The Pig & Whistle in Beverley specialises in meats and cheeses, but will it be heard in a crowded market asks Dave Lee?
Another one, then. Another charcuterie and cheese-based bistro aimed at those who like eating fine ingredients rather than good cooking. I don’t mean to sound at all dismissive. When done right (Friends of Ham, Record Café) it’s a complete joy to sit with a plateful of acorn-fed, sun-dried pork bits flown in from the Dordogne, served with an aged blue beaver cheese, a cuboid of whisky-stirred quince jelly and a cask-aged Albufeiran sherry that – to create it’s unique augmented tannins – has been passed through the urinary tract of a willing Benedictine monk. I love it.
You get to smack your lips and proclaim volubly about the subtlety of the almond taste in the gluten-free mushroom and quinoa buckwheat bread served on the side with artisanal Yugoslavian purple gherkins. It’s truly a dream dinner for a quasi-knowledgable foodie like me.
The risk, however, with opening one of these places is that you don’t get the balance quite right. You want punters to think they are being treated to the finest ingredients in the world offered up in interesting and appropriate manifestations, the better to experience the subtle and delicate flavours carefully crafted by the most dedicated epicureans at work today.
What you don’t want is for punters to think, “Ere! This is just bits of meat and cheese shoved on a plank. I can buy this stuff for a quarter of the price at the deli section in Asda and do this myself at home.”
It’s a quandary that applies to the recently-opened Pig & Whistle in Beverley. It’s popped up in a former shop unit (on the appropriately named Sow Hill Road), the latest project of ex-1884 Dock Street Kitchen chef/patron James Allcock. An unconventional refit has seen a small-ish bar area lead to an L-shaped dining room decorated in an austere gastro-pub way.
Décor aside, the menu is primarily filled with the aforementioned meats and cheeses, various tapas-style items, some salads and a handful of actual cooked dishes. Though distinctly in the minority, these include the likes of boeuf bourguignon and tartiflette au Reblochon; one-pot affairs which probably suit what I imagine is the limited kitchen space.
There is also a ‘small plates’ section featuring a mid-point between ingredients on a plank and actual cooking. Generally they constitute a single ingredient that’s been faffed with a bit and presented with other stuff. So you get a better idea, I’ll start throwing examples at you.
From the ‘From the Bar’ section we tried – market pickles (some pickled veg); labneh, dukkah and sourdough toast (yoghurt, spice and something to spread it on); beer sticks (basically soft peperami); breakfast radishes and a beetroot pickled hens egg. The pickles were OK, the labneh was nice, the beer sticks were what they were, the radishes were just raw radishes with a fairly tasteless alioli. The beetroot pickled egg was a purple egg that tasted a bit of beetroot. If I’m honest, no real theme emerged and the menu options seemed very scattershot.
We stuck with cheeses for our selections from the small plates section with a good example of a burrata, served with carrots, parsley pesto and hazelnuts and a perfectly-serviceable baked St. Marcellin with thyme, fig and sourdough toast. There were a half-dozen other options from this section of menu and I’d happily try all of them. I wish we’d skipped straight to here and ordered a couple of these each.
Next came a sharing board featuring three meats and three cheeses. Sadly, the waiting staff (who were otherwise excellent all night) neglected to inform us which meats and cheeses they had selected for us to sample. They looked relatively familiar so I guessed at a bresaola, an iberico and a Parma ham. Cheeses were probably a brie and a Stilton. There were far more exotic selections on the menu so I now wish I’d specified which I’d prefer. All came served on a plank with grapes, more pickles, membrillo and sourdough.
There are only two desserts. A crème brûlée (shallow dish, poor spoon crack, nice enough otherwise) and macarons. Three macarons per £4 serving, to be precise. We shall draw a veil there.
You could probably pick a totally different path through the menu at the Pig & Whistle and have a very satisfying meal. However, with a couple of G&Ts and a brace of cans of trendy cider, our bill came in just shy of £100. That’s a fair chunk of change for what we had.
Yes, the cheapest item on the menu (the purple egg) is only £1, but most options are heftily charged for relatively small portions. I will resist the temptation to use the silk purse/sow’s ear analogy, but for the money, it was all a bit underwhelming.
The Pig & Whistle, 5 Sow Hill Road, Beverley, East Yorkshire, HU17 8BG. 01482 874083, pigandwhistlebeverley.co.uk. Open: Monday to Saturday: noon-11pm, Sunday: 12-10pm.
Drink selection 4/5