We are in the dog-friendly ‘No Man’s Land’ between restaurant and pubby bit. If I wanted, I could cross to an actual bar with hand pumps and order a pint of cask ale brewed under a mile away in an old Dales laithe (hay barn). Instead I sip my 125ml measure (I’m driving) of Swartland Chenin Blanc and contemplate the tranche of turbot on my plate. It has come from Cornwall, as I also expect have the squares of seared cuttlefish that book-end this exquisite main. Perigord supplied the wafers of black truffle; the provenance of the fermented turnip that contributes so much to the ensemble remains a mystery. 

We are eating Michelin at The Angel at Hetton five miles from Skipton. Its chef/patron Michael Wignall has been a serial star holder since winning his first in 1993 at The Burlington, Devonshire Arms just down the road. After quitting two-star Gidleigh Park in Devon in 2018 the plan has been to put The Angel back on the culinary map. Touted as the first gastropub, its best years – which we were part of as regular customers – were long past.

Our first visit to Angel Mark II was exactly a year ago on a glorious Dales summer day, only lockdown restrictions still in place muting our excitement at the transformation. Since when it has retained its star and been named No.4 (two places behind The Parkers Arms across the Lancashire Border) in the Estrella Damm Top 50 UK Gastropubs list. More recently it came in at No.12 in their NRA Top 50 Restaurants and, with The Parkers down at 44, romped home as that list’s ‘Top Gastropub’. The nod there was to its ‘high end’ food. In its 90s heyday under Dennis Watkins there was muttering  that pilgrimages to sample its seafood specials and interesting wine list ruined it for the locals.

Yet it did retains an old Dales pub feel. Now with its spacious, almost Scandi makeover that’s not the case. 

Would I ever pop in while passing for a pint of that Dark Horse Pale Ale? Probably not. Would I once again drive the 60 mile round trip to make the agonising choice between a la carte (£85)  and tasting menu (£95 at lunch)? Yes, I’m already planning my next booking. The temptation is to do an evening and stay over in one of their 15 en suite rooms.

Whatever, The Angel unusually opens Mondays, happily accepts dogs (that ‘no man’s land’ has a hugely comfortable corner booth) and who needs beer when the food is this outstanding?

Our chihuahua Captain Smidge’s last Michelin meal was at Yynshir, UK’s newly anointed No.1 restaurant. Under our table he snoozed through a four hour, 30 course plus, spice-driven tasting menu with deafening house music, mirror balls, fire pits and leathern-aproned disciples serving on. Check out my report on this astonishing place.

This time, in a more relaxed setting, the hound is more up for it, accepting his hand-fed tithe of sourdough, rabbit, confit chicken and Yorkshire spring lamb, off the a la carte this time. Most of this comes from my wife’s order choice. Before the turbot I have crab, razor clam, buttermilk, Oscietra caviar, green strawberries and a Nigiri topped with crab claw meat. Definitely not Smidge’s kettle of fish. 

Contender for prettiest dish is my wife’s intricate starter of Loire rabbit, loin and tiny best end chops, linseed and garden peas, but then her pudding of English cherry with pistachio and a woodruff custard is a looker, too, with equally intense flavours to match. Ditch any pub pretensions, The Angel is one of our great, heavenly places to eat. Certainly in God’s Own Country.

The Angel at Hetton, Back Lane, Hetton, Skipton BD23 6LT.

Cast your mind back a quarter of a century. ‘Craft beer’ didn’t exist, street food was probably a bag of chips and fusion sounded like something electrical. OK, a certain Robert Owen Brown (above) was probably spit-roasting a whole steer in a car park somewhere, but without his carnivore core audience baying for a commentary. How the scene was about to change.

Flash forward to the 25th Manchester Food and Drink Festival (September 15-26) – a landmark event guaranteed, given I’ve been there from the beginning, to make me feel old. As will the climactic Manchester Food and Drink Awards gala dinner. So many of the places I’ve been instrumental in garnering gongs for as a veteran judge are no longer with us.

Melancholy aside, what a remarkable transformation for the better has taken place in our expectations and how they are catered for. This is reflected in the first wave of the 2022 programme, full details of which are on the website. Cathedral Gardens will once again host the free to attend Festival Hub with its array of street food traders and bars…  plus the Artisan Food Market, open from 15th–18th and 22nd–25th from midday to 7pm.

Among the special events and masterclasses my initial enthusiasm is for the first ever Festival Fire Pit Takeover, coming to the Hub for both long weekends. Sponsored by Weber, it will invite some of the region’s best loved chefs to cook over fire. These will include Caroline Martins, founder of the Sao Paolo Project, Fazenda exec chef Francisco Martinez and, yes, Robert Owen Brown.

The Hub will also feature the Octopus Cookbook Confidential demo kitchen on Saturday 24th September in collaboration with the publishing house of that name. Top chefs and industry experts will come together to share their tips and knowledge in cookery demos and debate. Spaces are free but limited and can be booked now.

Best known of the participants is probably telly’s Kate Humble, but my hot tip is don’t miss Jaega Wise, award-winning brewer/TV and radio presenter, going head to head with spirits guru Joel Harrison in conversation with Neil Ridley, subject Beer vs Cocktails.

Away from the festival hub, an array of activities will be taking place across Manchester city centre. Tickets are available to buy here for the Wine and Fizz Festival in a new home that’s the talk of Manchester. It will be the first event to be held in NOMA district’s New Century, currently being repurposed to open as new events hall and food hub from September. Cork of the North, Grape to Grain and sake masters UKiYO Republic re the first names on the team sheet for that kick-off.

Look out, too for a £25 for 25 years menu collaboration for the duration of the festival. Already signed up to provide these menu bargains are District, Embankment Kitchen, Three Little Words, Mi and Pho, Shoryu Ramen, Tast and Society.

With David Hockney I’ve got previous. Alas, I wasn’t poolside in L.A. for The Bigger Splash. And it was Ossie Clark not me with the white cat on his knee in Mr & Mrs Clark and Percy. That was the Sixties when the bottle-blond, bespectacled Bradfordian forged his artistic legend. I enter the story only a decade ago outside Bridlington, getting lost in a quest to find a certain Woldgate.

That was the 10-mile straight, single track unmetalled (probably Roman) road linking the slightly shabby East Riding resort with its rolling hinterland, the Yorkshire Wolds. If it weren’t for Hockney swapping his Californian exile in search of a different landscape and quality of light, Woldgate would have remained an afternoon drive cherished by locals, its woods left to foxes, woodpeckers and tinkers. We finally got directions to this “woodland tunnel” from a local pub, The Old Star, where we’d spotted a picture of the artist and pals on the wall. Before the smoking ban excluded his compulsive pastime he was apparently a regular there.

We admired the immense, understated beauty of the landscape that the artist, then well into his seventies, captured in paint and iPad image for his show, The Bigger Picture. Not everyone was a fan. An old acquaintance of mine, Brian Sewell, art critic of the Evening Standard ,wrote: ”My predominant response to David Hockney’s exhibition of Yorkshire landscapes at the Royal Academy is ‘Why?’. Why is there so much of it? Why is so much of it so big, so towering, so vast, so overblown and corpulent? Why is it so repetitive? Why is everything so unreally bright, so garish, discordant, raw and Romany? Why is the brushwork so careless, crude and coarse?”

Make your own mind up. All those Wolds images are in situ at Salt’s Mill, Saltaire. But they are no longer the prime Hockney reason to visit this former textile mill, now an art gallery, upmarket household boutique and restaurant complex at the heart of the model village created by 19th century philanthropic industrialist Sir Titus Salt. Hockney super-fan Jonathan Silver bought the building, once the largest factory in the world, in the Seventies and created a showcase for his art.

The vast Salt’s Mill roof space can accommodate the sheer scale of Hockney’s celebration of his adopted Normandy

Silver died of cancer in 1997, but his ghost would surely relish the current big draw in the vast open top floor space – David Hockney: A Year In Normandie. At 90.75 metres long this is David Hockney’s biggest ever picture: a vibrant, joyful frieze recording the changing seasons in and around the artist’s garden in Normandy, where he sat out Covid lockdown. 

The house Hockney immediately fell in love with lies just outside the picture-perfect village of Beuvron-en-Auge, ten miles south of Cabourg and 40 east of Bayeux with its 70 metre long embroidered Tapestry that sets the benchmark for pictorial ambition.

Beuvron is a picturesque tangle of historic timbered and half-timbered buildings at the epicentre of the region’s main apple growing area, the fruit used for cider and Calvados. This rustic backdrop is reflected in the frieze – from the overflowing blossom of spring to the gaunt, bare orchards in winter. All recreated via pinning together in one continuous length most of the 220 paintings Hockney created on his iPad and printed onto paper. The enormous attic space with its own aged beams feels like gallery come barn, which is just perfect.

This is the first time this work has been seen in the UK; previously it was on display at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris. Hockney, now 85, traces its genesis back to when he first laid eyes upon a 30 metre long Chinese scroll painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 1983, which he recalls as “one of the most exciting days” of his life.

Spoiler alert, not everyone’s excited about Normandie. The critical opprobrium is led by Observer art critic Laura Cummings: “A graze of parallel lines stands for a leaf or cloud; dots of different density are used for seeds, flowers or rising suns; grass comes ribbed, knitted or in sharp little toothpicks. Ready-made motifs proliferate. Blossoms are arrays of danish pastry whorls, both ugly and unpersuasive. Even the innately beautiful structure of a tree is undermined by the stick-figure lines, which lack all eloquence or fluidity. The register is as false and fudged as an electronic signature.”

I think that verdict is harsh. OK, the content is readily transferable into notebook, calendar of souvenir mug for. Yet, the colourful, pastoral positivity is a pick-me-up after all we have endured and are enduring. As Voltaire advises: “Il faut cultiver son jardin”. Vicariously, in this case, through the vision of Monsieur Hockney of Beuvron and Bridlington.

Do make your own mind up about this genuine magnum opus. Normandie is on at Salt’s Mill & 1853 Gallery until Sunday, September 18, 2022. Entry is free and there’s lots else to occupy you in this World Heritage Status enclave.

‘Want to go for a Chinese?’ may have lost its cool cachet in the UK, but for a new generation in India the casual dining out choice is definitely Indo-Chinese. You don’t go out to order dal. Manchurian chicken? Bring it on.

There won’t be any chicken on the menu at Bundobust as they launch a quartet of Indo-Chinese specials across their sites in Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool, available until August 29. The veggie/craft beer formula rightly rules. They’ve done cauli and mushroom Manchurian mash-ups in the past, favouring a sweet-sour sauce that’s a bit chippie-like. 

And they’re not the only Manchester city centre Indian to put the Asian hybrid on the menu. Indian Tiffin Room confirmed its street food credentials by featuring diaspora dishes that originated in the old Chinatown of Kalkota (Calcutta) with influences from far beyond. 

Take Hakka Noodles. To the traditional base of Indo-Chinese spices and soy sauce coated noodles the Bundobust chefs add stir-fried green and red pepper, mushroom and white cabbage. For a fiver it’s a gorgeous combo but begs the question: who were the Hakka? 

It’s tiffin time in Kalkota’s teeming Tiretta Bazaar – the link between Chinese and Indian street food

In the late 18th century these folk emigrated from Northern China. A magnet for their silk and tanning skills was Calcutta, established by the British East India Company as capital of colonial India.

Two areas there vied to be Chinatown for them and other Chinese arrivals – Tangra and Tiretta Bazaar. Only the latter remains today as a food and cultural destination. Its restaurants are testimony to the inevitable fusion that quickly occurred to accommodate the deep-fried, chilli/spicy flavours Indians love. Key elements  soy sauce, vinegar and the Hakkas’ essential Schezwan sauce substituting dried red chillies for Sichuan peppercorns

Nowadays you’ll find this Indo-Chinese cuisine across the Sub-continent. It’s especially popular in my favourite Indian city and great melting pot, Mumbai. In Kolkata, though, the influence goes much further, where’ll you’ll find the likes of Chinese bhel and Schezwan dosa. Any resemblance to authentic Cantonese or Sichuan food is fanciful.

Alongside is a more authentic approach to Chinese regional food, too. Around 1974 India’s first Sichuan restaurant opened up at the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai. A different kind of hot.

Chicken Manchurian was invented in Mumbai, by Nelson Wang, the son of Chinese immigrants in Kolkata. And that’s how umami made its entry into Indian cuisine. And made the Wang dynasty!

Indo-Chinese has been a slower burner in the UK, perhaps the flagship being Hakkaland in Harrow-on-the-Hill, but I recall a visit to Asha Khan’s much-missed Darjeeling Express off Carnaby Street, where some sizzling Tangra Prawns were on the menu.

Bundobust’s entry onto the scene is as playful as you’d expect, plugging into their own Gujarati-inspired small plate evolution. 

Gobi Toast (£5.25) is deep-fried pav soldiers crowned with garlic and ginger minced cauliflower crusted with mixed sesame seeds. Served with coconut korma dipping sauce. Salt & Pepper Okra Fries (£5.50), where the Bundo top seller is tossed with peppers, onions, chilli flakes and soy sauce. And from leftfield, Tofoo 65 (£6.75), a Bundo debut for the bean curd, filling pakoras in a sauce rich with Chinese five spice, curry leaf, garlic, ginger, fermented red chilli paste and mustard seeds. 

The sauce is “a Chinese spiced reimagining of the classic Chennai Hotel Buhari 1965 sauce recipe.” More research for me to do, then.

Bundobust has venues in Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester Piccadilly and Oxford Road (the Brewery).