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.

 

 

Good Food Guide

9780953798339There’s been a lot of excitement about the Man Behind the Curtain getting a Michelin star and deservedly so. We’ve championed Michael O’Hare since his early days in York. Now everyone wants to go and you won’t get a table on Saturday night until 2016! You can see why it’s so important to chefs.

 

The Good Food Guide doesn’t attract half so much attention, but for good places to eat, it’s streets ahead. I don’t think I’ve ever bought a Michelin Guide which is made up of signs and symbols, but my collection of the GFG goes back to the 1980s and it’s always a good read: honest, independent, sparky, opinionated.

 

Last year, Waitrose bought the  GFG from the Consumer Association. but the guide looks much the same and thankfully continues to take no advertising nor paid-for entries.

 

It’s wide ranging covering local gems like Zucco in Meanwood and top restaurants such as Man Behind the Curtain. We like it too because as well as professional inspectors, it holds a great deal of store by readers’ comments, so if you eat somewhere that deserves comment or criticism it’s important to let them know. They will act upon it.

 

Yorkshire is well represented with 67 entries. New this year:

 

Harrogate: Norse, La Feria, and Stuzzi

Helmsley: The Vine House Café

Hull: 1884 Dock Street

Leeds: The Man Behind the Curtain, Zucco,

Lower Dunsforth: The Dunsforth

Middleton Tyas: The Coach House

Sheffield: Lokanta

Todmorden: Blackbird

Wetherby: Mango

Withernwick: the Falcon

York: Cochon Aveugle

You can buy the Guide from bookshops and from Waitrose. But of course you can check ’em out on Squidbeak, we’ve got most of these covered (and more).

 

Not Valentines Day

Flat-CapEvery day for the last month my in-box has been stuffed with Valentine’s Day offers ranging from a ‘speed date with one of our hot cars’ from a hire car company, to a graphologist in a London hotel to analyse a couple’s handwriting, an aphrodisiac menu from an Asian restaurant and a Romeo and Juliet package at a Best Western. All of which I can happily turn down without FOMO*.

Rather less bizarre from Yorkshire come: ‘Liquor your libido’  with Raisthorpe Manor liqueurs; Café No 8 in York will deliver a three course Valentines dinner to your door and the Courtyard Dairy from Settle are offering heart shaped cheeses.

Call me a humbug but quite honestly I find the whole thing a bit desperate. By all means cook a meal for your loved one, take him/her out for dinner, but a graphologist … really?

There are only two invitations I have come across that I might seriously consider: if I were single, then a place at the communal table for singles at  the amazing ‘Man Behind the Curtain’ in Leeds, for an un-Valentine’s night special dinner of five Michael O’Hare courses (£50 a head) – on the un-Valentine’s day of  Wednesday 11th February. To book call: 0113 243 2376

The second is Not-the-Valentine’s dinner with the Flat Cap Cook, Sue Nelson who created Yorkshire Food Finder tours and also runs events from her home near York. Book now for a four course dinner £40 bring your own booze . Call 01904 448439.

*Keep up: Fear Of Missing Out

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