Saturday, 29th October 2016 – Rascills, Raskelf
Back in the day when Mum was still alive, she and I became very fond of Artisan, a really rather special restaurant over the other side of town from Mum and Dad’s house, and run by the lovely Lindsey and Richard Johns, with Richard cooking superb food from one of the tiniest kitchens I have ever seen. All this for a handful of diners each night (the place could accommodate less than 20 diners, and the idea of turning the tables halfway through the evening which many places would have done was complete anathema to the couple). Nine years down the line and clearly the urge to try something new, to keep things fresh, was in the air and they duly closed Artisan to much weeping and wailing among those of us who loved the place dearly (including some well-known food critics).
There followed a spell at the Falcon at Withernwick but it’s fair to say – having eaten there once – that no matter how good the lunch we had was, it wasn’t the right setting for Richard’s cooking. The Johns were on the move again, and on October 21st they finally opened Rascills in Raskelf, a large village to the north of York (as Lynne remarked Raskelf sounds less like a place name and more like a character from “Vikings”).
As we needed to be in the Hull area over the weekend we figured it would be a good idea to catch up with Lindsey and Richard (and coincidentally have a damn good dinner too). We were staying in Beverley which is slightly over an hour away so we made an early evening start to make sure we got there in time. Probably just as well we did given how dark it was when we finally pulled up in the (currently) unlit car-park. Luckily we keep a torch in the glove compartment of my car so we didn’t trip over anything on the way back to the door. We were warmly greeted by Lindsey and were soon settled inside after a side-trip to the kitchen to see what Richard was up to. He certainly looked happier than he had at the Falcon even with a brand new oven that had broken down four times in the week since they’d opened.
Settled with a glass of rose cava we had time to consider the menu (it’s a set 5 courses on Friday and Saturday nights, £50 in all) and the new, simpler wine list that contains some very interesting choices at very good prices.
With a new waitress having her first stint they’d kept bookings to 50% of capacity and were expecting a further 10 diners before the end of the evening. We had time before the second and third tables arrived to have a good catch up and a good look around the new space, which is quite modern, very clean looking, and with lots of lovely space between the tables, a much-appreciated state of affairs. I went off the much-lauded Chez Bruce after our only visit where despite the superb food none of us enjoyed having the diners on the next table banging elbows with us – and not being able to have a conversation without them hearing every word.
When the first course was ready we moved from the bar to our table and were served a gorgeously creamy butternut squash veloute, a deep gold colour, unctuous, lovely, dense, and crying out for extra bread to mop up the coating on the inside of the cup (it was that or try and lick it out!) – Lindsey duly obliged with a fresh portion of bread, the pair of us having demolished the first batch in record time. Sadly the photo doesn’t do justice to the soup – the camera was acting up after being out in the cold it seemed.
The bread was good too!
Next up was a salad of smoked speck, served with a beetroot jelly which was sweet and intense, and a crispy mozzarella ball, crumbed and fried and served hot. This was lovely too, the speck more meat than fat which may not always be the case. There were shards of crispy apple scattered through the dish as well and the sweetness offset the salty meat and the cheese beautifully. This was Richard back on form it seemed to us.
Next up was a fish course, a large piece of wild halibut which must have come from something the size of a whale! It was a very large piece of delicately flavoured flesh, cooked to perfection and lightly dusted with autumnal truffle shavings, sitting on a bed of spinach and with a mild but sweet cider onion puree. An additional and more robust note came from a quail scotch egg, tiny, crunchy round the crust with a soft yolk, just what you want from a scotch egg.
The last but one course was a slow roast lamb rump, cooked to just the right shade of pink, that had apparently spent time in the sous vide (as had the halibut), served with a lovely jus and a glorious mint and pea risotto, with a small serving of cabbage with cream and bacon on the side providing a dainty take on one of my favourite “peasant” dishes.
We were beginning to struggle slightly for capacity now – but we would make a valiant attempt at the chocolate delice, even when the slab of sticky, gooey, glossy chocolate started trying to fight back by not letting go of the spoon! It was chocolate of the perfect consistency, the sort that you can still feel in your mouth, and coating your teeth, hours later and it put a great big smile on my face. The salted caramel popcorn was fun too, up there along with Dan Cameron’s chorizo popcorn as a reason to actually eat popcorn. The clotted cream ice cream was a fine thing too and the raspberry coulis brought the whole dish together.
After that it was time to attempt the cheese! One of the things you could always guarantee at Artisan was well kept cheese, none of the ghastly “fresh out of the fridge and tasting of nothing” stuff some restaurants in the UK think is acceptable. No, it isn’t. This was cheese as it should be, the flavours clear and distinct and enough to make you keep picking at it even when you probably shouldn’t any longer… Again the camera was struggling so this is the best you’ll get. Sorry!
After that all that remained was for me to down a double espresso before we drove back to White’s for the night.
Well, obviously we had to pay the bill – and as we were the last people in the restaurant we had a long chat with Richard and Lindsey before we headed off into the night. I wish them every success with the new venture – the cooking is back on form, there’s a little work to do on the premises, but the signs are all good!