It may not be the most obvious location for a restaurant, but Dave Lee unearths a hidden gem in the Peppered Pig.
Here’s a thing. I’ve eaten food all over the world in all sorts of odd places; there was a bowl of beef shin linguine in a cab office in Prague, a plate of biscuits and gravy (yuck) in a gas station near Yosemite, reindeer roasted on a pine needle fire in a tipi in a Finnish forest, even Mauritian seafood served in a coconut on a sand bank in the Indian Ocean. Now, I can add to this exotic list, sea bass with fried noodles and pesto mash in a children’s nursery near Goole. Sort of. I shall explain.
A few years ago, husband and wife team Glen and Sam Mitchell gave up their previous lives (him – potato merchant, her – air hostess) to open a day nursery in their back garden in East Cowick, a tiny village half a dozen miles west of Goole. The nursery proved popular so they extended the purpose-built barn in which it was housed with another purpose-built barn housing a restaurant, bakery and deli. It may seem an oddly oblique adjunct to an existing business but it’s working for them.
I first noticed the name Peppered Pig a couple of years ago and asked around to see if anyone I knew had eaten there. No-one had, in fact, no-one had even heard of the place. A quick scan on their website, however, convinced me that there was someone with a bit of nous operating in the kitchen and so (just two short years later) I decided it was high time I made the trip to this unfavoured enclave of East Yorkshire to see what was going on.
The restaurant only opens Thursday to Sunday and the Friday and Saturday nights are the best times to catch the most high-falluting grub. On gourmet nights you will find the likes of pan roast breast of duck, vanilla and saffron poaching liquor, petit pear and pak choi being served. Naturally, I go on a Thursday evening when the offering is rather less flowery but, even then, every dish has something that makes you raise a querying eyebrow.
We chose starters of Thai style salmon and crab fish cakes with pickled cucumber and tricolor stir-fry and antique tomato bruschetta with marinated mozzarella. I meant to ask what was ‘antique’ about the tomatoes but forgot, maybe it’s the variety? Anyway, the dish was perfectly nice, as were the fish cakes, which benefitted no end from the addition of the pickled cucumber. But then again, what doesn’t? I’d have pickled cucumbers on my cornflakes if decency allowed.
If the starters sound a little safe, showing more of the flair I hinted at earlier were the mains; cider soaked gammon, caramelised pineapple with a fennel and chickpea salad and fillet of sea bass served pesto mash and sauce vierge, topped with fried noodles. Sam used to do all the cooking in the restaurant but has now moved to concentrate solely on the deli and bakery side (she makes excellent olive and tomato bread, by the way) and the chef is now Leeds lad Jonathan Westwick, who has training from top restaurants in Devon and London and has a real eye for cunningly chosen ingredients and enticing presentation.
The gammon was juicy and smoky, the pineapple luscious, the fennel and chickpea salad was an unusual and inventive move (even though I couldn’t taste the fennel at all) and all-in-all it was a mighty fine plate of food. Equally satisfying was the sea bass, which went perfectly with the pesto mash and was lent unexpected crunch by the fried noodles. Mr Westwick knows his stuff, I must return to sample his Friday and Saturday night cuisine.
Front-of-house Chris Malone and his tiny team (one waitress) kept us well-serviced and attended all evening and I was glad to see some local beers on the menu, even if they came in bottles only.
Puds of parkin with butterscotch sauce and – one of my favourites – liquorice ice cream and lemon posset with all manner of trimmings, including some pungent lemon thyme, proved a perfect climax to our evening and the bill of £77 was extremely agreeable, especially considering we’d had enough food and drink to satisfy one-and-a-half times over.
I like the Peppered Pig a lot, they deserve to prosper and find a wider audience. If I was going to pick on them, I would suggest that the atmosphere is a little quiet and stilted, that they need to push the fact they use local ingredients more (or even at all) and that they need at least one draught beer on offer.
Mainly, though, I would like to see them cut loose a bit more. They have a talented chef who knows how to put interesting and intriguing ingredients together and he should be encouraged to go further.
I know I went on a ‘non-gourmet’ night, but I – like most customers – had to travel quite a way to get to the restaurant and I want to find something at the end of my journey that I can’t get 10 minutes up the road. I want something that makes me forget the distance travelled. The Peppered Pig has the potential for much greater things, it just needs to believe it has.
• The Peppered Pig, Turnbridge, Snaith Road, East Cowick, nr Goole, DN14 9BY. 01405 839888, www.thepepperedpig.co.uk. Open: Thursday and Friday, 6.30pm to late; Saturday, 12pm to 4pm and 6.30pm to late; Sunday, 12pm to 4pm.