Restaurant review: Whites, Beverley

Whites has found its stride and is a culinary delight, writes Dave Lee.

Filey honey mousse dark chocolate and ginger

Apparently, there’s a move back toward the tasting menu. For reasons unknown, it seems more are being offered by British restaurants all the time. I think it’s probably that, after a year or so of lockdowns, we want to enjoy the finer things again. And tasting menus have always felt very indulgent and a simple way to absorb as many different smells, tastes and textures as possible in a single sitting. It is, of course, tasting menus at which Whites has long excelled.

Now in his 13th year in Beverley, chef John Robinson finally seems satisfied with his lot. Gone is the need to chase stars and provide lodgings and to constantly prove himself. He started Whites at just 23 and it always felt like he was restless and longing for recognition. Not in a vain way but just because he wanted to stand out. The arrival of his kids seems to have mellowed John somewhat. He bought the building, scrapped the bedrooms and has reconfigured the restaurant to improve comfort without particularly increasing the capacity. There are still only a handful of tables but a lot more elbow room.

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Through all this, the tasting menus have remained. Not unchanged – they vary constantly – but consistently fabulous quality and fantastic value. The nine-courser I enjoyed last week also felt simpler. John seems to have found the confidence to take ingredients off the plate when he runs the risk of gilding the lily.

Leven duck with brambles, liver, jagallo nero and garlic glaze

The adversity of the pandemic also forced a rather lovely little innovation. To allow for additional separation between diners and waiting staff, John got his (clearly very handy) dad to make little serving tables and attach them on the side of each dining table. A serving tray is placed on it with your food and you return your empty plates to it after each course.

The side tables allow you to manage your own space far more satisfactorily. Whites is adopting them as a permanent feature and, once you’ve tried them, you’re going to wish every other restaurant was equipped with such an elegant invention.

The table certainly proved immediately handy when the canapé tray arrived. A selection of little dishes offered up all together to begin your meal like a very posh mini-picnic. Some relatively elaborate – chilled leek and potato velouté with Lincolnshire smoked eel and horseradish-infused crème fraiche – and others rather more simple, such as black pudding croquettes with mustard mayonnaise or a cheese scone served with oregano and almond pesto. My favourite was cauliflower mousse with PX jelly. I love it whenever chefs demonstrate what a versatile and delicious veg cauli is and mixing it with sherry caused the first impressed raised eyebrow of the evening.

The rest of the dishes arrived with a regularity designed to keep your taste buds in a constant state of high alert. Hand-dived scallops served satay style with sweet cicely pickled in sweet cicely vinegar. Then a pea mousse with ham shank and shallot that you’d expect to be lovely but is made even more delicious by the inclusion of black garlic.

Roasted cod with sesame infused Morrocan vinaigrette and carrrot

Two fish dishes quickly follow. Staal’s hot smoked salmon is given a Japanese twist by nori, toyama rice, herbs and yogurt, and roasted hake arrives rather more traditionally served with fennel puree, fennel sauce and dill oil.

Then two meat courses. Local pork belly with dark sesame oil, carrot, ginger and mayonnaise and local duck breast with aged soy sauce, plum and spring onion. The two courses I really could have eaten about 15 times over.

As if all this wasn’t enough, there were still three dessert courses to go. Yorkshire strawberries with Tahitian vanilla custard, dark chocolate with coffee and cherries and, finally, fruitcake with cheese and pear. Perfect for those who, like me, really want to choose every pudding on the menu.

I appreciate that this review has simply morphed into a list of the dishes we had but that list should really send out the very simple message that every single ingredient on every single plate is chosen with the eye of an expert and utilised with the skill of a master. You don’t need me telling you how delicious every course was, but I will say you ought to book your visit.

Whites Beverley

When you finally do eat at Whites, you’ll probably find very little of what we were served remains on the menu. This is partly due to seasonal availability but it’s mainly because John and his small but diligent team are constantly innovating and replacing dishes as soon as they invent something else. Whatever they present you with, though, will be remarkable and delicious. Whites is an East Yorkshire treasure we should all experience.

Whites, 12A North Bar Without, Beverley, HU17 7AB. Tel: 01482 866121. www.whitesrestaurant.co.uk. Food sittings: Wednesday to Saturday, 7pm onwards.

Whites