It never happens. You never walk into a restaurant and find that everything is perfect; there’s always an inattentive waiter, a smeared fork or an ill-described dish. It’s rare not to find some fault in a restaurant. I find myself in such a position after my visit to Fudge.
I first visited this lively restaurant on Princes Avenue in Hull around six or seven years ago, not long after it had opened. I had an OK-but-no-more meal and left feeling ambivalent about the place. The intervening years have seen it become a key player in the city’s nascent café culture; it runs a successful outside catering operation and has expanded into the building next door to offer a bakery and deli. Most significantly, whenever I pass it always appears to be doing a roaring trade. It seems to be the sort of place that makes a lot of people very happy, so I returned to see what I missed first time round.
The immediate thing you notice on entering is that it feels like walking into a Sex and the City DVD boxset. It’s all pastel colours, fairy lights, big print settees, glass cabinets filled with ‘wicked’ cake and love heart-decorated chalk boards proffering cheeky cocktails. You wouldn’t be surprised to see Samantha, Miranda, the other one and thingy sat in a caffeine-hued corner swapping saucy tales or discussing the finer points of colonic irrigation.
Owner Rosie Goodman has a keen eye for design and marketing and every element – menus, crockery, signage, all of it – has been precisely and effectively created to appeal to lunching ladies and metrosexual males (don’t laugh, even Hull has them these days). In fact, so thorough and precise is the design that it’s really hard to believe that this is a single, independently-owned concern and not one branch of a multi-national franchise.
The menu is difficult to pin to a specific geography; there is a hint of Mediterranean, a touch of the Far East, some American deep south, un poquito de Mexico and a smattering of trad English. This isn’t a bad thing, all the options read well and there is a satisfying balance of simple (burgers, steaks) and adventurous (Chilli and coriander infused chickpeas, Portuguese fish stew). There are also dedicated breakfast and brunch options. It made me wonder if there was a little too much for the chefs to keep on top of.
I needn’t have worried. The open kitchen allows diners to see the chefs turning out the dishes with a practised, unfussy aplomb. Our starters of Garlic-sautéed asparagus with Parma ham and salad and Cajun calamari and chorizo salad arrived just as we were halfway down the first glass of wine and were perfectly delicious. It would have been easy to have lost the taste of the calamari amongst the heavy Cajun spices and depth of the chorizo but it still camke through. The waitress even knew that the asparagus was from Yorkshire. It’s always a sign of good staff when they know about provenance.
Mains brought Voodoo chicken – a Creole mustard-coated chicken breast served with sweet potato wedges, grilled mushroom and tzatziki – which packed a punch and filled a hole all at once. The grilled chicken quesadillas on the other side of the table looked a little unadventurous in comparison but they were more -ish and clearly produced with far more care than required.
Being picky about desserts, I was expecting our final course to provide the only disappointment of the meal. I was to be disappointed only by the lack of disappointment.
The Chef’s cheesecake was meltingly light and the zippy lemon taste confirmed it was as fresh as could be. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Cranachan (a Scottish dessert made of cream, raspberries, honey and oats soaked in whisky, if you’ve never happened upon it) on a menu so it was an automatic choice and a fine way to end a fine meal it was too. It maybe could have done with more whisky, but is there a pudding known to man that couldn’t?
Our bill for six dishes, bread and dips, a bottle of wine and coffees came to 10p short of £80; it may seem a lot to spend on a long lunch (which we had) but was reasonable considering the amount of food on the plates, the level of service and the quality of the ingredients.
After thinking long and hard about negatives I can apply to Fudge I came up with only one. During our visit I heard three different customers say ‘can I get?’ to a waitress, instead of ‘can I have?’ While I appreciate that it is entirely unfair of me to blame this on the restaurant, it is indicative of an environment where this kind of utterly unacceptable debasement of the English language is allowed to go unchecked. If the owners of Fudge need to find some way of improving their otherwise faultless restaurant they could do worse than refuse to serve anyone who deigns to use this infuriatingly nonsensical Americanism. There, I feel much better now I’ve found something to complain about.
Starters: £4 – £7.50. Mains: £10 – £21. Desserts: £4.50 – 7. Opening hours: Tues – Thurs: 10.30 to 2.30, 5.30 to late. Fri & Sat: 9.30 to 4, 5.30 to late. Sun: 10.30 to 3.30, 5.30 to late.
Fudge, 93-95 Princes Avenue, Hull, HU5 3QP. Tel: 01482 441019