Brighouse might not be an obvious culinary hotspot, but having sampled the delights that Over There has to offer, Amanda Wragg reckons it’s well worth a visit.
Overnight, Brighouse got cool. Ok, the location could be more glamorous. Sandwiched between Kwik Fit and a featureless red brick office block on a busy, dusty road, Over There occupies what was once a bus garage (the station is just across the way). It’s the brainchild of father and son combo Ian and Ryan Darley, who rolled up their sleeves and along with other co-opted family members tore the old interior apart, revealing amongst other things the inspection pit (imagine the size of that!) and in an indecently short amount of time swept up and opened up.
They’ve created what can only be described as a hip joint; it’s minimal, loaded with post-industrial features – concrete walls, iron pillars, bare boards and a lot of rough plankage – and they’ve cleverly recycled the timbers used to cover the pit to create part of the bar. There’s not much to soften sharp sounds, so it’s a bit clattery, but somehow the vibe they’ve achieved is relaxed. At the front, tall tables for perching and drinking, and on a wall, a cute nod to the building’s history with an arrivals board like the ones you see at stations – this one listing beers. Beyond, it’s a long, high, double-decker-sized space with a corridor leading to floor-to-ceiling doors opening out onto the canal at the back – a shame there’s no room out here for a table or two, because you really don’t want to sit out the front what with rush- hour carbon monoxide.
The idea is “craft ale” and “small plates”, four words which of late have sent a shiver down my spine. I’ve had too many of “tapas-type” dinners in the last year and I’m starting to yearn for three courses. But – and it’s a big but – this lad can cook, and given the lack of alternatives in Brighouse, other than the estimable Brook’s – still going strong 30 years on – small plates are better than no plates at all.
There are seven choices. In the interests of thoroughness we order the lot. Beetroot and Lincolnshire poacher, first up, is exquisite, an artwork in a dish – tiny but packed with flavour, punching well above its weight. Earthy beets and strong cheese work well together, and the paper-thin discs of pickled onion and a fabulous linseed shard complete it. Mini Cheddar dumplings are totally moreish – cutlery not required, just neck ’em. I bet these go down well with one of the craft beers, but I’m on a ballsy Argentinian Malbec.
I don’t know enough about cooking to work out how that clear, intense tomato broth is made, but Ryan does. There’s a puddle of it in the sea trout dish (perfectly cooked fish, sweet and subtle) plus extra on the side; I drink it inelegantly from the jug. If the home-baked sourdough had arrived a bit sooner I’d have mopped up. Instead, it’s enjoyed slathered with an almost indecently bosky mushroom butter. More bite-size delights up next – this time, lamb shoulder bon bons, which, for my money, could do with another big pinch of salt, but then I’m a hopeless addict, and it’s the thing that will finally do for me. There’s a good thwack of chilli in them and they’re squatting on a fabulously rich white sauce (“butter, wine and more butter,” reports Jana, our charming server.)
Ryan, still only 24, began his career as a raw 14-year-old with Simon Baker at Gimbals in Sowerby Bridge – I can’t think of a better start for an aspiring chef. Subsequent years saw him work in a string of high-end restaurants, undergoing chef training at Northcote in Langho then a stint at the Devonshire Arms in Bolton Abbey and Yorebridge House in Bainbridge before working as a senior sous chef for four years at Tommy Banks’ Michelin-starred Black Swan in Oldstead. The boy has form.
A couple more dishes come our way; KFC chicken nuggets – I’m kidding, they’re a million miles away – soft, moist, tender, with a spiky shallot and garlic dip, and the dish of the day, a hunk of pearly halibut covered in tiny discs of courgette, just lovely.
I’m generally not a fan of anything deconstructed – it’s rare that messing around with ingredients betters the original – but here, apple crumble is just that. A slick of sharp apple with sweet, buttery rubble thrown over finished with a quenelle of vanilla ice cream is eye-rollingly good. There are velvety roast plums too, with nutty granola; excellent.
Ryan has clearly picked up skills from all the places he’s worked, and you can see the influences from Baker, Banks et al. But you’ve got to have the drive and raw talent in the first place, and he’s got it in spades; this is confident cooking with due respect paid for ingredients and methods, and he’s doing it all in open view on a four-ring domestic cooker.
Seven o’clock and the lights are dimmed and pre-club tunes kick in, giving the place a grown-up feel and folk start drifting in for pints of Vocation’s Heart & Soul and Hepple Gin & tonics. It’s a lot of fun. Folk in Brighouse are lucky having this place on their doorstep.
Over There, 11 Owler Ings Road, Brighouse HD6 1EJ, tel 01484 717420; the entire menu and two massive glasses of wine: £73; Friday and Saturday, 11am-11pm, Sunday, 11am-10pm, Monday and Tuesday, closed, Wednesday and Thursday, 3-11pm.