Estbeck House has been quietly serving up excellence with little fuss. Time to raise the volume levels says Elaine Lemm.
With the wealth of notable restaurants and pubs in Yorkshire, it is not unsurprising that some will slip under the radar. Estbek House at Sandsend is one such restaurant. I have known this place since David Cross and Tim Lawrence took over in 2004 and had watched them transform the Grade II listed Regency building into award-winning accommodation and, eventually, a two AA rosette restaurant.
David works front of house, and Tim heads up the kitchen, and both just get on with what they are doing without great fuss or noise. They have a reputation for excellent standards, exemplary service and great food. Getting a table can be difficult on weekends and we are talking year-round, not just in high season.
In October this year, it was delightful to see them receive the hugely prestigious White Rose Award for Restaurant with Rooms in Yorkshire and this was when I realised I had not been there for over ten years. Time to head back I thought.
Little, it seems, has changed in that time and the building, remains as inviting in its understated elegance as ever, the two panelled dining rooms smart and polished to within an inch of their lives and the warm welcome from David is, amazingly as unwaveringly enthusiastic as when they opened. Any changes are subtle with additional bedrooms and a very smart open kitchen on the ground floor.
Being so close to the sea it comes as no surprise that fresh, local seafood makes a significant statement on Tim’s menu yet within the eight starters and mains, there is also chicken, steak and six vegetarian dishes. The wine list here is, daringly, only from Australia and New Zealand. Abandon ye on entering this restaurant any preconceptions you may have about old versus new world, as they have in David’s words “a unique collection in the UK, with some imported solely for Estbek and many more being extremely rare in the UK.” Sit back and trust in the choices on offer.
The menu I will best describe as classic though there is the occasional nod outside that box. A starter of Estbek home-smoked salmon is straightforward with thick slices of lightly smoked fish, a quirky wedge of lemon jelly, ribbons of cucumber, brown bread and dill, resulting in a no-nonsense delicious dish. A platter of goat’s cheese and sun-blushed tomato potato cakes do not fare as well in the tasty stakes as unfortunately, they were a little claggy and severely under seasoned.
If Estbek is to have a signature dish, then Sandsend lobster is its star. There are choices in the serving but Tim’s Thermidor is legendary, and so despite personally preferring a less fussy style, I feel I must give this a go. And I am glad I did as it reaffirmed that simpler is best for me but this was, however, a seriously good dish with generous servings of crayfish, brown shrimp and sauce crowding onto the plate. The chips alongside were particularly tasty, and frankly, the rocket and Parmesan side dish was superfluous with everything else going on.
Across the way, he also headed to the classics with a Cod and Brown Shrimp Mornay served up in three separate scallops shells (a serving style I have not seen in a long time). I worried that this would not be enough, but no, it was a more than substantial and excellent dish with generous chunks of squeaky fresh fish and sauce. The sauce had slightly over browned under the grill which apparently made it even tastier. A triumph of a plate had it not been for the veg – asparagus is not in season in the UK in the autumn.
A plate of local cheeses from Whitby were more than enough for me and across the way two ice creams seemingly would suffice too. How glad we are he did, the home-made liquorice and aniseed one was fabulous and disappointingly not available to buy to take home.
Ten years on and as good? Yes. Deserving of their accolade for Restaurant with Rooms? Undoubtedly. David and Tim and the rest of the team are holding onto what truly makes hospitality work. Long may they continue and I will be back, but sooner this time.
Estbek House, East Row, Sandsend, Whitby, North Yorkshire YO21 3SUT Tel: 01947 893424; firstname.lastname@example.org
Prices from: starters: £8.25, mains: £21.95, desserts: £7.95.