There’s not much in Haworth that’s not been fully Brontë-d. There’s the Villette Coffee House, Emily’s Café, Ye Olde Brontë Tea Rooms – so it’s a relief that a spanking new restaurant and bar on the High Street has resisted the urge to market itself as a place Branwell might have been thrown out of.
The Hawthorn occupies a handsome Grade II* listed Georgian building, originally three cramped terraced cottages. Today it’s spacious and has been painstakingly modernised but with nods to its interesting history. Renowned clockmaker John Barraclough lived in the house in the 1800s and the owners have tracked down some fine examples of his work; two magnificent longcase clocks gaze down over the tasteful interior. You history buffs will know that the clock outside H Samuels in Leeds is a Barraclough.
Back in the day, carpenter William Wood, who made much of the furniture in the Parsonage, also made all the Brontës’ coffins, along with the cases for Barraclough clocks, one of which stands in the Parsonage and one of Charlotte’s friends, wrote how, after the death of her siblings, Charlotte would sit alone in the parlour with just the sound of the clock ticking. The vibe in the Hawthorn is jollier.
On the coldest, stormiest night of the year, Haworth is unsurprisingly deserted. Lights twinkle, shimmering off the cobbles on the steep street. After a hair-raising drive over Ovenden Moor I’m relieved to walk into the haven of the Hawthorn, and the welcome is warm. There’s a large, beamed dining room, which is empty apart from an actor I recognise from Casualty who is charging the wood stove. They’ve been open just two days and the paintwork is still fresh on the sage green walls, most of which can’t be seen for framed sepia photos of old Haworth.
The USP of the Hawthorn kitchen is a Josper grill. For the uninitiated, it’s essentially an indoor barbecue which has a front door that, when closed, ensures none of the natural moisture or flavour escapes from the food cooked in it. It’s a must-have bit of kit for any chef worth his salt, and costs more than any car I’ve ever bought. You can throw pretty much anything on it – meat, fish, vegetables – it cooks very quickly. Judging by the faultless Tamworth bacon chop which arrives at the table, chef Tim Kitchen’s Josper training has paid off. That’s not a typo; he really is called Tim Kitchen. He didn’t have much option, career-wise, did he?
The chop is the most straightforward dish in an evening of many dishes, and all the better for it. Nicely marked, tender as anything, and with triple cooked dripping chips, a chunk of grilled pineapple, a handful of watercress and with a smudge of smoky ketchup it’s one of my plates of the year. A side of buttery hispi cabbage is all it needs. Sometimes, simple is best, and this is a fine example of that. My chum is a vegetarian so I can’t vouch for the Dexter sirloin or Highland chateaubriand, but I’ll be back for those. Meanwhile, she’s thrilled to find a vegan menu, and a plate of smoky aubergine (there’s a lot of ‘smoky’ this and that – you’ve got to keep the Josper busy) toasted quinoa, roast pumpkin and Cornish (?) wild leaf salad gets the thumbs-up, though it could have done without the slick of caramelised onions which make it, well, a bit soggy.
But I’m ahead of myself. We’d started with Swaledale lamb, pressed into a terrine and served with a slick of smoked aubergine puree – terrific, packed with flavour and at room temperature. I can’t be the only one to be fed up with completely tasteless, fridge-cold pate put in front of me? For the veggie, a bowl of trofie pasta with herb pesto, toasted pine nuts and nasturtium, pretty as a picture and perfectly seasoned.
Elsewhere you’ll find the likes of braised Longhorn with roast Roscoff onions and champ, cod loin with pesto crumb, Romanesco cauliflower and shrimp butter, and hay roast pheasant. There’s a good-looking lunch menu featuring Jerusalem artichoke soup, smoked salmon and rye bread and chicken liver parfait, plus afternoon tea, which for £20 (including a glass of fizz) is a steal. Who doesn’t want to sit down to a Dale End cheddar and smoked bacon scone with celery butter finger sandwiches, followed by Red velvet victoria sponge with orange cream, or chocolate madeleines with salted caramel? Just tell yourself you’re going to need ballast before tackling the wuthering walk to Top Withens.
By the time desserts arrive the place is full to bursting, and on such an inhospitable night it’s a sure indication that Haworth needed a new place to eat. A vegan bean chocolate brownie with blackberry sorbet is the colour of one of those dark red velvet theatre curtains and is fabulously sticky and rich. My yoghurt panna cotta isn’t strictly a panna cotta but I’m not quibbling, it’s dangerously creamy and nicely off-set with poached quince and toasted almonds.
I can’t resist slipping upstairs to follow the sound of a party kicking off, and there’s a stunning upper floor, all wonky oak beams, gleaming glassware and another Barraclough clock – and a private bar and dining room where a bunch of women are having a lot of fun being attended to by a handsome young cove in a dinner suit.
Kitchen has hit the ground running; The Hawthorn is a long-held dream for him and he’s started in fine style. Service is super-friendly and the menu shows promise, particularly the Josper offerings. Oh and did I mention the bar? Small, wood panelled and cosy with a couple of local cask ales and a jar of homemade treats for your canine chum. After the Withins hike enjoy a pint of Saltaire Blonde and a read of the paper. Branwell would have loved it.
The Hawthorn, 103-109 Main St, Haworth, Keighley BD22 8DP t: 01535 644477 www.thehawthornhaworth.co.uk
Hours: Closed Monday/Tuesday. Wednesday – Sunday 11 – 11
Dinner for two, three courses with two glasses of wine: £72.