Restaurant review: A faultless display
From the first beer to the last slice of cheese, Dave Lee finds the Westwood in Beverley is pretty much perfect.
You know you’re in for a night of great service when you ask the waitress what beers there are and she rattles of a list of a dozen names without hesitation and makes every one of them sound like nectar of the gods. And the service isn’t the only great thing at the Westwood in Beverley, everything else is just as good.
The Westwood is situated in part of the grand old courthouse, which is now home to a fancy-pants spa. It’s a 19th century building with ionic columns and pediment and a portico surmounted by a gilded figure of justice with a blindfold. And yes, I did look that up.
The restaurant only inhabits the left-hand side of the building, but we never got to see much of it as a balmy summer night begged us to take position in one of a handful of tables in the courtyard out front. After the encyclopaedically-gifted waitress had taken our drink order (two bottles of Estrella to sleck the dust) and brought us some rather marvellous Sicilian olives, we tried to decide what not to have from the menu.
The owners of the Westwood are twins Michelle (front of house) and Matthew (head chef) Barker who were brought up by East Yorkshire pub-owning parents before working in all manner of culinary capacities all over the world and finally settling in Beverley to open a restaurant of their own in 2007. I first visited in 2008 and found it very nice but – probably because I was part of an Christmas do on a set menu – it didn’t stand out as anything special. More fool me, the place is a wonder – slick, intimate, comfy and packed most nights with food-savvy punters revelling in perfectly-cooked dishes prepared with consummate skill from superb local and in-season international ingredients. Which brings me back to the menu.
It’s rare that I find that there isn’t a single thing on the menu I don’t fancy. As your eyes first scan the options there are always dishes that you instantly disqualify from your reasoning – too clichéd, too ubiquitous, too eggy, and so on. I could happily have had everything from the Westwood’s contemporary English/ Mediterranean/Far Eastern offerings had hunger and budget allowed.
In the end I had a cured ham, pork and pistachio terrine, which was served with a couple of pieces of crispy toasted sourdough, a delicious but ever-so-slightly too small blob of Dijon and a delicious pile of vegetables, pickled in-house. It was superb, and equalled by the warm white asparagus on the other side of the table. A round of shock-white, perfectly-cooked spears of grass with deep fried truffled hen egg and just enough sauce gribiche to lift the natural flavour but not overpower it.
After these superb starters, heavens knows why I chose steak. I never order steak. It’s not that I don’t like steak (of course I do) or that the steak was bad (it was very good), it’s just that everywhere does steak. Actually, I do know why I ordered it – I panicked. I’d spotted on the menu the Westwood bone-in prime rib, which is marinated in molasses, bourbon and thyme and I fancied that. What I hadn’t noticed is that it can only be ordered for two (at a cost of £50!) I had got my palate ready for a treacly, whisky soaked treat and I hadn’t made a plan B. I quickly plumped for the rib eye with horseradish sauce and it was perfectly juicy and delicious, but I’m definitely choosing better next time I go. Maybe I’ll have one of the fish options, most of which are pulled from nets in the North Sea by hand by local food hero supremo Frank Powell. There are no finer or fresher fish available in Yorkshire.
The pan-roast Leven duck breast I stared at across the way was another excellent option. Served with cardamom and honey poached apricots, sautéed potatoes, coco de Paimpol (trendy, in-season Italian beans) and thyme jus; it looked, smelled and tasted amazing. Intrigue also caused us to order a side dish of baked bone marrow – well, why wouldn’t you? A six-inch half-bone stuffed with shallots, garlic and parsley duly appeared and provided a tasty, rarely-seen conversation piece.
A quick couple of asides before dessert. The wine list is excellent, even the less expensive offerings are well chosen. Secondly, the prices are comparatively high but entirely reasonable. The two of us had beer, wine, three courses and sides and paid a wallet-slapping £158. The money, though, was all accounted for on the plate and in the quality of the surroundings and the service. No quibbles from me.
For pud we had the cheese board - which my prone-to-pickiness dining partner said had too many soft cheeses, but I didn’t hear him complain again as he snaffled them along with the candied walnuts and pear jelly – and the chocolate fondant, which came with peanut butter ice cream and peanut brittle and was equally enthusiastically scoffed by me.
The Westwood have got it nailed. All credit to Michelle and Matthew, they have created a well-oiled yet creative dining machine. I’ve been a fool to stay away so long, learn from my mistake.
• The Westwood Restaurant, New Walk, Beverley, East Yorkshire, HU17 7AE. 01482 881999, www.thewestwood.co.uk. Food served Tuesday to Saturday, noon-2pm & 6pm-9.30pm; Sunday, noon-3pm.