A typical year sees some of the best – and worst food experiences, and 2016 was no exception. Our perennial grumble is over-fussy, ‘cheffy’ food, and one of my lowlights which ably fits that category is a road house on the outskirts of Halifax which re-opened at the start of winter with whistles and bells after a million quid makeover. We often mutter that Masterchef has a lot to answer for, and here it is, writ large; huge plates with dots and dabs, skid marks and ‘reductions’ but very little actual taste. Gah. (Mandy)
The low point of my year was outside the region, but the Michelin-starred 21212 in Edinburgh involved an epic tasting menu of ever more complicated and confused plates. The nadir was ‘porridge milk’ served in a paper cup, oh, and some breathtakingly overpriced wine. (Jill)
At the other end of the scale, Gimbals continues to delight and surprise me. They’ve just celebrated their 20th birthday in their charming, atmospheric restaurant in Sowerby Bridge and Simon Baker’s kitchen skills remain incomparable – I haven’t had a duff dish there all year, but my favourite two courses were a partridge breast wrapped in bacon with confit partridge bubble and squeak with caramelised pear and crispy sage, and a sticky figgy pudding with toffee sauce – two simple, honest, faultless dishes bursting with flavour and texture, a complete joy to eat. If I could only eat in one restaurant ever again, Gimbals would be it. (Mandy).
In Leeds, Iberica confirmed that chains are not all bad. The Swine that Dines continued its upward trajectory; and the Reliance is just that, but it’s in York that I’ve enjoyed some great new openings. Skosh with their exciting small plates and the lovely Rattle Owl, a couple of doors along. I’ve enjoyed the relaxed vibe and the excellent wines at Cave du Cochon and at the new Rascills at Raskelf a salad of smoked ham and mozzarella was my dish of the year. (Jill)
A couple of local finds have brought me much happiness this year; Blue Sky Baker in Hebden Bridge, where I score not only fabulous bread, but THE BEST peanut butter on the planet, Proper Nutty, made down the road in Brighouse, and a cool bar called Drink? which has risen out of the damp ashes of the devastating Boxing Day floods. (Mandy)
The saddest closure of the year was Le Langhe, York’s favourite Italian, but we’re cheered that our young protégé Tom Mckenzie is part of the team putting together a bold new plan for the York Boxpark, a series of shipping containers that will be transformed into a sociable place to eat and drink in the city centre. (Jill)
My ‘stay’ of the year was at Cowside in beautiful Yockenthwaite where Mandy and I enjoyed a restorative weekend in one of Landmark Trust’s glorious cottages. (Jill)
My pub of the year gong goes to the White Lion in Cray, sensitively renovated by a young York couple – there’s minimum Farrow & Ball and maximum stone flags and roaring fires – and some of the best views in the Dales. We took a walk round Upper Wharfedale, ended up there and enjoyed an excellent pint of Hetton Pale Ale and rare beef sarnie – it wins hands down. (Mandy)