Now it’s won a clutch of awards, the word may finally be out about Tickton Grange, says Dave Lee.
I’m tired of telling people how great the food is at Tickton Grange. I’m constantly being asked for recommendations for places to eat in East Yorkshire and when I suggest Tickton I’m always met with surprised looks. Yes, I know you know it as the country house hotel near Beverley where they have posh weddings, but why have you never eaten there? The food is amazing.
Local food hero and Grange wonderchef David Nowell has been leading the kitchen for the best part of three decades now and has been a huge influence on the Riding’s growers, producers and other chefs for just as long. He designs and cooks superb British food made almost entirely from ingredients sourced within a few miles and never misses a beat. This year has seen Tickton win a REYTA award and nominated as Best Restaurant at the White Rose Awards. The restaurant is luxurious and comfy and the staff are lovely. I ask again, why have you never eaten there?
Well, now you have no excuse. Spurred on by the REYTA win, the restaurant at Tickton Grange has been titivated. There are new fixtures and fittings (though the fantastically comfy chairs remain), new curtains, new cool lamps and a new name – Hide. The restaurant has long needed its own identity and, while I think they could have gone further with the amends, Hide is now much more accessible to anyone looking for their latest ‘new’ culinary find.
The menu has been redesigned as well. David has always leaned toward daringly architectural food with blobs and curls and shards jutting and intersecting in perfectly pretty ways across the plate. I loved this; it meant that the dishes looked great, smelled great, tasted great and you could have loads of fun trying to work out what you were eating and how it had been concocted. There’s a little less of that now. The food is a little simpler, less daunting for the unadventurous diner. While I can completely see the reasons for doing it, I preferred the old ways.
Not that there is anything wrong with the new style. The starters are still delicate, intricate and full of finesse. We had Staal’s smoked rainbow trout, chicory jam and fresh horseradish and a guinea fowl terrine with Cottingham quail egg and apricot chutney. Justin Staal smokes his fish just a few yards up the road from Tickton and developed a lot of his product with David’s help. What makes it excellent is the balance of flavours and textures that David adds – thin slivers of radish, cubes of jam with caviar perched on top, some red blobs I couldn’t identify but which tasted deep and fruity. The terrine was also presented impeccably, but the best part was the utterly perfectly cooked quails’ eggs. Cutting into a diddy egg and seeing the yolk ooze lazily out is one of life’s great pleasures. Complexity and simplicity and artistry and beautiful taste all on one plate, cracking stuff.
The mains are where most of the simplifying seems to have taken place. I had sticky shin of beef with Wold Top braise and watercress pesto. It was perfectly cooked, with beautifully rich gravy and served with little pots of honey glazed root veg and delicious dauphinose-ish potatoes. Best of all were the tiny, thin onion rings. My favourite onion rings in the world are the ridiculously massive ones they serve at Gallaghers in New York, the perfect beer battered ones at Star at Sancton and now these crunchy micro-wonders. I have found the final part of my oxymoronically-named onion ring triangle.
Across the table was beach-caught sea bass with sea greens and Three Little Pigs air-dried sausage. To me, this exemplifies everything that local food should be. The fish is supplied by Frank Powell at Skipsea. Frank is one of Yorkshire’s greatest food heroes, he has three nets pegged out into the North Sea and twice a day he wades out to see what has been washed into them by the tide. He doesn’t even have a boat! Simply magnificent. David then presents it with samphire, sausages made and cured round the corner and some bits and bobs of unknown origin. I know I should ask, but I like to retain some mystery on the plate.
There is a marvellous tie-in with the name Hide in the desserts. As you’d expect they all feature local ingredients, such as fruits and honey from the hotel garden and booze from Raisthorpe, but each one also has a lovely, lovely leather. To explain, the ancestors of the owners of Tickton Grange – the Whymant family – were shoemakers and leatherworkers, hence the name ‘Hide’. Now, if you take certain fruits and veg and cook them very slowly on a low heat for days, add sugar and press you end up with a delicious, sweet, leather-like substance which sits on the plate and tastes beautiful. So Hide/ leather/leather/Hide – geddit?
All of the puds are lovely – artily presented panna cotta, gold-decorated parfait, humble and hearty crumble and so on – but if you can’t decide go for the coffee gourmand, a mini selection of three of them served with an espresso. Then the legendary Tickton truffles for second afters, obviously.
I make no excuses for my continuing enthusiasm for Tickton Grange/Hide. The food on the plate and the people that get it there are true treasures of East Yorkshire and the place should be packed to overflowing every night. Why it isn’t is a mystery to me. It’s not the money, we paid 70p over £100 for three courses each, drinks and some sides which is, if anything, a little under-priced for the quality of the food. I think Tickton Grange is still perceived incorrectly and I hope Hide will help the region see the restaurant in a new light.
Hide, Beverley Tickton Grange Country House Hotel & Restaurant, Tickton, Beverley, East Yorkshire, HU17 9SH. 01964 543 666, www.ticktongrange.co.uk. Open: Daily 12-2pm and 7pm–9.30pm.