I must say that, in my near 50 years of visiting Bridlington, I’ve never found anywhere particularly good to eat.
I do not, of course, include fish and chips in this statement. I’m not daft.
It was encouraging, then, when I learned that Martyn Shaw had a new place opening. Martyn is best known for his ambitious restaurant The Dining Room (where he attempted to bring elaborate modern British cuisine to Driffield) and the King’s Head in Nafferton, where he bit off more than probably anyone could chew trying to turn round a vast, tired village boozer with no money and even fewer punters.
What I like about Martyn is that he makes a great deal from very little. At the Dining Room, for instance, he turned out adventurous eight-course tasting menus on nothing more than an electric stove.
Now he’s back, at The Coach House, a small converted (you’ve guessed it) coach house behind Wild Bill’s Steak House near the station in Brid. It’s a much more manageable venture but he’s still specialising in making something from nothing. Or from very little, at least. The Coach House seats about 24 and the kitchen consists of just a single electric hob, two little catering ovens and a pizza oven. So cosy is it that Martyn has to cut the logs for the pizza oven on the kitchen floor each morning.
But, even with these limited resources, the Coach House offers a rounded menu of daily-changed dishes featuring mostly local ingredients at very fair rates. Take the starters; as well as the mandatory Bridlington crab (here served potted on toast with caper salad) there is a Yorkshire blue cheese ‘panna cotta’ with mulled pear and candied walnut. At £6, it’s a big old chunk of grub; a slab of surprisingly light and soft cheese decorated with pieces of juicy pear and sweetly crunchy walnut. If anything, it’s too generous a portion. Not often I get to say that.
I tried the seared local venison with smoked beetroot and truffle oil. The meat would be too pink for gastronomically-challenged heathens but it was perfect for me and the whole dish was, again, a bargain at £6.50. Nothing much there though, I hear you say, that couldn’t be simply assembled. And, heartless and picky though you are, you have a point. Less so with the mains, however.
For the veggies (or people who just like rice) there is a fantastic butternut squash orzo risotto made with mature cheese and topped with burnt herbs. Another bargain at £9. My slow braised Yorkshire beef won the day, however. £12 bought a mini-mountain of superbly cooked beef (that fell apart under the weight of a hard stare) served with various veg, spinach, mushroom, red wine jus and velvety mash to soak everything up.
The flamed sea bass served up at the table next door also looked pretty fine. Just so the oven doesn’t go to waste, there are also a handful of decent-looking pizzas for £8-9. Once you add on another four or five starter and main options, some sides and nibbles to start, you wonder how Martyn manages to make it all himself in a tiny kitchen. That’s the way it’s always been with him, though. He’s a master of make do and mend.
For puds, while cheese and crackers were being noisily destroyed on yon side of the table, I tried a dark chocolate marquise with booze-soaked cherries and toasted buckwheat (£5.50). It was a fine end to a solid and enjoyable meal. Maybe not as imaginative as the food Martyn used to create at The Dining Room but still remarkable for his current surroundings.
Apparently, since the Coach House opened its doors in September, business has been brisk. It seem I’m not the only one pleased that somewhere good to eat has arrived in Brid. There are plans to extend into the attic space but I’m not sure I’d like that. It may sound awful but I want Martyn constrained and confined. He works best with barely any elbow room and I’m worried that more space may distract him from working miracles. For my own selfish reasons, I demand the Coach House stays small and excellent and exactly as it is.
The Coach House, 105 Hilderthorpe Road, Bridlington YO15 3ET. 01262 722090, thefunnyonion.co.uk. Open: daily, 5.30-9pm.
Drinks selection 3/5