Restaurant review: A pub set to soar

Slow roast free-range chicken supreme with mushrooms, baby onions, carrots, spinach, bacon, cider potato
Slow roast free-range chicken supreme with mushrooms, baby onions, carrots, spinach, bacon, cider potato
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Once he found it, Dave Lee discovered small really is beautiful at the Falcon Inn.

There are a few questions that need answering regarding the recently re-opened and marvellous Falcon Inn at Withernwick. First among them is – where the heck is Withernwick?

This is a reasonable question, I’ve lived in East Yorkshire my entire life and I had to Google it. It’s a small village in Holderness between Hornsea, Beverley and the North Sea. It’s just to the right of Skirlaugh. Assuming you know where Skirlaugh is.

Next question is – why should I care about a pub I’ve never heard of in a village I can’t find? Well, you should care because the Falcon is the new project of Richard and Lindsey Johns, the husband and wife team who (until a couple of years ago) ran Artisan in Hessle, one of the very best small restaurants in Yorkshire.

After almost a decade serving up Richard’s take on classic British food in their one-room, 16 cover, perfectly intimate restaurant to much praise and an adoring clientele, they decided that they couldn’t take Artisan anywhere new and dropped off the scene to think it all up again. After some time spent travelling they started looking for a fresh challenge. They wanted to run a proper village pub like a proper village pub, with proper British food. They ended up finding the Falcon.

The final question is – what is it like? Well, it’s great, of course it is. Richard doesn’t know how to make bad food and Lindsey is generally regarded as one of the most accomplished hosts you will ever encounter. As I write, they are not yet running at full capacity as they are still getting the pub up to speed, but there are 20-odd dining seats available and the food on the plate is just as attractive, robust and flavoursome as it ever was at Artisan.

As always, there are just three or four options in each part of the menu but you still struggle to choose which to not have. I immediately jumped at the roast butternut squash veloute with truffle and parmesan. Artisan used to do this as an amuse-bouche and I always wanted a full serving of it as an option; now it’s there and it’s just the best bowl of soup you’ll ever have – deep, earthy, umami, sweet and moreish. I defy you to not melt when the spoon hits your tongue.

The other starter of pan seared Scottish scallops with parsnip & cider apple puree and parsnip crisps displays Richard’s brilliance at ingredient sourcing. He only buys the very best and, where lesser chefs would obliterate the taste of the scallops with black pudding or chorizo, here the pure flavour of the shellfish stands for itself, with just subtle support from the apple and parsnip.

A brace of supremes for mains brought slow roast free-range chicken supreme with mushrooms, baby onions, carrots, spinach, bacon, cider potato and roast chicken sauce. Aside from the perfectly juicy chicken and the superbly intertwined accompaniments, special mention must go to the baby onions. They may seem like a minor ingredient but they sit like taste jewels in the middle of this wonder of a dish.

The other supreme was honey roast duck with mushrooms, spinach and bacon, fondant potato and red wine sauce. I don’t know who filleted the meat, but to form such big, thick, succulent steaks from anything the size of a duck takes the skill of a wizard. Both mains were reminders of what Richard is best at – great, simple-yet-imaginative, tasty British food.

Puds of sticky toffee pudding and a Belgian chocolate pot both came with a homemade white chocolate ice cream, and both were delicious. The chocolate pot was unctuous and sweet and STP sticklers will have nothing whatsoever to complain about.

Price-wise, if you ever eat at Artisan you’ll be fiscally surprised. The Falcon is currently producing the same quality of food at a reduced cost. Starters are £5-8, mains £14-17 and desserts between £6 and £9. This pricing, however, will almost certainly alter once the pub finds its audience, the quality of the ingredients alone demands it. So I’d recommend diving in while it’d discounted.

Special mention must go to Lindsey who, as she has always done, glides around the dining room offering advice and keeping everyone happy without fuss or unwanted interruption. She really is a superb front-of-house.

Once again, we have a remote village pub being rescued from closure or the suffocating grasp of the PubCos by intelligent, committed restaurateurs. The Falcon is a great example of how we need to be treating our country boozer, especially in lesser-favoured areas like Holderness – great drink, great food and a welcoming atmosphere.

I have to say that the Falcon isn’t there yet. It needs work doing to make it all that the Johns want it to be and this will take time and hard work. But they’ll get there. In the meantime, it is what it is: a chance to get to eat Richard’s magnificent food again, served perfectly by Lindsey. They’re back, folks, so take a moment to rejoice.

• The Falcon, Main Street, Withernwick, East Yorkshire. HU11 4TA. 01964 527925, wwww.thefalconatwithernwick.co.uk. Food served Thursday to Saturday, 6.30-8.30pm and Sunday, 1-4pm.