The road from Beverley to the Holderness coast is dotted with fishing ponds. They are a vestige of the days when chalk or clay were quarried for use in the building trade and the resulting hole left to fill with rain.
You can stop every half a mile or so and find a different patch of water skirted with similar-looking, glum fisherman patiently awaiting the attention of a pike or a carp or (if they’re very unlucky) a rusty bike. One such pond can be found in Brandesburton, where the Mewburn family utilised their building supply company’s gravel pit by turning it into first a fishing pond, then adding a caravan site and then a leisure park complete with lodges and glamping pods and now a restaurant called Bert’s Pizzeria.
This level of enterprise – turning a hole in the ground into a profitable and popular business venture – has to be applauded; as (to an extent) does their pizzeria, which is a perfectly pleasant enterprise quietly getting on with becoming a favourite of the undemanding and easily-pleased since it was built in the middle of last year.
I say built, but the first thing you notice about Bert’s on arriving is that it seems to have been less built and more plonked as it has the appearance of a pre-built glass and wood box that’s arrived on the back of a big lorry and been deposited by the side of the lake. It’s not at all unpleasant – it’s light and clean and has decking where you can sit outside and gawp at the ducks – but it does feel a little like it’s been purchased from a flat-pack pizzeria manufacturer.
Equally one-size-fits-all is the menu, which is constituted of all the usual suspects – pulled pork, scallops and black pudding, butternut squash risotto, Caesar salad and a Camembert to share. Nothing you haven’t seen before a hundred times. It’s all well enough made but none of it really sings.
After nibbling on a ramekin of smoked nuts and picking at a dish of chorizo and spring onion – both nice but unexceptional – we plumped for pea and mint soup and ham hock terrine for starters. The soup was fine and the terrine was very well presented, but both were entirely forgettable. Indeed, I forgot what we’d had before we even left the restaurant. I had to look twice at the bill as I thought we were being charged for something we hadn’t eaten.
Mains brought a blue cheese burger served with skinny fries and a salad, which was very passable. It always feels strange eating a burger with a knife and fork because it’s too large and unstable to be manipulated manually. The meat, though, was juicy and the patty well made. It was a little overpowered by the blob of melted blue cheese on top but that’s blue cheese for you, always taking over.
It didn’t feel right to go to a pizzeria and not try a pizza, so I plumped for an Americano. I liked the base. The best pizzas I’ve ever had were from a little place on a corner in Naples and John’s Pizzeria in Greenwich Village. They were both perfectly crispy and meltingly chewy and needed little in the way of toppings to taste sublime. Bert’s follows this traditional thin style but with lesser returns. On the plus side, they are better and bigger than many you find in the UK; on the down, the toppings were too heavy and sweet. I gave up after eating about half, mainly because I wanted to leave space for pud.
Desserts weren’t bad; a fruity cheesecake affair with drizzlings and stuff was perfectly nice and the Baileys bread and butter with clotted cream was unctuous and filling. It didn’t taste of Baileys, though.
For drinks there was the usual selection of beers and wines. We stayed with beer and this may have helped the bill stay low (just under £60 was fair for what we had) and, encouragingly, they apparently change their menu on a seasonal basis so you may find different options if you decide to visit. I won’t be rushing back, though. I’ve done it now and there seems little to entice me to revisit.
What would make me return to Bert’s? A sense of place. The building, the menu, the ingredients and the branding are all entirely ubiquitous and unimaginative. It’s so easy to source some great produce nearby; my soup could have been made with local peas (80 per cent of the UK’s peas are grown in East Yorkshire) or the pulled pork with local meat (there are more pig farms in the Riding than every other county put together) and then there would be some provenance to spike my interest. Within five miles of the restaurant there is one of the country’s best salmon smokers and a highly respected duck farm; neither are utilised.
Considering the money to build Bert’s came from the ground in front of the terrace and the family who own the restaurant all live nearby there is, sadly, no feeling of it being a Yorkshire restaurant. It feels like a chain. You could just as easily be sat in a glass and wood box in Bristol or Colchester or Auchtermuchty.
Some people prefer that, they feel comfortable with familiar food in unexceptional surroundings. For them, Bert’s is a suitably everyday experience. I’d like to see some effort put into making the place special, though.
• Bert’s Restaurant, New Road, Brandesburton YO25 8RT. 01964 541809, bertspizzeria.co.uk; open: Monday to Saturday, 12 to 2.30pm & 5 to 9pm; Sunday, 12 to 3pm.