My Yorkshire: Restauranteur and chef Matt Barker on his favourite people and places

Matt Barker was born and bred in East Yorkshire and is now the chef/director of the award-winning Westwood Restaurant in Beverley.
Matt Barker was born and bred in East Yorkshire and is now the chef/director of the award-winning Westwood Restaurant in Beverley.
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Matt Barker was born and bred in East Yorkshire and is now the chef/director of the award-winning Westwood Restaurant in Beverley.

What’s your first Yorkshire memory? My first childhood memory is staying at the Mallyan Spout Hotel in Goathland and exploring the area with the family. The region, made famous worldwide by YTV’s popular Heartbeat series, is breathtakingly beautiful. From the gorgeous North York Moors to the atmospheric seaside town of Whitby and the North Sea itself, there is something for everyone.

Matt Barker nominates Beverley Minster as Yorkshire's hidden gem.

Matt Barker nominates Beverley Minster as Yorkshire's hidden gem.

What’s your favourite part of the county? Although I love Goathland and Whitby, nothing can compare to East Yorkshire, where I was brought up and where I now live and work. The charm and peace of the region, captured so beautifully by East Yorkshire’s most adopted famous son, David Hockney, coupled with the many treasures of the historic town of Beverley, make it unique.

What’s your idea of the perfect day weekend? Spending time in Beverley walking through the Saturday Market with my six-year-old son Luca, visiting the great food stalls, stopping for coffee and catching up with friends. Then, walking the dog and generally switching off for couple of hours before a busy night’s service in the restaurant. Luckily I love my work.

What’s your favourite walk or view? I don’t actually have much time to walk very much. However, I spend most of my free time riding my road bike, which is a perfect way to see Yorkshire. I believe we have some great rides and views on our doorstep. On a good day I can cover 60 to 70 miles, peddling around the Yorkshire Wolds and over to South Dalton, Pocklington and Thixendale.

Which sportsman, past or present, would you like to take to lunch? Sir Bradley Wiggins would be great company. Apart from the fact that he is an incredibly talented cyclist, he is very brave, has a great sense of humour and superb musical taste. I imagine we wouldn’t have a dull moment.

David Hockney is Matt Barker's favourite Yorkshire artist.

David Hockney is Matt Barker's favourite Yorkshire artist.

Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, past or present, would you like to take to dinner? It has to be Sean Bean. I am a huge fan of Game of Thrones. Apart from that, I get the impression that he hasn’t let fame go to his head and remains a down-to-earth and modest Yorkshireman, who is proud of his roots.

If you had to name Yorkshire’s hidden gem, what would it be? Can I be cheeky here? The restaurant that I run with my twin sister Michele, the Westwood in Beverley, isn’t widely known outside East Yorkshire, although we’ve had lovely reviews in national newspapers like The Independent and have recently been named in Open Table’s 100 Best Restaurants in the UK. This year Michele and I are determined to ensure that the Westwood is hidden no more.

What makes Yorkshire’s identity unique? First, the people. A true Yorkshireman is straight, funny, reliable and, contrary to Southern myth, kind. If I had to choose someone to go into the jungle with it would be a Yorkshireman. They would never let me down. Secondly, the county is so varied, from the radiant beauty of North Yorkshire to the industrial, musical and literary heritage of West and South Yorkshire to the understated charm of the East Riding. There’s something for everyone.

Do you follow sport in the county, and if so what? I always watch out for Hull City’s results and am thrilled that 
they are doing so well in the 
Championship this season. There is every chance they will win promotion to the Premiership. Most of City’s players dine with us at the Westwood, so there could well be a celebration when or if they are promoted.

Do you have a favourite pub or restaurant? My favourite restaurant is Locanda Margon in Trento, Italy. My wife is from northern Italy so we spend a lot of time out there visiting family and also eating out at some great restaurants. Locanda Margon is something very special with a great location, great views and great food. In Yorkshire, I would go for the Pheasant at Harome and the Pipe and Glass, quite close to us in East Yorkshire.

Do you have a favourite food shop? Roberts & Speight in Beverley, a great delicatessen and wine merchants that is right on my doorstep. It is one of the jewels in Beverley’s glittering crown. Roberts & Speight is a place for 
everyone who treasures independent shops in an age of supermarket supremacy.

If you had to change one thing about Yorkshire what would it be? Maybe the weather could be slightly better, but that’s only a minor irritant. Otherwise I feel Yorkshire is as close to heaven as anywhere in the UK.

Who is the Yorkshire person you most admire? Sir Gary Verity – for what he achieved with the Tour de Yorkshire. Without him, there would have been no Tour de Yorkshire. He put our wonderful county on the map, through sheer hard work, determination and guts.

Name your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD? I am a passionate advocate of the many merits of the East Riding of Yorkshire, so I must choose of our region’s great cheerleaders, David Hockney. Apart from loving his wonderful pictures of the Wolds, I believe Hockney is one of the finest contemporary artists, combining a superb technique with a brilliant understanding of colour and a fertile imagination. Hockney is inspired by the East Riding and we, in turn, are inspired by him.

If a stranger to Yorkshire only had time to visit one place, it would be? It would have to be the stunning Beverley Minster, which is so impressive. I promise no-one would go home disappointed.