Food 2010 – Whites, Beverley

Saturday, 30th January 2010 – Whites, Beverley

So, Saturday night (on a visit to Hull to see my Mum) we went to Whites in Beverley for dinner. I’d been once before and was sufficiently impressed to want to go back for a “proper” run the what looked to be very good cooking (despite a slightly crunchy on one side risotto that led to a discussion with John Robinson, the frighteningly young chef/patron of the place – he’s the oldest man on the team at 26!). Of course since then he’s been listed in the Michelin Guide for the first time, which is good going after less than 18 months in business.

Anyway, we duly showed up around 8.15 on Saturday, to find that the maitre d’, Tim, really did remember me (well, he had mentioned the risotto when I phoned for a table). Settled in, and starting to warm up, we opted for a half bottle of Champagne from Deutz as an aperitif. It arrived along with the menu, so we studied and thought and eventually decide that we would go for the Tasting Menu, all 8 courses of it. The only proviso we made was that we would prefer to avoid any pork, as we both find it indigestible.

There was quite a long pause after we ordered, during which we became aware of the offensive boors on the next table, who would provide an irritant for quite a lot of the evening, bitching and moaning about everything, including the size of their quail portions (it’s quail, how big did they expect it to be?) Mostly we filtered them out, though it was impossible to do so all of the time. They were unfailingly and unforgivably rude to the staff, and the chef, and we were sorely disappointed when none of them slipped on the ice outside as they were leaving… However, despite their offensive behaviour, they couldn’t take away from what was put in front of us.

We started with a tiny, soft, crusty white roll, with butter studded with fennel seeds and poppy seeds. We were very hungry by this point, so it didn’t stick around for long, which was shame in way. It was very good though, the chewy texture nicely set off by the seed-dotted butter.

And then a small cup of lobster bisque arrived, sharply flavoured with anise. It was hot, flavour-filled and just right as an amuse bouche. It certainly amused my mouth a lot…

First up was a small, perfectly cooked piece of salmon, done sous-vide, hence the evenness of the cooking. It came with a smear of terriaki dressing, and some cauliflower panacotta, an interesting contrast of flavours and textures. We were still drinking the Champagne at this point.

We stayed with fish for the next course, a clever and amusing multi-coloured tube of canelloni, stuffed with a creamy filling, and accompanied by a portion of lobster. For me the lobster was a little overcooked and chewy, but I couldn’t fault the flavour. The pasta didn’t actually taste any different to normal, plain pasta, but the stripes were fun and made for an attractive looking dish.

The next plate to arrive was the first of the meat dishes, two delicate, tender slices of venison, on a bed of tiny pieces of young crinkly cabbage, and surrounded by morels. The sauce was beautifully rich, so much so that Lynne actually ate her cabbage, a thing almost unheard of in these parts. By now we were drinking a lovely, robust St. Emilion, which was going down a treat with the game.

The venison was followed by a quail’s breast, accompanied by a “crispy” quail’s egg, a small but amazingly tasty treat, whatever the morons on the next table thought. This time the eggs were rather less soft boiled than would have been ideal, but that’s incredibly difficult to achieve, especially when you have lots of other things going on. The quail was just as perfectly cooked as the venison, and we still very happy diners, if increasingly full.

We moved away from meat for the next presentation, a Jerusalem artichoke soup, very, very dense, and with added hazelnut oil. It’s fair to say that hazelnuts and Jerusalem artichokes go together beautifully (I have a soup recipe including just those two key ingredients, but it’s not a patch on this).

We were starting to slow down now, but there was still a major course to come. This was two lamb recipes, a roasted loin, and a slow-cooked shoulder with a purple potato, and an egg yolk that had been given the sous-vide treatment and was now so unctious that I could have happily eaten it on its own, or with just a slice of the earlier bread roll, toasted as soldiers. Very clever and utterly delicious, all of it.

We’d finished the wine and now only had the dessert courses to go!

The first of these was a light, creamy orange panna cotta with home made marmalade. Now I don’t like marmalade normally, but this was something else and I was more than happy to polish it all off. With it we drank a very good glass each of Frontignan.

And now we got the dessert piece de resistance, the Tastes of Tiramisu. There was a streak of chocolate, a streak of coffee mousse, a glass full of very rich sabayon, and a small slice of coffee and chocolate and biscuit cake. It was wonderful, utterly wonderful.

And just when we thought it was safe, we were offered a selection of cheeses on home made oatcakes, with a celery chutney and some sliced apple to accompany it. The cheeses were perfectly kept, and the oatcakes were crumbly and dense (and we couldn’t quite deal with the last one).

And so, after a long chat with several of the staff and John, we eventually staggered off into the night, four hours after we initially walked in, stuffed but happy.

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