Has the small plates phenomenon run its course? Not if Home at Lindley is anything to go by, says Amanda Wragg. Pictures by Tony Johnson.
It’s a sentence guaranteed to strike dread into the heart of your average restaurant reviewer in 2017: “Home-style bistro cooking served on sharing plates.” It sounds as if some higher authority has issued an edict: “Thou shalt offer only food on small plates, and share them, until further notice.”
Who is responsible for this malarkey? I blame Brexit, but Neil Irwin, writing in the Washington Post, reckons it’s the Spanish. “Centuries ago, in the Andalusia region of Spain, bar patrons would cover their glasses of sweet sherry with bread to keep flies from flying in. The bars started putting cured meats on top of the bread, turning the fly-protection devices into delicious snacks. A food revolution was born: from ‘tapa’, the word for cover, tapas were introduced to the world. Which is why, in Washington in 2013, I can’t get a decent meal.”
Don’t get me wrong. I like tapas as much as the next person, probably more. Some of my best food memories involve sitting at the end of a bar in Seville with a glass of chilled Manzanilla and half a dozen dishes in front of me – perhaps patatas bravas, jamon croquetas and always a sliver of tortilla.
I’ve even been known to not slap the hand snaking across to snaffle my stuffed peppers. Recent “small sharing plates” experiences I’ve raved about include Ox Club last year, Café Thai Tapas in West Vale this summer, and I sang the praises of Elder at the Piece Hall only last month. My gripe, I guess, isn’t that the food’s not good – it is – it’s that the concept is ubiquitous and I’m getting a bit jaded.
Home on Lindley (or at Lindley? Or in Lindley? The website is inconclusive) is the latest addition to the oeuvre. It’s certainly got kerb appeal, all Farrow and Balled matt grey paintwork and full-length picture windows. There’s a handsome bar on the ground floor and as I make my way upstairs to the restaurant I have a twinge of déjà vu. The filament lights, rough wood cladding and Moroccan tiles... ah, it’s an Andy Thornton makeover. He appears to have a monopoly in these parts. The mismatched furniture is a Thornton trademark too – but it’s perfectly comfortable and waiter Tom’s warm welcome kicks the evening off well.
To call the menu comprehensive is to say that I have a vague fondness for Tom Hardy. There are around 35 “Home Tapas” – or you can do the conventional thing and choose from nine starters and 12 mains which include the likes of fish pie, quesadillas, Home burgers and steak. But we’re here to share and share we do, with varying degrees of success. Pork crackling and apple sauce works apart from one piece which threatens to shatter my teeth. Whitby mussels, perfectly poached in garlicky broth, sit unexpectedly on a chunk of bread which soaks up the liquid – but top of the bill at this point is a tumbler of what look like regular chips but turn out to be sticks of Halloumi smothered in smoked paprika and fried, and as neckable as Twiglets.
In short order, rarebit, risotto and ribs arrive.
The rarebit, with roast vine tomatoes and toasted pine nuts is a belter, smooth and unctuous. Pea risotto arrives in a huge roast white onion with a shard of parmesan – not pretty, but clever – the rice perfectly cooked. Short ribs with sticky sauce are unmemorable but not so the tandoori fish – sublime bite-size tempura globes of wonder with a sharp lemon and dill yoghurt – pretty as a picture and fought over.
Outstanding is a plate of almost black, braised pig cheek with smooth mash and a glossy gravy that speaks of hours of reduction. There’s a 14-hour braised ox cheek too but the butcher didn’t deliver; perhaps as well given the unseemly scramble to get to the pig.
By this point we’ve circumnavigated the culinary planet; seasoned chef Jo Graham isn’t afraid of showing off her globe-trotting chops, and she really has done the miles, working in kitchens in far-flung parts of the world, bringing her experiences back to Huddersfield. She’s working with her two daughters – one is FOH downstairs, the other is darting about, jostling for space with her mother in the tiny open kitchen – a feat that I certainly couldn’t pull off (without killing mine).
Elsewhere on the tapas menu you’ll find meatballs, lamb chops, chicken tikka and chorizo (braised in Cornish cider with Home apple sauce) all between £6 and £9 – reasonable enough, but it’s surprising how quickly you rack up a significant bill. We’re full as eggs but that’s never stopped us ordering puddings, which frankly are underwhelming – something cheese-cakey, a fridge-cold chocolate tart and the weirdest churros I’ve ever put in my mouth. And there have been a lot.
Given my mounting ennui regarding small plate sharing, this was a fun night, with few fights over who had what. You’re in safe hands; Graham and daughter know what they’re doing. It’s a good booking with a bunch of mates and a couple of bottles of excellent Picpoul de Pinet. The vibe is jolly and relaxed; eat as much or as little as you like. No-one’s going to move you on. Don’t squabble. Play nicely. Share.
Home at Lindley, 17 Lidget Street, Lindley, Huddersfield HD3 3JB. 01484 917699, homeonlindley.co.uk. Open: Tuesday to Friday, lunch, 12 to 2pm, dinner, 5 to 9pm; Saturday, 12 to 9pm; Sunday, 12 to 7pm. Closed Monday.