Dan and his wife Collette are about to move from Leven to Worthing. He works in aerospace and an opportunity has come up for them to live somewhere other than Yorkshire for the first time in their lives. They have two grown children and a young one. Christa works for the council but she’s handed in her notice. Their birthdays are only a few days apart.
How do I know all this? Because we waited so long between courses on a Saturday night at Beverley’s Dine On The Rowe that we got talking to the table next door about the slowness of the service and found we also had time to exchange life stories.
I really want to be positive about this restaurant. It was started about four years ago by Jason Rowe, an engineer who wanted a life change so started an online sandwich business and then converted some run-down tea rooms on Beverley’s bustling Butcher Row.
Through sheer force of will he’s made a chef of himself and in his entirely self-financed restaurant he designs and cooks fusion-y dishes with a kind of Mediterranean twist using many local ingredients. It’s a cosy, big-windowed restaurant, the staff are lovely, the menu is unique and because I’d like to see it succeed and because I think Jason may just be onto something, I want to be nice.
But the service is slow. We arrived at eight, were seated immediately, got a bottle of very nice red and the menus and placed our orders at a comfortable, easy pace.
Not a morsel of food arrived until well past nine. Not a bread bun, not an olive. It’s too long to wait. The conversation we struck up with the couple nearby was the only thing that stopped me shouting “Amuse my bouche!” toward the kitchen. I considered ringing the babysitter to warn her that we may not be back as soon as anticipated.
The starters that eventually arrived looked promising. The Spanish meatballs with garlic toast were so flavourful and welcome that it seems churlish to mention that they were rather under-seasoned.
Equally nice was the battered prawns with mayonnaise dip. It’s just a shame that the menu described them as king prawns in piri-piri (the African birds-eye chili). Also, we couldn’t work out what was piri-piri about them. It turned out to be the mayonnaise. We would never have guessed.
Another wait, far too long, followed. The Yorkshire fillet with piri-piri mash and chorizo empanada was perfectly good and the unusual combination of steak and spicy tatty worked well. The empanada – a pastry shell turnover – was a bit of an odd addition, though, and it felt like it had been secreted onto the plate by a pastry imp on the way out of the kitchen. Nice empanada, god knows what it was doing there.
Across the table a dish of haddock and king prawns in smoked paprika batter on patatas bravas faired less well. The fish was all right but the patatas bravas were dry and under-sauced. The battered prawns were the same as the ones that arrived as a starter with a different name.
The longest wait of the night was still to come. No-one offered us a menu so we borrowed one from our new friends on the next table and then waited 15 minutes to place our order. Some 25 minutes later the crème brûlée arrived so sunken and split that it should never have left the kitchen.
Glossing over that, I’ll focus on the best dish of the night – Brownie Heaven, or dark Belgium chocolate brownie and white Belgian chocolate blondie with dark choc sauce and home-made ice-cream to give it its full, name. At last, an unreservedly great plate of grub; a sweet, solid, cold, hot, oozy plate of loveliness.
So Dine On The Rowe can do it, they can make cracking food. Among all the questionable culinary collisions and wayward menu descriptions there are some perfectly marvellous dishes.
It took another 15 minutes of hand waving to attract the waiter to request the bill. This hadn’t arrived after 20 minutes so we sought out the till so we could settle up and relieve the babysitter before she had to be back at college.
We couldn’t pay quickly because the printer was broken but it did give us the chance to say a proper goodbye to new chums Dan and Collette who were also hanging round the till trying to end their night. We’d been there for well over three hours and they arrived before us.
Jason Rowe should be applauded for his ingenuity, hard work and auto-didact’s determination. He’s making his dream work and I wish him every success. Plenty of people have told me how much they enjoyed their experience at the restaurant and the carve-your-own-roast Sunday afternoons they offer sound like a riot. Maybe this was a rare off night.
I genuinely like Dine On The Rowe – I like the staff, I like Jason, I like (much of) the food and I like that someone is doing something so adventurous and intriguing. I’m just not sure I like having to pay over £100 for a meal for two to be part of what feels like a rather ramshackle experiment.
Starters: £5.50-£9. Mains: £13-£25. Desserts: £6-£8.
Tuesday to Thursday: 12 to 4pm, 6pm to late. Friday and Saturday: 11am to late. Sunday: 11am to 4.30pm.
12-14 Butcher Row, Beverley. HU17 0AB. 01482 502269 www.dineontherowe.com