Though eyes are fixed on the eastern swathes of North Yorkshire continuing to battle out who is Yorkshire’s food capital, you may want to swivel those eyeballs westward as the roar of stealing that thunder is getting louder with so many wonderful producers and eateries around Skipton and up into the Dales. There are also many others popping up almost weekly, so watch this space.
The newest opening is Elsworth Kitchen in Skipton town centre, but my efforts to secure a dinner reservation there have not met with success. It is open for dinner on Friday and Saturday only, which may be the reason, but that Bruce Elsworth is chef-proprietor I suspect is the real one.
Bruce is the enormously talented chef perhaps best known for his years at the Angel at Hetton. Elsworth Kitchen is his and wife Rebecca’s first venture and, between them, they have 30 years experience in the business.
So lunch it is and a drive over the Dales and down into Skipton on a glorious September day is a joy.
Skipton is heaving as it is market day, and Elsworth’s packed on both floors. I had made a reservation thankfully; market days are the busiest, so if you do go on a Wednesday, it may be useful to book.
For an independent to survive in these challenging times, the maximising of opportunity is paramount. These two are cleverly taking small steps and dancing with their customers working out what does and does not work. They have started by opening for very appealing breakfast to brunch dishes. You are welcome in for everything from coffee to cake (which look amazing) through to a full-blown lunch.
The menu offers small plates of tasty bits and bobs and starters to light bites of soup, or warm toasted sourdough with mouth-watering toppings including, of course, the ubiquitous avocado. There are hefty sharing platters of charcuterie, cheeses, or a mixture of both.
Then there’s lunch-proper which offers a super way to get a glimpse of what is on offer in the evening, on the plate and from the hands of both Bruce and chef Michael Cardell in the kitchen.
First up, a traditional hummus served with warm flatbreads is straightforward but just a little too heavy on the garlic. A plate of crispy sesame seed salmon belly and a seaweed mayonnaise, however, goes down a storm. You would think that this fatty part of the fish would be… fatty? Not so, and the chunks of fish come tempura with a whisper of sesame batter wrapped around them. The mayo could do with the same heavy hand that used the garlic though as the dip is slightly lacking in punch.
There was no restraint shown with what was one of the loveliest of lunch dishes for me in a long time – a faultless roasted Dukha crusted meaty chunk of hake. The fish sat on the plate surrounded delightfully by tiny pieces of golden beetroot, scrumptious pickled fennel, healthy Puy lentils and seaweed salad and was bathed in a citrus dressing, bringing in a lovely smack of acidity.
Farmhouse black pudding, ham hock, smoked bean hash, poached egg and bourbon glaze has already become something of a signature dish here. I get why, as this hearty but not heavy dish oozes comfort on a plate. A slight tap of the egg has the golden yolk slowly trickling down and seeping into the hash. Then, as a forkful of the egg, beans, ham and black pudding is scooped up, all I can hear are sighs of delight from across the table. I join in and agree this is a lovely dish.
No room for pudding, we sigh, but it takes a mere glance at the dessert menu, and we are tucking into espresso panna cotta with Carthy & Blacks Yorkshire Cream Liquor, and Lawkland Hall Farm ewe’s milk ice cream and strawberries and cream with honeycomb, meringue and jelly. The plates are wiped clean, enough said.
Hats off to this pair. I so admire their bravery and willingness to give it a go. Just a glance around the place shows the love and hard work that the couple have put in with the support of family and friends and, as Rebecca tells me, the endless amount of time searching out some of the lovely furniture, salvage and eBay bargains that make the decor so tasteful and inviting. There is much here to draw me back, and I hope you will give it a go too. They, like most independent restaurants, deserve all the support we can give them. It is this bravery that keeps Yorkshire’s food shining as bright as it does.
Elsworth Kitchen, 18-20 Coach Street, Skipton, North Yorkshire, BD23 1LH; 01756 229 224; [email protected]; three-course lunch for two, no wine, £46; open Tuesday-Thursday, 8.30am to 5pm, Friday, 8.30am to 11pm, Saturday, 9am to 11pm (evening opening may be extended towards Christmas – check with the restaurant).