Restaurant Review: Tickton Grange Country House Hotel & Restaurant, Tickton, Beverley

I’d always thought of Tickton Grange simply as a wedding venue. A quick straw poll among friends and family revealed all had the same opinion – it’s the posh wedding place near Beverley, they chimed.

It’s a view which can be changed by one meal at their under-exploited restaurant. Yes, it is a popular wedding venue but it’s also one of the best places to eat in East Yorkshire.

About four miles east of Beverley on the Bridlington road, its restaurant offers formal but comfortable dining in one 30-odd seat room and a second, single-table 20-seater. Chef David Nowell has been in the kitchen here for about 20 years. He is a local who worked in high pressure establishments around the UK and America and then came home to Cottingham. At the Grange he has dedicated the last two decades to building a solid team (which now includes two of his sons).

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They were pioneers for serving food sourced locally – fish from Skipsea, crab and lobster from Bridlington, meats, cheeses, beer, cider, even oil from East Yorkshire and honey from hives not 100 yards from the kitchen’s back door.

The dishes all sound inviting. Just five or six options for each course – which is always a good sign – and all of mouth-watering promise.

We moved into the dining room, selected a bottle of spicy Spanish red from a robust wine list and ordered starters of pheasant ballotine with crisp cured ham, red cabbage and parsley bubbles and the intriguingly-named “textures” of pumpkin with smoked goat’s cheese. After an unexpected amouse-bouche of spiced parsnip pannacotta with pear jelly and goat’s cheese cookie (sounds odd, tastes lovely), our dishes were served.

Immediately we were struck by the skill invested in preparing and presenting the food.

Both plates were so artfully designed and built with such precision that it seemed a shame to take knives and forks to them. The shapes on the plate, alone, were a joy – rolls, spears, bubbles, tubes, foam and blobs caused as much discussion as the taste when we finally tucked in. The pheasant dish was perfectly cooked, suitably autumnal and the tastes and textures combined beautifully.

The pumpkin and goat’s cheese platter contained combinations of the two ingredients. There was a raw pumpkin cannoli-style roll filled with cheese, a pumpkin sorbet, toasted pumpkin seeds, cubes of pumpkin-flavoured jelly and (best of all) a dollop of smoked goat’s cheese adorned with a leaf-shaped pumpkin leather. Subsequent investigation revealed that a leather is made by baking a layer of pumpkin coulee in a low oven for five days before it is cut and served. It’s sweet, flavourful leathery-textured loveliness worked so well with the smoked cheese that I worried the rest of the meal may disappoint in comparison.

It didn’t. The main courses were equally vivid. Tender loin of pork, Kiplingcoates chorizo hash and local cider was another to catch the eye. The cider had been jellified and cut into cubes, the chorizo hash had been formed into a croquette, with more chorizo cooked into a deep (in colour and taste) berry gravy, the pork was moist and perched on a bed of colourful kale. The whole thing was as delicious as it sounds.

The other main, pan-fried venison haunch steak, sloe gin and brambles, used similar seasonal ingredients to equally sumptuous effect. Whole brambles and sloe berries in the sauce cut through the venison’s gaminess and both dishes were decked with baby turnips, purple carrots, layers of various mashed potatoes and so many blobs, foams and shoots that every mouthful provided an individual treat.

Pre-dessert we shared a platter of Yorkshire cheeses, so simple and delicious they brought a surge of pride at what this county can do.

The final course, a walnut treacle tart with chocolate cappuccino ice cream and warm espresso gel, was chunky and tasty. A tasting plate of Yorkshire apples revisited the pumpkin starter concept, offering several variations on a theme – an apple crisp, a sorbet, a sherbet, crystallised apple, apple toffee, an apple crème brulee and, star of the show, a decidedly non-apple toffee honeycomb. It was so delicious I wanted to head into the grounds to congratulate the bees.

Any downsides? The bar could do with a local cask ale. There was some way-out-of-season asparagus on the menu and there is no real sense of connection with the kitchen, not even the distant sound of slamming oven doors.

But any negatives are far outweighed by the positives. If it is to continue, the culinary renaissance sweeping the East Riding needs places like Tickton Grange turning out locally-sourced, distinguished dishes of this level of wit, intelligence and invention.

As we were leaving, we passed a happy bride and groom who had wandered away from their wedding party in another part of the grounds. The food we had enjoyed during the night, however, has permanently changed my perception of the place.

Prices: Three courses £37.50. Cheese course £7.50. Wine: £19 upwards.

Open: Lunchtimes everyday between 12-2, Evening service 7-9.30pm.

Beverley Tickton Grange Country House Hotel & Restaurant, Tickton, Beverley, East Yorkshire, HU17 9SH. Tel: 01964 543666. www.ticktongrange.co.uk