Chef profile: Matthew Barker, The Westwood in Beverley

With his twin sister Michele, chef Matthew Barker opened Beverley’s enormously-popular restaurant the Westwood in 2007.

Matthew Barker head chef at the Westwood, in Beverley. (Dave Lee).

Since then it has established itself as the best brasserie-style dining space in the East Riding. A converted Georgian courthouse, the Westwood serves perfectly-crafted, straightforward dishes in an informal but well-serviced atmosphere.

The food is generally innovative versions of English and Mediterranean classics made with superbly-selected local ingredients. Diners often find that, so comfortable are the surroundings and so good is the food, afternoons and evenings turn into unplanned, extended bacchanalian sessions.

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Both Matthew and Michele (who runs a slick front-of house) were brought up in their parents’ pub in nearby Lockington and it was the skills they learned there that they went on to sharpen separately in numerous high-end restaurants around the world.

The outside terrace at the Westwood. (Dave Lee).

Feeling the drag of home, they returned and together created the Westwood, which proved an almost immediate hit with a large and loyal crowd. It’s that clientele that perhaps ensures the restaurant is little-known outside of the area as there’s little need to market or shout about a place that’s almost always full.

Can you remember the first dish you ever cooked – and was it a success? The first dish that actually made it out to paying customers was a classic twice baked blue cheese soufflé inspired by Nico Ladenis in the early 90s. It was a success and now that I think about it, I should bring that dish back.

Who is your inspiration in the kitchen and why? My first inspiration in the kitchen was, ultimately, my father. I was immersed in restaurant life from an incredibly early age and simply watching my dad working in the kitchen as a young lad, butchering sides of spring lamb and filleting huge North Sea halibut, it had a huge influence on me and really inspired my passion for food and hospitality.

What was the first recipe book you ever owned? I have so many recipe books that I’ve gathered over the years, but the ones I have owned the longest are White Heat by Marco Pierre White and Nico Ladenis’s books.

If you organised a dinner party, which three people would you invite & why? The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, would be first on the list to thank him for the furlough scheme and saving many jobs in the hospitality industry. I’d also invite Jack Whitehall for good comedy value and finally basketball star Michael Jordan, as I had time during lockdown to catch up on Netflix’s The Last Dance documentary about his career. It was inspiring and well worth watching if you haven’t seen it.

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