Friday, 28th October 2016 – White’s, Beverley
Back when Mum was very ill and in hospital for weeks at a time, and I was up in Hull trying to hold myself together through it all, through dealing with getting power of attornney and talking to oncologists and visiting Castle Hill Hospital for what felt like days on end I would just now and then go out for dinner, mostly to a couple of Chinese restaurants (the appallingly punning Woksoever more often than not) but also to White’s in Beverley where I discovered a small restaurant serving up some stunningly good food and swore that I would revisit some time in the future and that I wouldn’t be alone when I did. Oh and I also fell into conversation with the chef, John Robinson, after a minor quibble about a slightly dried out down one side risotto… The resulting conversation meant it was some while before I was allowed a risotto again at White’s.
Anyway, needing to go north this weekend to scatter Mum and Dad’s ashes in the backgarden of the house (the tenants having moved out on Wednesday) it seemed like a good excuse to make a weekend of it and stay in Beverley, eat at White’s one night, and trek to Rascills on the following night. We’d be guaranteed two good dinners if nothing else. We duly booked one of the rooms available at White’s Overnight which meant we got the stunningly good “gourmet offer” of bed, breakfast and the tasting menu for £195 per couple. Now that’s definitely what I’d call a bargain and Room 4 is very charming indeed (even if it is up two flights of steep Georgian stairs)!
Settled in after a somewhat trying drive, we opted to head down to dinner at 7pm to give ourselves plenty of time to work our way though 9 courses. John doesn’t tend to do masisve portions, which is just as well, but we’d still rather take our time with them. A half bottle of Champagne seemed like a good starting point (and was sensibly priced too) so that was where we chose to begin.
While we happily sipped at that the first of the food arrived in the shape of a freshly baked bread loaf with freshly churned butter. The crust was crisp and the interior soft and ideal to absorb the butter, which was lightly scattered with just the right amount of salt crystals.
By this point John was busy in the kitchen and the fruits of that labour soon appeared, with a plate of amuse bouches including wonderfully meaty cod cheeks, wrapped in crumbs and fried perfectly, no grease, just a lovely crisp crumb. And then there was the squid ink risotto. I wasn’t surprised – I was delighted! It was just the right side of al dente and the inky sauce was perfect. I’m even prepared to overlook it being served on a slate!
What came next was one of the real highlights of the meal, a stonkingky good butternut squash veloute, with slow cooked ox cheek pieces and cheese. It was brilliant, well excuted, moreish, a proper winter dish that hit the spot unerringly. The meat was falling apart with just the impact of the spoon and the cheese added to the stickiness of the soup, filling the mouth beautifully.
It was going very well! Having hit us with what could probably fairly be described as up-market comfort food things got sophisticated as we headed into the fish courses.First there was a piece of mackerel, pan fried to perfection, with some scorched lettuce and a saffron-coloured sauce, with a scattering of lump-fish roe to add colour. It was insanely pretty and very delicious, the fish skin just crisp enough and the accompaniments setting off the rich flesh of the mackerel. Great stuff! And the recommended wine, the Masi Tupungato Pinot Grigio Torrentes, was slipping down a treat with such robust flavours.
Continuing the strong seafood theme, the next course was a tiny portion of smoked eel mousse, one of the foods I love most in the world, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned elsewhere (probably at great length). This was another mini-masterpiece with a densely concentrated flavour in the mousse that made me want more, preferably lots more! A tiny portion of caviar and some pickled fennel (I think anyway) added to the enjoyment, providing a textural context to the smooth thickness of the mousse by adding a snappy crunch and some essential acidity. Great stuff!
Next up was another mackerel dish, oriental in its execution, with what I seem to recall was pickled celeriac, sliced so thin it was almost translucent. The mackerel was sharp, the oil cutting through the acidity of the pickle, the fish taste coming through in waves as you ate. A lovely dish.
It was time to move on to the meat – and very fine what followed was too. Again we took the wine recommendation, a bottle of Rioja, Conde Valdemar Crianza Tempranillo, 2011 which was robust, rich, ideal to pair with red meats and, for that matter, cheeses.
The first round of meat was a confit duck dish with a slow cooked duck egg yollr which again pretty much hit all the spots for me. It was delicious, and deliciously pretty, with the egg yolk still soft, the duck meat falling apart. What’s not to love? The camera let me down a little but I think this should at least give you an idea.
And now for the main meat course. And this too was a lovely looking plate of food, duck with chicory and a small amount of jus. It was brilliant, cooked just as I like it, the skin crisp and the meat tender – and at this point I started to be convinced that John has been stalking me! He denied it – well, he would of course. On the other hand perhaps he just likes the same ingredients I do! And I liked this very much indeed.
We were on the home stretch now with just dessert and cheese to go. These were small but delicious – and you’ll have to take my word on it for the cheese. The dessert(s) as it turned out were an interesting pair with first a custard with apple, small, tasty, tangy, the apples had that edge of sweet/sour that you often find in a good Cox’s orange pippin, and made a bridge between the meat and the sweet that was just what was needed at this stage.
There followed one last fling with a mousse/chocolate dish, full of little texture changes and intense chocolate. We were running out of steam a bit by now so it’s just as well we could as it were see the finish line from here…
Cheese came last (and the photo is so blurry it’s hard to see much) and was just the ideal end to the meal. My Dad always claimed that cheese “schliesst den Magen” or closes the stomach. I’m not convinced myself, but it did bring the meal to a neat and tidy end.
I could not have eaten another thing and was very grateful that all we needed to do was stagger up the stairs to bed.
Breakfast in the morning was spendid too. A bacon roll, a pain au chocolat, muesli, yogurt with honey and apple, and fresh orange juice. An excellent – and substantial – start to the day.
The “gourmet offer” seems a very good deal indeed with all that food and a comfy room and bed thrown in. We plan on staying again some time in the new year, probably as part of a trip to see some of the events that will make up the Hull UK City of Culture 2017 programme.