It’s not every Tuesday evening I’m treated to a tour round a personal art collection while Billie Holliday divas away in the background. But then it’s been some time since I’ve been to Brook’s in Brighouse. Not since September 11, 2001, in fact, and given the events of that day it’s not surprising I don’t remember a thing about the evening.
Brook’s has stayed on my radar though, and since they’ve recently had a bit of a freshen-up the excuse I’ve been looking for presented itself – a mere 14 years later. Word on the street is that Brighouse is becoming a bit of a foodie mecca, with cool cafes and gussied-up pubs throwing open their doors. The fabulous Czerwik’s deli and wine shop has been there for two decades of course, and if the well-attended food festival I dropped in on a month or so ago is anything to go by, the word is right.
Darrell and Petra Brook have been feeding people for nigh on 27 years in the attractive double-fronted building and inside, the mega-watt warm welcome from Darrell sets the tone for the evening.
The zhuzhed-up interior is very pleasing – elegant and sophisticated, with harlequin floor tiles and a soft green palette. The broad oak floorboards are buffed to a burnished dark gold and peak-white starched linen tablecloths reflect the candles’ glow. Antique dining chairs have been French polished and there isn’t a spare inch of wall space on account of the paintings. Darrell professes not to know much about art, but he’s been collecting since the 60s and he’s certainly got an eye. He worked for a time at the Savoy and on his day off he went browsing at Camden Market, promising himself that “one day, these paintings will be on my restaurant wall!”
Chef Richard Ullah has been in the kitchen since 1989, and like Darrell is Savoy-and-Langans-trained, so the menu has a classical bent. All this talk of starched tablecloths and gleaming glassware might conjure up an air of restraint, or even stuffiness, but I’m happy to report it’s far from the truth. Granted, you’ll find roulades and soufflés on the menu, but check out the contemporary touches like cucumber ketchup and chocolate soil.
Eight starters include Black Forest ham with roast fig and a blue cheese and walnut bon bon, twice baked charcoal cheddar soufflé, wild mushrooms and beetroot but it’s the confit hare for me, I so rarely see it on a menu and I know most chefs hate cooking it, it’s so fiddly and bloody. Here it’s pulled and rolled into a sort of rough parfait and it’s dark and slightly dangerous, the inherent gaminess offset with a sharp raspberry “emulsion”, and it sits on the aforementioned chocolate “soil” – a bit of an affectation but it’s subtle enough to be just the right side of annoying.
Nicely seared scallops arrive on a vibrant cumin carrot puree, a forkful of shredded kohlrabi slaw adding sweetness and crunch. There’s something called “chorizo powder” too – it’s undetectable but not missed.
Mains-wise, there are a couple of good-looking fish dishes (sea bass with pickled cauliflower and caraway oil, and monkfish with rosemary and Serrano) but being the time of year it is, we go for duck and partridge. My partridge dish looks stunning, with postage-stamp size pieces of glossy savoy cabbage placed hither and thither adding colour and a potato and smoked bacon galette matching the deep, rich, fabulously cooked bird beautifully. Mum’s duck breast is similarly succulent, the quarter of caramelized quince a clever addition and the whacking great blackberries a lovely sweet couple of mouthfuls.
It’s a while since I’ve seen “medley of vegetables” on a menu, but there’s nothing anachronistic about the sweet, sticky roast carrots and parsnips that pair with our dinners really well. Elsewhere there’s an Aberdeen Angus steak served with fries, roast celery salt tomatoes with bloody Mary gel, and Chateaubriand if you want to do the whole 80s thing.
Darrell glides around, chatting with customers, all of whom seem to be regulars given the snippets of conversation I’m ear-wigging. Service is sweet – the young staff are trained well and nobody comes every five minutes asking if my food’s okay. Hooray! I love the crayons on the table, encouraging you to “draw for your supper” on the tablecloth. (Darrell tells a good tale about the night Ashley Jackson dropped in, but I couldn’t possibly repeat it here).
After a recent disaster with Arctic Roll I’m giving it a wide berth but how good does caramelised marshmallow chocolate torte sound? Yeah, pretty damn good but we’re as full as eggs (portions are Yorkshire, not Scandinavian) but can’t resist brown bread and apricot bread & butter pudding, so we share. It’s sublime. There’s a scoop of brown bread ice cream and silky, creamy custard which I could just drink.
Brook’s might have been around for the best part of 30 years but it feels fresh, modern and innovative, the cooking sure-footed and the emphasis placed on seasonal produce impressive. It’s a place of charm and sophistication – grown up, but not up itself. I’m not going to leave it another 14 years, just in case it changes.
Brook’s, 6-8 Bradford Road, Brighouse HD6 1RW. 01484 715284. www.brooks-restaurant.co.uk. Dinner for two with wine £77.90.
Drinks selection 5/5