If there is one restaurant that can claim to be the best-kept secret in Yorkshire, it’s the Fox & Hounds in Goldsborough. Some have heard of it, some have even eaten there and you may well have seen it in some fancy eating guide, but it takes bit of determination to actually seek it out and visit. Please do, though, it’s an absolute wonder.
Goldsborough is a tiny hamlet – no more than half a dozen farmhouses, actually – on the clifftop a mile or so north of Sandsend. The Fox & Hounds is a three-room farmhouse with nothing to demonstrate its existence, save for a simple sign swaying out front.
With no web or social network presence, this sign and word-of-mouth are the only way of knowing that the place exists. You get the feeling that they like it this way.
Husband-and-wife team Jason and Sue Davies moved here about 10 years ago and turned what was a sleepy village pub into their home. With hardly anyone living in the village, the pub side of the operation wasn’t really working so they closed the bar and concentrated on serving just 25 covers, four nights a week. They have cannily kept the rustic feel but added touches of modern art and shabby chic to the decor so that an evening at the Fox & Hounds feels like you’ve nipped round to a cool friend’s house in the country.
Jason cooks and Sue runs the rest. All the ingredients are as local as possible and there are only ever three or four options for each course. The menu changes virtually every night, so don’t expect what we ate to be available when you go.
You can, however, expect equally enticing options as the buffalo mozzarella, broad beans and black olive dish I had for starters. I once ate in a fabulous little backstreet trattoria near the Palazzo Pitti in Florence and the starter I had there was just a few chunks of pecorino served with a pile of broad beans still in their pods. That was the first time I realised how well cheese and raw beans go together and this dish was a wonderful reminder. Cheese, beans, basil, olives, a crack of pepper and a hint of lemon in the drizzle of olive oil and you’ve got a sublime yet simple plate of food.
Equally rapturously received was crab risotto with chilli, lemon and fennel. Crab (that only the day before had been scrabbling round the seabed a few hundred yards away) mixed with perfectly cooked rice, cleverly selected herbs and the mildest of chilli hits, made for a surprisingly light delight.
More seafood next, with a main of seared sea trout, served on top of crushed new tatties, courgettes, incredibly sweet datterini tomatoes and set off with a lovely anchovy and rosemary sauce. Every single flavour complemented every other and spotlighted the delicious, flaky fish. Just gorgeous.
My pan-roasted, dry-aged fillet steak was, of course, fabulous. Served with thick chips and a horseradish cream, it was a fine and fulsome plateful.
I’m going to risk annoying Jason, though, by saying that my favourite part of the dish (and, indeed, the whole meal) was the head of radicchio served on the side of the plate.
Lightly griddled with a touch of oil and balsamic, it was simple yet sumptuous and perfectly demonstrated the chef’s skill with even the most seemingly basic ingredients. Who’d have thought a lump of chicory could taste so sublime?
Afters were a dark truffle chocolate cake served with espresso mascarpone cream and a plum and almond tart with crème fraiche. I’d have eaten a portion three times the size given the chance, so good were they.
With a maximum bums-on-seat count of just 100 people per week, the Fox & Hounds is pricey; it has to be to ensure quality but everything is worth every single penny. Three courses each and a bottle of wine cost us £114, so don’t drive all the way to Goldsborough expecting a bargain but do go if you want well-designed, delicious, ultra-local food served in wonderfully intimate surroundings.
Sadly, it seems that rising rents on the estate that owns much of the land around Goldsborough and the farmhouse in which the Davieses and their family live and work, are threatening the future of Sue and Jason’s incredible little restaurant, which is a true wonder of our region.
As we left, into the gloaming of a lovely mid-summer evening, we stood and looked at the view from the car park. You’re only a field full of cows away from the North Sea and your eye can trace about ten miles or so of the Cleveland Way, along the beach at Sandsend and as far south as Whitby Abbey.
With a bellyful of fantastic food and glory of the North Yorkshire coast stretched out before you, you realise what a fabulous and precious place the Fox & Hounds is.
A little-known jewel in a magnificent crown. Long may it remain.
• Fox & Hounds, Goldsborough, Whitby YO21 3RX. 01947 893372. Open evenings Wednesday to Saturday.