It is a harsh world out there for restaurants just now with even the once-burgeoning casual dining offered by the chain operators now starting to crumble. If they are feeling the pinch, then imagine how it is for the small independents. Not easy. But here we are with two brave souls entering into this scary arena with their own restaurant and I, for one, so admire the approach they took to get their place open.
For around a year now, over on Instagram, I have watched chef Phil Veal and Maria Rodriguez popping up with their restaurant concept at venues around North Yorkshire. I was impressed with what I saw. They busily tried and tested both locations and menus and on the way gathered much-needed feedback and experience; not that they lacked on that front as both have sturdy CVs in the business.
Origin opened in January, arguably the worst month of the year with the darkest nights and the foulest weather. These two don’t make it easy for themselves. They had settled on Haxby for their restaurant, which is an excellent choice as this large-village-cum-small-town is getting quite a name for itself.
There is Millers, recently voted the UK’s best fish and chip shop (and I agree, it is fab); the highly renowned Haxby Bakery, where the queues outside the door bear testament to the quality of its artisan bread; the Curious Coffee company and a host of other independent shops and businesses.
Origin is small but ever so well formed with a fresh, contemporary simplicity, which is both appealing and inviting. Scarily, for now, there is just the two of them running the whole show, but I trust that will change as business picks up. Phil has also kept the menu to this pared-back approach with just three quirkily named dishes in each section. Prices are keenly pitched, with starters beginning at £6, mains £16 and puds £7 and nowhere do they exceed £20.
The wine list too is short but comes with an even better take on prices with a selection of superb offers by the glass. The highest price for a very respectable Chablis was £7 for 175ml and £30 for the bottle (yes, you did read that correctly). My Spanish Albarino was a lovely example of this delicious wine and was unbelievably only £5.
First up was the pertly named Three Little Ducks, a duck and beetroot terrine which was packed with meat and flavour and prettily presented and dressed in a miso mayonnaise and puffed grains for texture.
Peter Piper (not entirely sure why the name of this dish) was a bowl of parsnip and parmesan veloute, topped with pickled pear and a crisp sliver of parsnip. The portion was small but the flavours big.
From 0121 was another bizarre choice of name but a delightful dish of saffron poached hake, on creamy, punchy dahl with pickled grapes and covered by shards of poppadom. This was indisputably my favourite and an excellent showcase for the cooking here.
Likewise, a braised veal rib with celeriac and Hispi cabbage received thumbs-up from the carnivore. The rib was a hefty piece of meat with spot-on cooking and would fill the heartiest of appetites.
Pudding was in the same unusual-named vein with My Inheritance, revealing itself as a parfait on a bed of dulce de leche, popcorn and topped off with a small crisp biscuit. The dessert was tasty but lacked the originality seen in some of the other dishes.
Dinner for two with two glasses of wine each came in at £79 and is remarkable for food of this quality.
Yes, choices are limited, but Phil has undoubtedly worked creativity and variety through the menu and I suspect we haven’t seen the best of his cooking just yet. Maria does a cracking job on service and, though she bristles with efficiency, she handles it all with enthusiasm and great charm.
I wish them all the luck possible with their concept – they deserve it – and that Haxby and well-beyond appreciate what is on their doorstep and support their zest to make this work.
Quietly, I also hope they revisit the lunch menu – currently the same as dinner – to bring in even more customers. Fingers crossed.
Origin, 27 The Village, Haxby, York YO32 3HS. 07973509794. Open: Wednesday, 6-10pm; Thursday to Saturday, 11.30am-2.30pm and 6-10pm; Sunday, 12-4pm.