to champion its local food heroes.

My guest and I felt firmly at home as soon as we walked through the door; maybe it’s the reassuring place-mats which feature pictures of the Bull’s local suppliers, or the superb wall photos which artistically display the same which make diners feel as though they are in the presence of the very best.

Or maybe it’s the genuine warmth of service from the delightful general manager Leanne Richardson and her bubbly colleagues?

But then again it could be just the sheer quality of the food at a remarkable price.

My colleague was delighted with his Rabbit Faggots starter with courgette puree and tomato relish followed by the imaginative Traitor’s Pudding – lamb sausages, caramelised onions with new potatoes in an expansive Yorkshire pudding.

My starter of a demi-Kilner jar of Fortune’s Smoked Kipper Pate alongside sharp pickled white cabbage on buttered crumpets was absolutely exquisite.

We were warned the remarkable Pie Top was a ‘gentleman’s dish’, and it was the sort of meal which would have pleased the likes of Henry Fielding’s ‘Tom Jones’ and his country squires: boisterous braised veal tails, chopped ham shank, smoked pig’s jowls beneath a pie crust all in an pleasing weighty-metal dish, abutting an equally stout side dish of yellow split peas beneath broccoli.

I was regrettably outfaced by my remarkable porcupine of Baked Alaska which demanded the utmost culinary respect, but my guest gleefully enjoyed his satisfying Yorkshire Curd Tart alongside sumptuous lemon cream.

With 90 covers, and outside seating for a further 50, make a headlong charge for this absolute gastro-gem when next near Skipton.

ENDS

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The Farmer’s Arms, Muker

Darren and Emily Abbey have only been at the helm of the Farmer’s Arms in charming Muker since December 2010 but their ethos has been to firmly keep this welcoming village pub at the heart of the community.

Significantly, Darren was a farmer himself in nearby Snape near Bedale before entering the construction and then pub trade, while Emily’s family had connections with the tea shop in the village.

Darren says the intention is to offer customers good, honest country food at an affordable price and to directly appeal to the walkers and locals in the heart of Herriot country – but hopefully to attract those from far and wide as well.

The pair even walked to the pub for drinks in their wedding outfits and hiking boots (!) after marrying in 2008 in a nearby village and clearly had their heart set on the pub back then.

Michelin star quality it might not be, but that’s not the Farmer’s focus – affordability for everyone is; and they seem to have hit the right balance.

From a varied menu and specials board, my home-made Latimer Beef Casserole in a giant Yorkshire pudding, with Chicken Liver Pate with oakcakes and a Cumberland sauce as starter was the best I have tasted while my guest enjoyed breaded Brie wedges and Creamy Mustard Chicken. Steak pie is also popular.

But the signature dish of Deep Fried Clotted Cream Ice Cream was absolutely to die for.

Surrounded by pictures from Muker’s farming past, you are sure to be in good company at the new Farmers.

Covers: 44.

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The Kimberley Hotel, Harrogate.

After £5.7m re-vamp, it’s no surprise that the quite lovely, privately owned, Kimberley Hotel, has now gained four-star status.

Named after the eponymous region in Australia, famed for its diamonds, the 93-bedroom classic is just a few minutes’ walk from Harrogate's town centre and a stone’s throw from the International Conference Centre.

The Terrace Bistro, opened in November 2008, has quickly become a popular restaurant in the area - and is the true hidden gem behind the Kimberley’s smiling white frontage.

Head chef Rudi Heer uses the finest Yorkshire ingredients from trusted suppliers. Having enjoyed a boyhood hunting, fishing and farming, he is from a long line of Swiss/Italian restaurateurs and says he feels totally at home in the Yorkshire Dales; he has also worked in Kuwait, Malawi and Italy, France and Germany on the international scene.

And my goodness, his classic international pedigree combined with a rustic flair shows.

My king scallops starter with two sauces on black pudding wedges pierced with decorative shards was phenomenal;  and my guest relished his sumptuous bouillabaisse main course. My Hot and Sticky Neck Fillet of Outdoor Reared Pork marinated in honey with a sweet potato mash was also beyond compare.

The stylish food is mirrored by the onyx-black, pyramid wall-like décor, complete with touches of red subdued lighting; black napkins and sinuous cutlery complete the feel, overlooked by stylish objets d’art, a classy motif mirrored throughout the hotel.  

Neither a statue of Anubis nor an exotic ‘Lara Croft’ artefact would look out of place here, completing the ambience of boutique chic understatement.  

The Terrace also has a lovely alfresco seating area. In summary, in keeping with its diamond heritage, a flawless gem.

Covers: about 60; the Cullinan restaurant is also available.

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Prashad 1.5

Prashad: 86 Horton Grange Rd, Bradford BD7 2DW.

Bradford’s remarkable Prashad may look unassuming – but its simple facade hides an extraordinary Indian vegetarian gem which has garnered numerous awards – including the plaudits of Gordon Ramsay.

Kaushy, Mohan and Bobby Patel have astounded the international stage with their tantalising dishes, visitors coming from across the continents to sample their stupendously lovely yet simple vegetarian food.

Prashad won Ramsay’s Best Indian Restaurant award in 2010, and was a finalist in the overall Best Restaurant category. It was also Yorkshire Life’s International Restaurant of the Year in 2010 and in 2011 won the Bradford Lord Mayor’s Civic reception honour for its exemplary food.

Our outstanding shared mixed starter  - complete with Dhokla – a savoury sponge cake steamed and garnished with a mustard seed dressing - was possibly the most inventive Indian food I have tasted.

My guest’s Massala Dosa, a large rice-flour crepe filled with cool coconut, alongside spicy lentil soup and yoghurt chutney was delectable.

But perhaps Prashad’s signature dish is the simple Special Chaat with yoghurt, tamarind chick peas and potato.

The Prashad Lounge, an overspill for those eagerly waiting to dine etc in the main bijou restaurant means Prashad can cater for 42 in total.

But despite the outstanding zing the food provides, the warmth of service – with a personal chat from Kaushy to all diners – brings home the true feel of SE India to this gastronomic treasure.

ENDS

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The Royal Saffron, Otley.

After just four months of being open (as of May 2011), Rahman Monaf and his team and the smart-looking Royal Saffron look to have created something very special in the popular market town of Otley.

Rahman was previously at the Royal Saffron at Lowton, close to Warrington, Greater Manchester and has now successfully transplanted the brand to Yorkshire, taking over the former Balti House from a family friend.

Many Otliensians (me and my guest included) will remember the site as being the old Mumtaz Mahal; but the new team has revitalised both the décor and the menu to appeal to all tastes.

Featured are all the classics one might expect in a restaurant of this calibre but also one or two surprises such as special thali dishes, organic vegetarian meals and some outstanding signature dishes which underline Rahman’s Bradford and Bangladeshi heritage.

My guest agreed the RS’s award-winning Nirali special –  a recipe enjoyed by the late Princess Diana from Nawaab’s in Bradford allegedly – was a subtle delight, while my Saffron Special Karahi with pilau rice and chapatis was perhaps the best Indian dish I have enjoyed in Yorkshire.

The previous Royal Saffron was famous for its press coverage – including cooking a record-breaking super-sized fish curry – and also garnered British Curry Awards, a tradition its new Otley counterpart hopes to maintain. And on this delicious evidence, why not?

The Fusion dishes – including Joy Yorkshire – lamb chunks with roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding in a Bhuna sauce – are worthy of note.

A home delivery service and take away is also available, but for those dining out, the clear efforts to impress with fine finishing touches and exemplary service should make the new Yorkshire restaurant as popular as its illustrious Greater Manchester namesake.

Covers: 60 including upstairs seating and private hire facilities. Candle-lit dinners also available.

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KORKS, Otley

Genial Chris Payne has been delighting guests at this laid-back favourite for 30 years – and on the strength of its fine though unfussy cuisine, there’s every indication it will still be here 30 years from now.

Genuine warmth permeates here, from the larger-than-life Chris himself, to his delightful staff and Paris-influenced head chef.

The range of wines on grand display is extensive, and might include a Nuits St Georges or a Pinot Noir rarity.

Diners can enjoy Korks’ alcoves and convivial table chat, and choose from blackboards covering ‘Land, Sea and Garden’dishes.

My guest loved her Ham Hock Terrine starter while my fresh Baked Queen Scallops with Gruyere Cheese with Garlic & Herb Crumb was a pungent delight. A signature main dish is often the slow-cooked Lamb Shoulder in a garlic and herb confit.

Long may this characterful delight with a big heart, beat in this friendly market town. Early bird menus and a piano lounge are also available.

ENDS

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The Harwood, Pannal, nr Harrogate.

Eating at the colonial-looking The Harwood near Pannal is a little like watching a lovely bloom coming into full flower.

Angela Healey and her enthusiastic, knowledgeable, charming (and partly French) team at the Greene King gastro-pub are making great strides in developing this very relaxed pub and eatery, which this reviewer couldn’t fault in terms of its presentation, imaginative menu and for warmth of welcome.

Chef Graham Johnson exudes a real passion for his cuisine, sourcing the best of local produce, serving up a modern twist on traditional pub food – but with that extra special bit of continentally-influenced -creativity thrown in.

My signature dish starter of home-made fruit black pudding with an apple and vanilla compote, imaginatively accompanied with an exquisitely -served shot glass of Guinness,  proved to be one of the most delightful starters I’ve enjoyed in years.

And my herb-crusted, separated rack of lamb on a bed of mash with red wine jus was delicate, perfectly pink and faultless.

My guest , as a no-nonsense soup and steak man, was both thrilled and surprised by the quality of his deliciously creamy tomato soup with a wedge of crusty bread (and gladly accepted the offer of a twist of fresh black pepper on top).

And while he enjoyed his medium-rare sirloin, he was slightly outfaced by the wealth of salad and  nonetheless delightful accompaniments which flanked such, on a generous plate.

But perhaps the highlight of the meal was the to-die-for rich chocolate tart with strawberries followed by a delicately-warmed glass of brandy, perfectly served by two delightful waitresses.

With its relaxed open plan, style, The Harwood is a must-visit venue for anyone in the Harrogate vicinity who wants thoughtful food served with care and imagination; and some convivial French  conversation, peut-etre.

ENDS

 
 
 
 
 

 
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