In Beverley, Dave Lee discovers a thriving neighbourhood restaurant – if only they’d lay off the vast quantities of bread.
There seems to be very few rules to this restaurant reviewing lark. So far I’ve worked out that you shouldn’t book under your own name (as doing so resulted in one awkward stand-off), that you should try and be positive (even when you’re being negative) and that you should stop after one bottle of wine (or your notes become impenetrable). Beyond that, though, it’s a relatively lawless barrel of fun and full bellies.
One other guideline that I’ve arrived at myself is that I try not to visit restaurants that have been in business for a while. The logic is that everyone wants to get the lowdown on somewhere that has recently opened but anywhere that has been around for more than, say, six months is doing okay and has found a customer base. The last thing it needs is a clever dick turning up and giving it a couple of pages of bad publicity. So many people, though, have advised me to visit long-operating Panizzi Deli Wine Bar in Beverley that I thought I’d better pop along. What are rules for, after all, if not breaking?
Panizzi is tucked just inside the North Bar and its modest exterior belies a surprisingly long and accommodating inside. Downstairs there are just a handful of tables, the bar and a couple of kitchens. Upstairs there are four interconnected rooms with enough seating for probably 100 or so. It’s got that vaguely 80s wine bar feel titivated with a dose of shabby chic. But done well.
Owner/chef Stuart Fenn opened Panizzi six years ago after quitting his sales job in London. Despite having no previous experience as a restaurateur he has created a popular, cosmopolitan venue with food that leans toward the Mediterranean but isn’t fussy if it strays elsewhere in Europe as well. While it very much feels like a “ladies who lunch” place, the offering is robust enough to appeal to all but the terminally fussy.
Taking a seat upstairs by a window – to enjoy the view of the Bar but also to find a breeze on a balmy summer night – we ordered some bread and oil and a couple of bottles of Italian beer while we perused. Nice as it was, it was an error. I should say now that I really, really liked Panizzi but I have two qualms. One is what they do to duck; the other is the amount of bread served with every dish. Had this been my second visit I would never have ordered bread to nibble on as virtually every other thing we ordered had more of it piled up on the side. I was full by the end of the starters.
So to my opener of smoked duck breast with cherry glaze and toasted ciabatta. I ordered it because I had assumed that the duck and ciabatta were to be intertwined in some way (“duck on toast”, I had feebly japed) but what arrived was a thickly-sliced duck breast with a dribble of sweet glaze on top and a toasted ciabatta nearby. It just didn’t work. The duck would have been more palatable sliced thin and I don’t get why the bread was there. Two ingredients without a common goal.
Across the table the crab pate served with salad and (you guessed it) bread was perfectly lovely – sweet meat on crisp bread and a zingy bit of salad.
The Panizzi kitchen staff appear to make most of the dishes during the day in the kitchen out back and on an evening they are reheated, sliced and diced in the open kitchen downstairs. A very efficient system which leads to most of the dishes feeling a bit “one pot” and homespun. As was demonstrated perfectly by our mains.
My meatballs in tomato sauce came with roasted potatoes and more bread, making it possibly the most filling plate of food known to man. The meatballs were big and moist and the cheese and sauce ladled on the top were rich and tasty. I’d have seasoned the meat a bit more, but that’s me. I couldn’t touch the tats or bread as I was at serious risk of tearing at the seams by this stage.
The chicken tarragon casserole with potatoes (and even yet more bread) was delicious. Light, lustrous and vaguely lemony, it was dish of the night and lingered on the palate long after the untouched bread and potatoes had been assigned to the bin.
We were simply far too full to face desserts, although I did pop back a day or two later and tried their pecan pie. It was delicious and hugely benefitted from not being served with bread.
So Panizzi is comfy, comforting and popular. It’s also cheap. Desserts excluded, we paid just over £45 for enough food to kill a small rhino. Even if you tried, I don’t think two people could spend more than £70 without it turning their meal into an episode of Man V Food. It all bodes well for the Rose and Crown, a well-positioned but long-mismanaged pub just on the other side of the North Bar, which Stuart and wife Kate have recently purchased and are turning into a gastropub. The outside of the Bar needs a good destination pub to lure people those extra few feet out of the middle of Beverley and if it is run along the same lines of Panizzi, the Rose and Crown may just do that. Just lay off the bread, eh?
Panizzi Deli Wine Bar, 38 North Bar Within, Beverley, East Yorkshire, HU17 8DL. 01482 871964, www.panizzi.co.uk.
Opening times: Monday to Wednesday: 10am-8.30pm, Thursday and Friday: 10am-11pm, Saturday: 10am-3.30pm and 6pm-1am, Sunday: 11am-9pm.