There must be something in the water in Scarborough. The catering department at the college has produced a slew of fantastic chefs, including Michelin-starred Andrew Pern and James Mackenzie, Debbie Raw (the lovely “maid” on the BBC’s Further Back in Time for Dinner, and now teaching at Malton Cookery School), Alex Perkins, from the fabulous Bridge Cottage Bistro in Sandsend, and some dude called James Martin. No idea what became of him. Add to the list of alumni Wayne Gildroy, who opened Star Inn the Harbour for Andrew Pern but is now head chef at this rather sophisticated French restaurant in Whitby.
Rewind a year or so, and picture a couple with a dream driving round the country lanes of France in a van, filling it to the roof with vintage furniture and lights. Sue Duck and Richard Hutton did just that, and when they reached home they found their ideal building, a handsome Georgian former shop on Skinner Street, and got to work. Et maintenant, Mademoiselles est arrivé.
It’s the last word in glamour, verging on visual overload. Walls are dark matte grey, there’s an antique marble-topped bar, more chandeliers than Liberace’s living rooms, chaises longues to, well, lounge on, Rococo mirrors and gleaming glassware on every surface. I really wouldn’t want to be the cleaner here. A Ginger Ninja (brewed up the road in Egton) and Fevertree on a chaise in front of the roaring fire and I’m channelling my inner Bardot. And because gin’s having a moment, there’s a cosy candlelit Ginarium, all feather lampshades, velvet sofas and promises of stolen kisses.
After Scarborough, Gildroy put time in with Brian Turner before the bright lights of the Savoy Grill beckoned. The menu reflects his training in the classics, so expect the likes of terrine de canard à la campagne et brioche and soup à l’oignon in the “entrées”, and boeuf Bourguignon à la pommes purée in the “plats”. Salade tiède de gambas à l’ail et à la mayonnaise à la truffe translates into a plate of huge fat juicy prawns, sweetly roasted garlic cloves and a deep, richly truffled mayo. Mousse au chèvre is a cleverly constructed goat’s cheese stack, the cheese whipped into submission and scattered with sweetly pickled tiny onions, bosky girolles and red onion confiture; it’s a very pretty plate of food.
I rarely order a chicken dish when I’m out – it’s the one thing I can cook competently at home, but suprème de volaille appeals, and of course I couldn’t have made it. Beautifully moist white meat (smacks of sous-vide?) is dotted with grapes, chestnuts and a sublime tarragon butter. My chum chooses the hake supreme (merlu poêle avec sauce au homard – lobster sauce) which arrives with the nigh-on perfect duo of asparagus and samphire, the fish cooked bob on. A bowl of veg comes too – almost an anachronism, I can’t remember the last time that happened, but there’s bite in them so I have to stop being sniffy.
At the risk of upsetting our soon-not-to-be-cousins across the water, I can’t be the only traveller to experience the Gallic shrug in le bistro. I’m not doing you a favour, mate; I’m spending my hard-earned money here, would it kill you to be nice to me? No such worries here; the food is the real deal and service is clued up and couldn’t be sweeter.
Appropriately there’s a plate of excellent cheeses; Roquefort, Morbier and Brie de Meaux and a clutch of irresistible “après”, including crème brûlée, pot au chocolat “forêt noire” and a fabulously sharp cranberry pavlova sweetened with slivers of griddled orange. A take on bread and butter pudding is made with brioche and white chocolate, and with a tiny glass jug of raspberry coulis worth crossing the Channel for. If you’re reading this in Reims, obvs.
We have a poke round and find the “cellar bar”, reached down steep steps, through a pretty covered yard, all fairy lights and rugs and into the kind of room parties are made for – intimate, secluded, and your own bar and fondue. Fondue! A gaggle of women, all dressed up, are necking Prosecco and laughing uproariously; what fun. If you fancy making a night of it, head upstairs to the chic “boutique” apartment à deux.
They’re open pretty much all day; the brunch and lunch menu look good – expect the likes of Moules Marinière and Toulouse sausage with braised lentils. Phone ahead if you fancy afternoon tea – I can’t think of a better place for dainties and a glass of fizz than among all the glitz. I might even put a frock on, comb my hair and apply lippy. It would be rude not to, given the effort they’ve made to bring a bit of France to the Yorkshire coast. Bon appetit!
Mademoiselles, 1 Skinner Street, Whitby, YO21 3AH. Tel: 01947 602970. www.mademoiselles.co.uk. Hours: closed Sunday/Monday. Tuesday 10.30am-5pm, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 10.30am-10.30pm. Two courses, £27.50; three courses, £32.