Hull diner Thieving Harry’s is a breath of a fresh air in a city that is definitely going places, says Dave Lee.
Yes, I’m one of those annoying people that relentlessly posts pictures of my food on social media. Guilty as charged. I can’t help it, I like showing off. If you’re feeling a tad masochistic, you could spend half an hour trawling through my online feeds to get an unnecessarily detailed overview of my real- life feeds. I don’t recommend it, you may very well gain weight via osmosis through your phone screen. I mention it, though, because the food I post pictures of most often is that served at Thieving Harry’s.
The reason for this is twofold; firstly, it’s because the dishes on offer at this Hull-based pop-up cafe-cum-permanent diner always look deeply tempting and, like any self-respecting narcissist, I want those who know me to envy my every consumed morsel. But, also, I genuinely adore the environment at Harry’s. Sitting upstairs – surrounded by views over the marina and the in-development Fruit Market – amongst the aged glass windows that protrude into the dining space, you feel like you’re in the cosiest, coolest corner in the city.
I should state early doors that Thieving Harry’s isn’t a three-course meal with wine type place. It took me three separate, specific visits to sample enough food to write this piece as any one dish – whether a granola for breakfast or a grilled cheese sandwich or burger for lunch – is more than ample per visit, even for a trencherman like me. The diner opens at 10am and closes at 4pm and is usually packed to the rafters. They don’t have a phone and you can’t book. It’s very much hit and hope, if you plan to visit.
The building is a former warehouse to which, inside, at least, have been bolted random pieces of bric-à-brac and objets d’art, all of which seem unrelated to each other but which work as a whole to produce splendidly idiosyncratic surroundings. There is a tiny kitchen and counter where a rag-tag of dishevelled, louche staff hammer away with pleasant and unpretentious aplomb. And then there’s the brief but utterly adequate menu featuring toasty things, porridgey things and full Englishy things for breakfast and sarnies, salads, soups, grilled cheese or burgers for lunch. Puds come in the form of daily-updated cakes and flapjacks of impressive proportion and drinks are beers from small breweries, tea and coffee supplied by local roasters the Blending Room. It’s bustling, unfussy and damn good.
If you go for breakfast, I can recommend the honey baked granola with berry compote Greek yogurt and fresh fruit, which has just the right amount of everything arranged in just the right way. If you’re feeling less health- conscious then have a brunch burger – a patty of sausage, bacon, black pudding, tomato, rosemary and garlic served in a brioche bun with fried egg and Boston beans. Yes, it sounds fantastic. So fantastic, I bet you’ve forgotten about the granola option already, haven’t you?
Of the lunchtime options, I prefer the grilled cheese sandwich with honey roast ham and sweet chilli sauce. It contains several types of cheese and arrives looking like it may attack you, so intensely has it been packed tight and grilled. It’s savoury, sweet, sharp, soft, chewy and a masterpiece of using minimal ingredients to maximum effect. There are vegetarian options for breakfast, sarnies and salads, by the way, but I have no idea what they are. Not my department.
Thieving Harry’s is also home to one of the best three burgers in East Yorkshire. It would be wrong of me to say which is the best (it’s Dope Burger, isn’t it?) because there are some seriously great practitioners around at the moment, but Harry’s is juicy, tasty and perfectly pink in the middle. Have it with a pint of pale ale and you’ll struggle to suppress a massive grin as you fill your face.
You can tell that I’m a huge fan of Thieving Harry’s. OK, it’s the sort of place that isn’t uncommon in Brick Lane or Brighton, but it’s a breath of fresh air in Hull and – if you’ll allow me to become a little pretentious here – it works as an excellent metaphor for the city. It’s in a place that’s already had several purposes, doing things very much its own way and powered by bright, fearless, emboldened folk. The Fruit Market area may soon be the redeveloped centre of the City of Culture but in Thieving Harry’s, it’s already got its heartbeat.
Thieving Harry’s, 73 Humber Street, Hull HU1 1UD. Open: Tuesday to Sunday, 10am till 4pm. thievingharrys.co.uk.