It should be good, great even, but Dave Lee finds there’s still some work to do at the Triton Inn.
I’ve long thought that Brantingham’s Triton Inn has everything going for it. It’s a large pub in an affluent Wolds village with space for functions, a decent beer garden and a vast car park. It’s only a couple of miles from the start of the M62 and all it’s ever needed is someone with a bit of nous to shake it by the scruff of the neck and turn it into a destination gastropub to rival the Pipe & Glass and Star at Sancton.
However, sometimes, no matter how much potential a place has, if the wrong captain is at the helm nothing will stop the ship from sinking. However, after a fire early last year that caused significant but not irreparable damage, the pub moved into new hands and so I return with renewed hope to see what has risen from the ashes.
The pub is now owned by a couple of local lads made good. Mike Ashton and Sam Carroll grew up in Brantingham before building successful careers in London, though neither in the restaurant game. They are now back on their home patch, determined to make the Triton resurgent and have hired Blumenthal alumnus Graham Kirk to head up the kitchen. After redecorating in a smart, functional style and developing a lean menu, they opened quietly in summer 2013.
We visited early on a Sunday night and were, unfortunately, immediately presented with a long list of dishes which were unavailable. “The beef is off, the chicken is off, the cod is off”...etc. Of the eight mains on offer, half were off, as was one of the four starters - not a good start. Only hunger stopped us from walking straight back out.
Of the remaining dishes, three were vegetarian options and sounded very nice. But this is Sunday, day of roasts and – in the immortal word of Withnail – “I want something’s flesh!” I managed to curtail my carnivorous cravings, though, for a starter of Lowna goats cheese, apple and walnut salad. I’m a huge fan of Lowna cheeses (partly because they are made about half a mile from my house, but mainly because they’re always delicious) but here I ended up eating all the cheese last as it was artlessly piled up at the bottom of a seemingly un-tossed salad.
Across the table, a ubiquitous scallop and black pudding dish had been ordered mainly because of a promising-sounding “toffee apple sauce” adornment. This just turned out to a couple of dabs of ordinary apple sauce, which added nothing to the well-cooked scallops and excellent black pudding. Unfortunately, at £8 to £9 per dish, both were barely worth the money.
From the very restricted mains selection we picked ‘Porkshire’ terrier sausages, bubble and squeak and caramelised red onion gravy. It was OK. No more. At least I didn’t go for the rubbery belly pork, cold mash and cold pea puree (our description, not theirs) that my dining partner did or I would certainly have been as crestfallen as she was. Mains are £10 to £13, except the steaks and specials, which are considerably more. I think a quid or so less per dish would be fair for the quality of the food we ate.
The same is true of the desserts. Lemon tart with lemon posset and a rhubarb and ginger compote was passable for £6 but my stodgy spotted dick with the weediest custard I’ve ever encountered wasn’t worth even that. My first choice of bread and butter pudding was, you’ve guessed it, off.
To be fair, I went back a few days later and tried the oven roast rack and braised rump of lamb, mini shepherd’s pie, smoked leeks, baby turnips and minted gravy and it was excellent. A clever and delicious way to serve lamb three ways and the only Triton dish I’ve had that isn’t perfunctory. I have to say, though, that for £20 it should be extraordinary.
The Triton isn’t the most expensive gastropub in East Yorkshire, but they are not yet serving food worth the prices they charge. The experience we had fell well short of the promise offered by the website and the amount of dishes unavailable was unacceptable. Ultimately, we were made to feel that it was our fault for wanting to eat after the pub had just finished a busy session.
The chef uses good ingredients, mostly sourced locally, but he isn’t doing anything unusual or exceptional with any of them.
Maybe there isn’t the determination to? I’ve heard the pub is very busy at the weekends and perhaps they will be happy to continue that way, but with two owners and an experienced chef all wanting to draw a good wage they may soon find the figures don’t quite work without prices creeping up or more weekday bums appearing on seats. What is certain is that their current offering isn’t good enough to repeatedly draw the kind of food-savvy diners who will ensure the pub flourishes long term. Expectations have risen for any pub of this type opening in this region and – especially with the memory of the pub as-was still fresh in people’s minds – the new team in charge need to work much harder if they are to put themselves on the culinary map.
• The Triton, Ellerker Road, Brantingham, Brough, HU15 1QE. 01482 667261. Open: daily, 12 to 9pm.