Beverley Westwood – for those unaware – is a beautiful stretch of common land on the outskirts of Beverley. There is a lovely bit of woodland but it’s mainly open meadows grazed by a herd of cows and home to a disused windmill, a racecourse and a meandering, very unmanicured golf course. It just sits there minding its own business and being a particularly nice place to walk the dog or fly a kite.
Aside from cattle grids where the roads enter and exit, the Westwood succeeds, in part, because it is relatively ungroomed.
The nearby restaurant bearing the same name, however, is the exact opposite; it succeeds because it is managed and manicured to absolute perfection.
The Westwood has now been open 11 years and I last reported on it some four or five years ago, when I found it impossible to find fault.
Without wanting to spoil any sort of cliffhanger ending, things have changed little since and only for the better.
To bring you back up to speed with the story, twins Matthew (chef) and Michele (front-of-house) Barker were raised in the hospitality/catering game and – after taking training in various places around the globe – they settled back home in East Yorkshire and took on the south wing of Beverley’s former sessions court rooms to offer modern British cooking to the better-heeled of the Riding. The restaurant is beloved by those in the know but neither seeks nor enjoys much attention in the wider world.
That the Westwood is expensive is no secret. Not crazy expensive, by any means, but dear enough to make it an occasional treat for most folk. It is, however, very good value. Ingredients are astutely-sourced, service is impeccable, surroundings are comfortably sumptuous and portions are generous. Three courses and a couple of drinks for two will cost you around £130-140 but you’ll be assured a feed that will live far longer in the mind than the belly.
For our starters, we tried salt aged beef tartare and aromatic crispy Leven duck salad. The tartare is served with ‘egg jam’, mustard leaves, mushroom caramel and sourdough crisps. There are also a few nasturtium flowers scattered about for good measure. It’s a great version of the French classic made with subtlety and lightness of touch.
I have to say, though, that it was entirely overshadowed by the duck salad. I don’t know how I’ve never had this before as it’s apparently become the closest thing the Westwood has to a signature dish. It’s absolutely superb. There is, on the face of it, very little to it. There is a salad of carrot and lettuce, cashews and white radish, coriander and chilli and a hint of dressing; all simple enough. It’s the duck, though. I’ve no idea what they do to the duck but it is seriously amazing. It’s obviously got something to do with the soy dressing and the way it’s cooked but how they get it so crispy and juicy and tasty and completely divine is beyond me. Michele tells me she fears that if they ever dared take it off the menu, regular customers would form a lynch mob. To be honest, if they did, I’d be at the front handing out pitchforks.
Mains featured pan-roasted new season Yorkshire lamb, which was perfectly pink and served with goats curd, mint oil, a fricassee of peas and broad beans, a deep and shiny gravy and something called a lambs neck pomme anna. This was described to me twice but I still can’t remember precisely what it is. My mind wandered as soon as they mentioned that it is cooked for ages with loads of butter and potatoes and neck. I don’t need to know any more. Needless to say, it’s a fabulous plateful.
Equally good was the Wagyu. With a piece of meat as marvellous as Scottish Highland Wagyu, all you have to do is not mess it up and here it was, not messed up to perfection. Served with roasted shallots and a big blob of brown stuff (probably created in a very complex way but, again, all you need to know is that it’s delicious), the Wagyu melted on the tongue and left you wondering how chunks of cow can be so delicate.
As everywhere else on the menu, puds are top notch. In season are strawberries (from nearby Keyingham) served with various sorbets, pistachio dust, a sort of sponge thing, little blobs, foam and all that gubbins. Y’know, basic all-round magnificence.
There’s also a butterscotch pot de crème, which is essentially a very fancy jam jar full of angel delight. It’s wonderfully light and zingy and the tuille plonked in the top is a thing of wonder. The chef told me how it’s made but, yet again, I couldn’t hear him as my ears were drooling. It had about six different flavours, each one arriving while you’re still trying to work out what it’s predecessor reminded you of. So much going on in one little bit of flattened brittle.
I know reviews like this can be annoying to read. Essentially, I went out and had a really, really good meal. No drama, no surprises, no conflict. There’s nowt as dull as someone else’s holiday. Wait ‘til you go to the Westwood, though, because I said you absolutely should. You’ll see why it’s considered to be in the top handful of restaurants in the area and why no one in their right minds thinks that situation is going to change for a very long time to come.
■ New Walk, Beverley. HU17 7AE.Tel: 01482 881999, www.thewestwood.co.uk
■ Open: Tues-Sat, 12 to 2 & 6 to 9.30. Sun, 12 to 3.
Drink selection 5/5