On a return visit, Amanda Wragg finds Eric’s in Lindley, Huddersfield, is in no danger of resting on its laurels.
Almost two years to the day I reviewed Eric’s; I’ve been back several times and enjoyed watching him settle in, grow and make this leafy Huddersfield suburb his own. I remember him saying how thrilled he was to be back in his home county. His enthusiasm is infectious; he rarely drops down a gear. As Nigel Tufnel would have it in Spinal Tap, he’s turned up to eleven. It’s hard to imagine Eric having a quiet night in a onesie with a mug of Horlicks catching up on Corrie.
Born and bred just down the road, Eric started his cooking career at the tech before leaving for London to train with Marco Pierre White at L’Escargot. But his restlessness got the better of him and he took off and traveled the world, finally landing in Sydney where his boss and mentor, the charismatic Bill Grainger, proved to be Eric’s biggest influence. Grainger’s brought his simple, pared-down recipes to our TVs and bookshelves, and now we can have an idea of what it might feel like to eat at Bill’s at Eric’s. Not that Eric is a total slave to the style; he brings his own experience to the table.
Over the last year he’s invited around 250 people to the restaurant to taste and judge dishes which in time would feature on the a la carte. I went to such an event back in March and it was huge fun, though my notes on a dozen dishes became less distinct as the evening wore on. A rather fine bottle of Malbec might have had something to do with it.
But Eric doesn’t make life easy for himself. On a Streetcar Named Desire kind of night there are 50 “Summer Signature Tasting Evening” customers and 30 regular guests including the early-birders downstairs. Upstairs it’s steamy despite the air conditioning; it must be 100 degrees plus in the kitchen. But everyone seems as calm as the pickled cucumber on the first plate of food.
Pan-seared fillet of mackerel, jersey royals, horseradish, pancetta and pickled cucumber consists of sweet, perfectly cooked fish on a tiny mound of creamy spuds and shizo (micro-leaves, tasting of sweet coriander) and a film-thin strip of picked cucumber which cuts nicely through the natural oil of the mackerel. It’s a handsome dish, delicate without being cheffy and full of flavour.
Next up, chargrilled rump served pink, salad of chilli and lemon marinated feta, spinach and watercress, salsa verde. It’s a beautifully tender pink piece of meat laid across a spiky salad and how-the-hell-does-that-feta-work? Other than a blue cheese glaze I wouldn’t think of matching cheese with steak. It’s another fine looking dish; what you might call proper Yorkshire portions but delivered with subtlety.
Eric’s crew are Paul Cookson, James Thompson and Thomas Badger, with another handful part-time. Between them they’re knocking out up to 1,000 covers a week plus an outside catering business, Sunday brunch, afternoon teas and midnight munchies. I might have made the last one up. They’ve catered for four weddings so far this year and Eric has somehow found time to do some teaching demos at The Cooking School at Dean Clough in Halifax. I’m starting to think he might have cloned himself.
Keeping service sweet is restaurant manager Sam Tyrrell who glides around dispensing charm and information – what he doesn’t know about the food you could write on the back of a hand-made wafer. His (rare) skill is second-guessing what you want before you even know you want it. It really is a consummate experience.
A second main course of spring lamb has huge impact and is dish of the night for me. Roast rump of local Texel lamb, salt baked beetroot, asparagus, Dauphinoise, capers & parsley; sublimely tender, pink meat with crisp on the edge from Bolster Moor. A perfect square of Dauph spuds zings with an audacious amount of salt. The meat melts at the fork and I want to eat it all over again. There’s a lot of cooking here, all technically impeccable.
The next course passes in a bit of a blur. I think it’s a goat’s cheese something-or-other but the effect on me is slight – particularly after the text-book lamb. But hell, here comes dessert. It’d be rude not to.
Vanilla and buttermilk panna cotta, poached pears, pistachio crumb and tuille biscuit has just the right amount of wibble on the panna cotta and a biscuit the shape of a sail with a tiny crunch sensation alongside. It’s silky, luxurious, painterly, and an indication that the kitchen’s skills are all-encompassing.
The lengths Eric goes to to deliver the best experience is laudable. It shows he cares deeply. Knowing this makes the second visit all the more pleasurable – you know you’re in safe hands. He demonstrates oceans of technique but it’s worn lightly. This is smart, modern, thoughtful food made with love. Not for nothing has Eric’s been awarded the Good Food Guide’s Reader’s Restaurant of the Year for the North East.
Eric’s, 75 Lidget Street, Lindley, Huddersfield HD3 3JP. 01484 646416. www.ericsrestaurant.co.uk. Open Tuesday-Friday noon-2pm, (4pm Sunday) Tuesday-Saturday 6pm-10pm. Closed Monday. Mains £13-£26. Early Bird (two courses) £18.95.