Chefs on the Move

If you need to know just how difficult it is to run a restaurant talk to James and Tommy Banks, the two brothers behind the much feted Black Swan at Oldstead. James remembers that despite earning a Michelin they found it difficult to fill this out-of-the-way restaurant on a quiet Wednesday in November. They were on the brink of closure when Tommy took part in the Great British Menu. It meant the Black Swan could reach a wider audience and from then on the phone never stopped ringing. They were, and still are, fully booked every night. TV helped make a success of the Black Swan and led them to open a second location, Roots in York, which was booked out even before it opened.

Tommy Banks of the Black Swan at Oldstead and Roots, York

Things have been less happy for others. Rascills, where chef Richard Johns cooks like a dream but couldn’t get enough punters through the door at the restaurant he runs with his wife Lyndsey at Raskelf and has announced their closure at the end of the year. With plenty to choose from in York, diners have less inclination to travel the 15 miles to Raskelf.

 

Rascills will be there until Christmas, so we urge you to make a visit for dinner or for one of the best Sunday lunches in the county served on the last Sunday of every month.

 

Another distinguished restaurant Alimentum in Cambridge closed earlier this month, though happily for us in Yorkshire, head chef Samir Effa has been signed up by Simon Gueller at the Box Tree, presumably with the job of regaining the Michelin star it lost this year after holding it for 14 years.

 

When Andrew Pern, chef/patron of the Star Inn at Harome lost his Michelin star a few years back, he recalled how he got back in the kitchen and between him and his head chef Steve Smith, they covered every single shift for the next three years until they’d won back that star.

 

Good news then that having taken a back seat for the last few years, Simon Gueller has reported that he will be back in the kitchen invigorating the Box Tree. We wish all these hardworking chefs well.

Friends of Ham, Chopping Block and Roots

It’s sad that we’re too often writing about restaurant closures, the latest and most surprising being Friends of Ham in Leeds and Ilkley.

According to this report in the Bradford Telegraph & Argus, the two satellites – Ham and Friends in Queen’s Arcade and the Friends of Ham branch in Ilkley found it hard to get established and the original branch in Leeds’ New Station Street has suffered from a short term cash flow during this hot summer weather with no outdoor seating.

A local property and investment company Glentrool have stepped in to purchase Friends of Ham and plan to work with the creators of the business Anthony and Claire Kitching, so with any luck we will still be able to enjoy their craft beers, good ham and cheeses in the New Station Street location.

It’s good to be able to report two new openings in York which is fast becoming a hub for independents.

Michael Hjort, chef/patron of Melton’s of York’s and director of York Food Festival is to open The Chopping Block above Walmgate Ale House.  The space above the bar has been run as a bistro for a few years but Michael says “now is the time to up our game here and run a quality led informal restaurant.”

‘The Chopping Block he says will serve diverse modern food like aubergine stuffed with lamb and pomegranate, game burgers with roast venison and sea bream with Yorkshire cider, samphire and summer vegetables’.

Close on the heels of the Chopping Block but in Marygate on the other side of town is Roots, a second restaurant for the famed and Michelin starred Black Swan at Oldstead. Promising a changing seasonal menu of sharing plates that open with such modish dishes as cured trout, fennel kimchi and Meridian apple and ox cheek, cauliflower and kale. Skosh watch out.

The booking site opened a week ago and lines were jammed. Roots opens on 14 September. If you can’t get a table we will post our report. It’s what we’re here for!

Roots Opening in York

Over the last few months I’ve watched teams of builders and decorators turn the unloved Bay Horse pub on Marygate, York into Roots, the much anticipated second restaurant for the Banks family, where Tommy Banks began and helped turn it into the top rated, Michelin starred Black Swan at Oldstead.

 

Don’t expect a clone of the Black Swan, Roots they say is going to be ‘a sharing plate restaurant’ on the theme of Tommy’s recently published book of the same name in which the menus are based on three (not four) seasons: the Hunger Gap running from winter into spring; Abundance summer into autumn and Preserving from autumn to winter.

 

The first published menu: The Preserving Season lists what sound like 14 cutting edge dishes with smoked eel doughnut; pork fat carrots and garden pea falafel and hear this: turbot, strawberries and cream. Good to see Courtyard Dairy supplying the cheese and interesting sounding desserts featuring Douglas fir, lemon verbena and woodruff. Choose individual plates or their Feast Menu at £50 a head. There’s sure to be a rush when the online booking opens on 1st August for the official opening mid September.

https://www.rootsyork.com

Roots, 68 Marygate, York YO24 1AZ

… and the Michelin Star Goes To …

Monday saw the launch of the 2018 UK Michelin Guide – streamed live in front of an invited audience. After an interminable build up they finally announced the 16 new stars.

No new stars for Yorkshire, seems their inspectors never get beyond Leicester apart from a star for Moor Hall at Aughton near Ormskirk and Loch Bay on the Isle of Skye. Unusually Michelin announced a third star, (making a total of only five in the UK)  for The Araki, a London sushi restaurant with just nine covers that serves one set menu at £300 per person. Drinks extra!

Happily all the current Yorkshire star holders held on to their badges and remain in the club. Once again congratulations to Skosh and Joro for their Bib Gourmand – recognition by Michelin for a restaurant  (or chef) worth watching.

We wrote way back in 2012 why we believe Michelin to be an outdated and irrelevant award but we understand why it means so much to chefs.  For an interesting article in the London Eater on why Michelin’s matter click here.

 

Michelin Delivers

Congratulations to Skosh, York and Joro, Sheffield on their Michelin Bib Gourmand announced this morning. So glad we visited and reported some time ago, we’ll never get a table now. Congratulations too to our neighbours the Staith House, North Shields for their Bib Gourmand.

The big one, the Michelin stars, are announced on Monday, 2nd October, live streamed at 11.30am. It’s my guess that York’s Cochon Aveugle will be crossing their fingers. It’s too soon for Horto, though the inspectors appear very keen on the small plates Scandi vibe.

There will be a lot of breath-holding among the current Yorkshire star holders hoping to hold on to their stars, the Star Inn, the Yorke Arms, the Black Swan, the Pipe and Glass, the Man Behind the Curtain and the Box Tree. No pressure guys.

 

Food Awards 2017

Man_Behind_CurtainIt’s the awards time of year, so here’s a quick round up:

The 2017 Waitrose Good Food Guide came out in September with new entries for Ox Club and Tharavadu in Leeds, White Rabbit in Todmorden and the Crathorne Arms south of Middlesbrough. One of our favourites,  the Swine that Dines is credited in a list of ‘Best New Openings’ with our congratulations to Ian Myers who is named as ‘a chef to watch’.

 

Last week the UK Michelin Guide was published with no surprises for Yorkshire, just a sigh of relief I suspect for the six Yorkshire restaurants that retained their stars. They are: the Star at Harome, the Yorke Arms at Ramsgill; the Black Swan at Oldstead; the Box Tree, Ilkley; the Pipe & Glass at South Dalton and the Man Behind the Curtain in Leeds.

 

Among our near neighbours: Raby Hunt at Darlington has been awarded a second star, a stunning accolade and one of only 20 in the UK. Single stars are retained by House of Tides, Newcastle; Fischer’s of Baslow and Northcote at Langho.

 

Michelin’s ‘affordable dining’ award, the Bib Gourmand goes to Prashad in Drighlington, Chadwicks of Maltby and Le Langhe in York.

 

Yorkshire got a look-in at the Great British Pub Awards with

Best Beer Pub: the Sheffield Tap. Best Student Pub: the Doctor’s Orders, Sheffield. Best Cider Pub: Foley’s Tap House, Leeds and across the border Best Food Pub for the Freemason’s at Wiswell near Clitheroe.

The Black Swan at Lockwoods

Tommy_Banks LockwoodsAn invitation for dinner at Lockwoods of Ripon cooked by Tommy Banks from the Michelin starred Black Swan at Oldstead, was too good to miss.

It turns out that Tommy Banks and Matthew Lockwood are old mates. They cooked up the idea for this one-off  ‘pop-up’ dinner after a few years of  catering for the Black Swan’s staff Christmas party. ‘We put out a big rib of beef and a pile of chips and they’re happy’ says Matthew. ‘So Tommy owed you one’ I suggested.

I can only speculate there might have been a moment of regret on Tommy Banks’ part. More used to doing 30 covers a night in his own kitchen here he was carting over to Ripon ingredients, equipment, chefs, putting on six courses for 60 guests. But it ran like clockwork, the Lockwood team doing a grand job front of house: quietly efficient without over-fussing.

It was six courses with wines to match showing Tommy Banks at the height of his talent. Clever snacks, a dish of delicate cod and mussels and my best dish: lamb or rather hogget served with hispi cabbage, fermented turnip, Jerusalem artichoke and cauliflower puree – you had to be there.

Rhubarb_Schnapps

Rhubarb Schnapps

There followed their signature three lollipops: meadowsweet, curry leaf and hazelnut and then an elegant dessert of rhubarb and cream infused with rosemary and honey.  The wine flight gave us a sparkling Cremant du Jura, an unusual wild ferment Assyrtiko Gaia from Santorini, a Mount Jefferson Pinot Noir from Oregon and finally a Barbie pink rhubarb and rosemary schnapps.

Thank you for a terrific evening and congratulations to all.

 

 

 

Black Swan Guesting

We raved about Tommy Banks’ cooking at the Black Swan at Oldstead after we lunched there in the summer so we are happy to report he’s at the stove for a special guest night with Matthew Lockwood at Lockwoods of Ripon on 25 February.

 

Tommy_BanksTommy who is head chef at the Michelin starred restaurant has created a five course menu for the Lockwoods event.  They haven’t released the menu but his team have been planning it since December and you can safely assume it will be amazing.

 

Tickets are £60 a head plus drinks. To book go to www.lockwoodsrestaurant.co.uk or call 01765 607 555.

Our Top Ten for 2015

Squidbeak have eaten well this year and so we bring you our Christmas round up, in no particular order, of the best bars, cafes and restaurants of 2015. Thank you to all our followers, thanks for sending in your tips and recommendations, keep them coming.

Black Swan Oldstead 025Black Swan, Oldstead
We’’ve been here at various stages of its development but have never been more blown away than by the sheer class of the latest regime with Tommy Banks at the helm, especially his fabulous use of fruit and veg from his ever-evolving veg patch. This is truly original, exciting food.

 

 

 

Bundobust_-_Giles_Smith_GJS_7649Bundobust, Leeds
A winning combo of craft beer from the lads at the well-respected Bradford real ale mecca Sparrow and Gujerati ‘small plates’ from Mayur Patel of the peerless Prashad dynasty. What could be better than a pint of Northern Monk and a couple of tubs of gutsy curry and when its crammed and noisy you just know you’’ve come to the right party.

 

 

FOH_Garden_Gate_Baby_Shower_025The Garden Gate, Leeds
At the risk of overusing ‘iconic’ .. this amazing old pub defines the word. Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler lead the campaign to rescue it in the 1980’s and thank goodness he did. It’’s in a curious spot, in the middle of a housing estate in south Leeds, but inside find Burmantoft tiles, stunning etched glass and burnished mahogany woodwork – and great beer, including Marston’s King of Swing, Leeds Brewery Pale Ale and Yorkshire Blonde.

 

Man-Behind-the-CurtainMan Behind the Curtain, Leeds
We told you how highly we rated Michael O’’Hare’’s cooking when he was at the Blind Swine in York. We were there again for his opening night in Leeds and he wowed us once more. Don’t go there for troughing out, but do go for some amazing taste combinations, surreal presentation and a huge lot of fun. More an experience than a meal. But still a great dinner.

 

MannionsMannion & Co, York
Mannion’s is where we head in York when we want really good coffee, a cake or a substantial sandwich and/or a charcuterie plate to share. It’s a deli, takeaway and bakery run by ex-Star Inn chef Andrew Burton in partnership with his in-laws who have long run a fruit and veg stall in York market. Never hits a bum note.

 

 

Three_Pigeons_003Three Pigeons, Halifax
I’’m ashamed to say I visited this extraordinary listed Art Deco pub for the first time this year; Ossett Brewery rescued it ten years ago and brought it back to its glorious heyday. It’’s got three cosy rooms radiating off the drinking ‘lobby’, original terrazzo floors and stylish metal ribbon signage on the doors – and cask marque ale from the Ossett Brewery of course. Expect a warm welcome and a roaring fire.

 

StuzziStuzzi, Harrogate
For a long time we couldn’t find much to recommend in Harrogate; now it’’s booming. One of our best discoveries this year was Stuzzi, an Italian deli and bistro opposite the Conference Centre, run by a team of ex-Salvo lads. Salvo’s loss is Harrogate’s gain with good meat, pasta, terrific bread and cakes and decent coffee.

 

 

Swine that Dines windowSwine that Dines, Leeds
Wow, this place was a revelation when I went in November with an eager young food writer Tom McKenzie who runs an Instagram review site called @apairofdirtypigs. We invited him to write it up for Squid, so here it is, a café that upgrades on Friday and Saturday nights to a restaurant with a blackboard of original, exciting and international dishes at ridiculously good prices.

 

Vinehouse CafeVine House Cafe, Helmsley
It’’s closed now for winter, but on the first sunny day in April make haste to Helmsley Walled Garden and the Vine House Café where you can sit outside in the first rays of spring sunshine or in the vine house itself. Lunch on salads made from the garden produce or barbecued and slow-cooked meats from William (ex-Moro) Mowbray’s ‘Big Green Egg’ before strolling round the beautiful garden with Helmsley castle as your backdrop.

 
Whites-RestaurantWhite’s, Beverley
An East Yorkshire restaurant serving terrific food which somehow falls under the radar despite moving up the Good Food Guide ratings. John Robinson is a talented and uncompromising chef and our latest visit found him on top form again. We’ve only tried his four course menu but there’s a nine-courser for £50 too if that’s your thing.

 

 

Michelin Guide 2012

We’ve never hidden our scepticism of the Michelin Guide – too much gussied up food, too much  Squidbeakery, too much emphasis on French values of rarified service – but you can’t deny that it means a lot to chefs, drives business and for the rest of us acts as a useful shorthand for places offering a high standard of food, usually at the top end of the market. Like the Oscars, Michelin stars don’t matter until you’re up for one and then, deep down, you really want it.

The new 2012 Guide came out today, so here are the headlines:

A brand new shiny star for fast rising Black Swan at Oldstead.

Congratulations to the Banks family. Mandy and I have both championed it and check out Mandy’s rave report from when she visited in the summer.

The rest of the Yorkshire stars – no arguments about their retention – still stand:

The Box Tree at Ilkley
The Pipe and Glass, South Dalton
The Yorke Arms at Ramsgill
The Burlington Restaurant at Bolton Abbey
The Old Vicarage at Ridgeway

Bib Gourmands (good food at a moderate price). No new entries – though there are several more operating at this level to be found in Squidbeak. Yorkshire establishments that retain their Bib are:

Whites of Beverley
General Tarleton, Knaresborough
Piazza by Anthony in Leeds
Vennells at Masham
Artisan, Sheffield
Rose and Crown, Sutton on Forest

So still no star for Anthony’s in Leeds, a long time glaring omission in our book and I wouldn’t blame Anthony if the Bib Gourmand for the Piazza stuck in his throat.  Elsewhere, some recognition is overdue for Artisan of Hessle and excuse our stuck record on this – the Fox and Hounds at Goldsborough.

At the most rarified level elsewhere in Britain, three stars are retained by:

The Fat Duck at Bray
The Waterside at Bray
Gordon Ramsay, Chelsea
Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester

And, if you want a copy of the fat red book, then why not buy it here through us. We get a stingy tip! Guide Michelin Great Britain and Ireland 2012 (Michelin Guides)

 

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