Tag Archive for: North

I’ve been taking flak for concentrating too much on reviewing new restaurants in London. In redressing the balance I have broken an unwritten rule – never go in too early. Let the paint dry, the initial glitches get fixed.  Apologies then for my haste to this Northern trio – Bavette, neighbourhood bistro in Horsforth near Leeds, ‘veteran’, open all of three weeks; The Lamb of Tartary dining pub in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, just a handful of days in; and Eight at Gazegill, organic farm restaurant in the lee of Pendle Hill, that officially opened only this weekend gone. Each brings something special to their respective patch, each is helmed by a chef with an inspiring cv, each is bravely tackling the harsher hospitality environment outside the capital.

Bavette – echoes of the legendary Racine

I’ll start in this same order with Bavette, which has hit the ground running. The top end of Town Street in Horsforth has more than its share of ‘To Let’ signs; down towards The Green business looks healthier. Nowhere, though, has near the élan of this bistro arriviste, set up by a Leeds lad, back from London success, and his French husband. Sandy Jarvis is the chef and Clèment Cousin, front of house and sommelier. Their is a smart fit-out with the open kitchen set well back. 

What takes my eye is the bookshelves that divide the space. I like a chef who wears his influences on his sleeve (or rather dust jacket). There is Le Pigeon, a cookbook celebrating chef Gabriel Rucker’s Portland Oregon take on classic French food. To prove it can be done well beyond La Belle Patrie, though a dinner I had there on a 2017 West Coast road trip didn’t live up to the recipes I’d cooked from at home. A large illustrated tome devoted to Pâté en Croûte nudges me into believing the Gallic torch might burn brighter this blustery lunchtime a 20 minute bus ride from Leeds centre.

So, of course, I ordered the Venison and Pork Pâté en Croûte (£12.50) along with another quintessentially French starter, a Seafood Bisque (£11). The former was a juicy morass of tangled meat flakes in a taut pastry casing, the icing on the croûte a savoury Earl Grey jelly; the latter came with a pimento-spiked rouille and dinky croutons and was a deep dip into pure poissonnerie. Earlier, nibbles had been a quartet of croquettes (£6) oozing with molten Comté. My accompanying glass of white, like much of the list, comes from natural  specialists, Wayward Wines of Chapel Allerton, so the crisp 100% Saugvignon Mikaël Bouges La Pemte de Chavigny was an old friend. Clèment Cousin’s family are iconic minimum intervention winemakersin the Loire and there’s a sub-section of half a dozen ‘family specials’ bottles.

The Bavette partners met while working at Covent Garden’s groundbreaking Terroirs natural wine bar, now closed. Sandy’s route there was not typical of the hospitality trade. After studying chemistry at university  in Manchester he enrolled at Leith’s cookery school in London, where he was inspire by a guest speaker, also a personal hero of mine – Henry Harris of Racine. With his cooking diploma but no cv to speak of, he persuaded Harris to take him on at the Knightsbridge bistro that was more authentique than most such establishments across La Manche. It’s a decade since the original Racine shut, less than a year since Harris joyously revived it as Bouchon Racine above a Farringdon pub. When I, unaware of the past link, tell Sandy, now 39, it was the best of its kind since my Bouchon blow-out in May he is more than delighted. You sense, after carving out an impressive London career (Brawn, Culpepper), this a dream realised of doing the French bistro food he likes best in a place of his own.

Catching up on my research later, I discover a pork chop would be his desert island main. Arguably mine too now after sampling his Pork Chop à la Grenobloise (£20) – a pretty fan of sweet fatted tenderness, dressed with capers, parsley and lemon, accompanied by a potato puree as smooth as Joël Robuchon’s classic version. I feel almost a traitor to veer off to a a glass of Italian red. Crucella is from the Campania, a blend of Merlot, Freisa and Sangiovese offering soft tannins and a beguiling lick of liquorice.

The mains choices inevitably also feature a bavette steak with shallots and, a source of next table plate envy, sea bream with a vin jaune sauce, buttered leeks and fondant potato. Among the puddings is another Sandy desert island must – a Paris-Brest, created in 1910 to honour a bike race between the French capital and the Breton port. It is designed to resemble a bike wheel, with its ring of pâte à choux, or cream puff dough, split horizontally and filled with a praline mousseline. So French. Maybe next time. I have no regrets about finishing with a with old stager crème brûlée with Yorkshire rhubarb. My digestif? A quince liqueur from the Gaillac region. Santé, Bavette.

The Lamb of Tartary – legend in the past, maybe in the making

I love heavy curtains over an entrance. Historically they were to keep out off-street draughts. As at the aforementioned Racine. They are in situ too at The Edinburgh Castle, which has this year debuted in the Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastropubs list at no.24 under the stewardship of Shaun Moffat (ex-Manteca, Berber & Q in London), who has just scooped Chef of the Year at the Manchester Food and Drink Festival. Now some spectacular drapes garland the way into what was Castle stablemate Cottonopolis, re-invented  as The Lamb of Tartary. Exec chef Shaun has been charged with putting his own food stamp in place of a tired formula of NQ bar with bee motifs, Czech tank beer and Asian-inspired dishes.

Already it looks jazzier, the fabric wow mirrored in the booth furnishings in what is otherwise quite a pastelly re-furb. When I test the all-day food offering very early on it definitely shares much of the Edinburgh Castle nose-to-tail, respond-to what’s-on-the market ethos Shaun made much of in a down to earth 2022 interview with me. The dishes bely the poncy pub moniker, which namechecks the legend of a lamb that manages to be both a true animal and a living plant. Vegans look away now. The belief was that cotton plant Agnus scythicus of Central Asia fed sheep that grazed around it via a kind of umbilical cord. When all accessible foliage was gone, both plant and sheep died.

So, yes, I do order the Texel cross lamb saddle chop, sourced not from Tartary but near Knutsford. Costing £32, it’s part of the grill menu. Ideally I’d have preferred the lamb fat crisper but that’s a minor cavil. A pubbier use of the lamb is in a Scotch egg but, early days, that isn’t quite ready for the pass on our visit. A surprising triumph from the grill is fleshy salt-baked celeriac (£15). Glorious. From Pollybell Farm for all you source nerds, it is served with Polyspore mushrooms and bitter leaves. And naturally I add a side of triple-cooked chips because a Shaun’s kitchen does them so well.

The rest of our lunch consists of small plates that seem well placed as superior drinks ballast, for the aim is for an all-day dining pub – in contrast with so many ‘gastropubs’ that are clearly restaurants in disguise. There’s proper, funky brown crab meat in a crumpet for £8, a Belted Galloway steak tartare (£12) that comes with quality potato crisps, home-cured sea trout in a heady caper mayo with Pollen sourdough (£12) plus another impressive veggie plate, plunging purple sprouting and burrata into a chlorophyll rich sauce (£9). And to start it all off there had been Achill oysters from Ireland given Shaun;s trademark rhubarb mignonette dressing (main image).

Puddings were still a work in progress they weren’t even on a printed menu. There’s a dense concoction of chocolate and cherries and a quieter pannacotta, smothered in forced rhubarb compote that I marginally preferred. As at The Edinburgh Castle the wine list is well priced but not very adventurous and there are couple of cask pumps (go for the Buxton Brewery). Would I pop in for a casual beer. Probably not, with Pelican Bar across the road and Port Street a two minute walk. For food? I can’t wait to return.

Eight at Gazegill – I remember when this was all fields…

Well it still is, almost. I’m cheating here. Canapes and Bolney fizz at a aunch party can’t generate a review, but I’m so keen to plug this daring, remote eco venture I’ve already previewed towards the end of its seven gestation. It is on an award-winning organic farm with zero miles access to all their livestock and produce. Ian O’Reilly and Emma Robinson are custodians of 250 acres of unspoiled  farmland, with hay meadows and more than 50 species of wild flower and herbs, that has been in her family for 500 years. Last year Gazegill won Countryside Alliance Rural Oscar for Best ‘Local’ Food & Drink Retailer in the UK. Now the next step.

The new, ultra-sustainable restaurant building wouldn’t look out of place in a vineyard in the Napa Valley, but this is the Ribble Valley. The plan is for Eight to join all those other places that have turned it into a major foodie destination. To make their intentions clear they have hired Doug Crampton, who learnt his craft at the legendary Anthony’s in his native Leeds and ran James Martin’s Manchester restaurant for nearly a decade.

It’s called Eight because it’s an octagonal, 100-cover oak structure with large Pendle-ready picture windows, the whole space powered using stored solar energy generated on-site by a wind turbine and solar voltaics. The open kitchen boasts a wood-fired oven, central both  to a casual daytime dining operation and to tasting menus Fridays and Saturday evenings. Spring arriving, the outside terrace can host a further 60 folk.

The evening we arrive for the launch it is very un-springlike but the welcome is warm and generous. A harbinger of good times ahead came in the shape of a simple chipolata. Made with Gazegill’s own nitrite-free organic pork, it is flavoured with wild garlic from the fields we are looking across at. The farm employs its own regular forager. The glaze on this delicious bite is made with honey from their own bees. 

Suburbs, cutting edge city quarter, unspoilt countryside… the seeds of some great northern eating places have been sown.