Food 2011 – Artisan, Hessle

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Sunday, 22nd May 2011 – Artisan, Hessle

It wasn’t the easiest of weekends. We spent the early part of Friday morning failing to solve Elaine’s bathroom dilemma by proposing more questions than solutions before finally heading to Hull to see what’s been happening with the house since January when the work started to put it back together in the wake of the burst pipe. To add to the pressure to get there, the estate agents have found tenants who want to move in on 8th June. So I wanted to see what remained to do, get the place measure for carpets, and generally gee everyone up to make sure the work is completed in time.

We arrived a little after noon to find Richard and his side kick hard at work on the last paintwork, bar one room, and a box room full of all the stuff that was in the loft. Decisions needed taking and the stuff all needed moving out one way or another if that last room was going to be completed in time. We gave it a ferocious looking at and decided that quite a lot of it needed to be disposed off, hence we needed yet another damn skip. It’s got to the point now that they a) recognise my voice on the phone and b) trust me enough to deliver a skip without payment in advance. With a skip duly arranged for the morning, we set about sorting stuff into three piles, a “dispose of now with extreme prejudice” pile, a “take home with us” pile and a “stick it in storage as a temporary measure before e-baying it” pile. The dust involved was horrible, between the plaster dust and the dirt from the loft and we were soon sweaty, filthy and not at all happy. However, we now had some idea what we were dealing with, so we nipped off to find a storage unit to put things in. It proved surprising easy and we quickly agreed to use a half sized crate unit, as it was just over £3 a day… We agreed I would go back with the stuff on Saturday morning and that we’d do the paperwork at the same time.

Back to the house at speed, we then met the man from the carpeting company, who measured up, showed us some samples and left, promising to call me on Saturday with a quote for boarding all three bedrooms, reftting the carpet in the lounge and hall and on the stairs and landing, and carpetting the bedrooms, the bathroom, and the dining room. That left the garden in need of a looking at – the lawnmower refused to start, and the whole area needs a damn good weeding, the end patch clearing and paving, and the patio and path in need of a serious jet washing. My hope is that if I can get all of this done in the next couple of weeks, it will encourage the tenants to keep it pristine. I realise I may be sadly disappointed, but hey, a woman has to dream.

That evening, having checked into the Premier Inn opposite the Deep, and showered thoroughly, we set off for one of my very favourite restaurants in any country, Artisan. As a reward for everything they did for my Mum, I wanted to take my cousin Ann and her husband, Dave, for dinner. They’d been once before, when Mum was still in circulation, and had loved it as much as we do, so it was no contest really when deciding where to take them. We arrived just as Lindsey was lighting the candles, and had to wait for her to unlock the door, but it wasn’t long before we were comfortably seated at one of the 5 tables in what really is a lovely, intimate space. A glass of raspberry liquer-flavoured Champagne was just what the doctor ordered at this point, as things were starting to hurt from box wrestling.

Lindsey was quick to tell us that although Ann and Dave don’t eat meat but do eat fish, we had the standard menu, while Richard had conjured up a fish-based offering for them. The appetiser then arrived, a wild mushroom soup with truffle oil, served with fresh bread and Lincolnshire Poacher butter. I could eat that bread all night, or for that matter the soup, with is amazingly earthy between the density of the mushroom flavour, and the truffle oil. Lovely and we all used bits of bread to scoop up the last of the soup.

After that our paths diverged, with the non-meat eaters having fillet of wild seabass with their salad of papaya, pomegranate, and spring onion with a sweet chilli dressing, and the other half of the table getting sirloin of beef with it.

There was a lovely tang to the dressing, and the strips of onion gave it a nice kick, while the beef was beautifully tender (and the seabass that I managed to steal a forkful of was also delicious, firm fleshed, perfectly seasoned and I would have been as happy with it as I was with the meat).

Next was a course we could all share, a slow-cooked fillet of Scottish smoked haddock with caviar, crushed peas and pea soup. The soup was stunning, a vibrant shade of green with amazing sweetness to it, and Lynne, who hates peas, scoffed the lot contentedly, to my suprise. The haddock was silky smooth and moist and went very well with the soup.

We next had another digression, with a gloriously creamy wild mushroom risotto, strewn with Parmesan and with fresh truffle, for the non-meat eaters (why yes, I did managed to get a fork to it before I was fended off!).

Meanwhile, we had a duo of Nidderdale lamb, in the shape of a slow-roasted rump and a pan fried cutlet, served with crushed Jersey royal potatoes that actually made me see the point of potatoes, and asparagus, the whole bathed in a gloriously rich red wine sauce.

We were filling up fast now, so it was just as well we’d only got one course left, though we managed to stretch it to two, by sharing. First Lynne and I shared one portion of the fine cheeses, with tomato chutney, with a glass of port each, while Dave and Ann opted for dessert.

After that we also polished off a dessert, but just the one between us. Well, it would have been hard to resist really with one of Richard’s famous chocolate pots, this time a white chocolate version with raspberries, served with a startlingly fresh mango sorbet.

And after that is was a matter of coffee, petit fours, and back to the hotel to bed.

Saturday started way too early, but we were up, breakfasted and at the house by 08:30. I started loading the car up with the stuff for storage, while Lynne was going to help, but the skip I’d hired for one last disposal session arrived about five minutes after we got there, so instead she started filling that with the stuff we’d opted not to keep. I filled the car to the brim and headed off to the unit, emptied everything into the crate, bruising myself more than once as I tried to back out of the 4 foot high space and caught my spine on the ledge at the front. My hands were hurting from lifting the boxes by their cut out handles, I was filthy again, and sweating like a pig by the time I’d finished. And annoyingly I still had to do a second run because I couldn’t get the last four boxes in. That done, and the skip filled, we played a jigsaw puzzle game as we figured out how to get four dining chairs plus the rest of the things we wanted to take home into the back of a VW Golf. It wasn’t as difficult as we’d feared in the end, although I couldn’t see out of the back window at all. By then it was almost midday, so we went round the house one last time, made a list of what still needed sorting, and hit the road for home. A stop on the motorway for coffee and cake was enough to keep us ticking over for the entirety of the trip, but I was feeling very weary by then.

Once home it was time for a quick unpack, before running the chairs to the people we promised them to, then a sortie to Waitrose to buy supper. No way was I cooking that evening. I just couldn’t face it. A thorough shower, dinner and an early night was in order, which is why I was in bed with the lights off by 21:00.

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