Friday, 26 November 2010

Restaurant Review: The Highwayman, Kirkby Lonsdale

Name: The Highwayman, 
Location: Kirkby Lonsdale, Lancashire

This is an establishment owned by Michelin Star Chef Nigel Haworth, but it has a feel that is more akin to that of a very refined gastro pub. The decor is fresh and clean and it is contemporary without feeling sterile. The Highwaymen manages to capture the essence of what makes a good British boozer, without framing a picture of Queen Victoria, forty times across the same wall.

The menu is really a celebration of British produce and the people who produce it. On the place-mats and in the menu, the producers are given their own blurb. It is always nice to know where the food comes from so this was good to see, I just hoped that the food lived up to the suppliers self belief.

I ordered the Rib-Eye Steak for my main. I was told by the waitress that this was not available. Disappointed, I asked why? I was told that it was taken off as the chef rejected the quality of the meat when it was delivered. This was a good sign. The cut that he had chosen to replace it was sirloin so I went for that. It was around £21 which is in the upper bracket that you can charge for these cuts. I know that many restaurants nowadays use these prices as a passport to charge way higher than they should be, for lesser quality meat. This thankfully was not the case. It was a case of pay a little extra, gain a lot more.

If you have ever seen Nigel Haworth on television, you will definitely feel his input on this menu. It is hearty, traditionally British fare with a northern soul. Good examples are dishes such as Fleetwood caught battered scampi, squid, real chips cooked in dripping with a lemon & black pepper mayonnaise and Lake District farmers Herdwick mutton pudding, forager’s mash potato and black peas.

When the steak arrived, the portion size was spot on. Chips were done the Yorkshire way in beef dripping, moist onions in a crisp batter and a devilled pepper sauce on the side. Without beating around the bush, this steak was the best I have ever eaten. I had to sit back and reflect on the fact that every steak I had eaten prior to this one, now became worthless, almost pitiful. The quality of the meat was second to none and the flavour was exquisite. I was clearly eating meat from a farmer who cared about what he was rearing.
My partner’s main of Goosnargh Corn Fed Chicken was equally well portioned and perfectly cooked with that amber colour and sweeter flavour you associate with corn fed birds.

The service was friendly and efficient and it was nice to see a young set of staff, who were trained to be attentive and professional. The selection of ales went perfectly with the food and was in keeping with the 'local' and 'artisan' way of the menu. Mine was a Lancaster Bomber from Thwaites.

It was also nice to see Cartmel's sticky toffee pudding on the menu (although not made on the premises, it doesn't matter because this sticky toffee beats any restaurant version that I have tasted).

Overall this pub/restaurant has every base covered. It would be great for business, breakfast, lunch, meeting, lazy Sundays, the list goes on. It also had a nice open looking beer garden for those rare summer days we used to have!

As more and more drab British boozers close because they refuse to buy new carpets and sell in-date crisps, it is nice to see that this is the new wave. You hear a lot of negative words slung in the direction of this new breed of pub. I, at first had my doubts. But if every ‘pub with food’ gets it this right, then bring on the new wave.

2 courses for two without drinks; £40-45

Rating: (4.5 - All ratings are made considering price point. E.g. A pub with five stars isn't as worth a visit as a three Michelin star restaurant with 5 stars, it is just the best in it's field and/or price bracket)

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Restaurant Review: The Malt Shovel Inn, Brearton

Name: Bleikers at The Malt Shovel Inn
Location: Brearton, North Yorkshire

It could be easy to miss Bleikers at The Malt Shovel Inn located in Brearton as you travel to nearby Harrogate, Ripley and Knaresborough. If you have though, you have missed a real treat. A 16th century country house and the only business in Brearton, this building has been catering for country ramblers for over four hundred years.

As soon as you enter you feel at home. Low ceilings adorned with oak beams, an open fire place and a segmented layout make it feel like you’re in a friend’s living room. A friend who has a thoughtfully stocked bar in the corner. The furnishings look as though they have been added to gradually over time, with nothing matching. This only adds to the charm. One particularly large cosy armchair caught my eye. It was a good job we had wandered in on a Sunday afternoon.

Be-fitting to the feel of the place was the gentle sound of Jazz Piano floating through the back conservatory and into the lounge. Yes, ‘Conservatory’ and ‘Lounge’. We are still talking about a pub/restaurant here, stay with me.

Upon being seated it was time for a drink. Like most Inns in the neighbouring area, the Malt Shovel stays true to local brewers. On the pumps today; Timothy Taylor Landlord from Keighley, Black Sheep Bitter from Masham and a delicious, uniquely nutty flavoured Rudgate Blonde from York. Sommelier D’Arcy also takes great interest in a broad range of wines, so they are never short of a selection.

Whether you were born into a family of game keepers or you are part of the new wave of do-it-yourselfers, you will love the Malt Shovel’s unique selling point. This is that they do everything themselves. Well, almost. The pork, lamb and chicken are from their own small holding. They grow the vegetables themselves. The bread is baked fresh every morning on their granary stone and the fish smoked in the kiln on site. Why would someone want that much control over every aspect of the food? Because they care. Just to clarify, that is caring about food, not just money. Many other Harrogate eateries should take note.

My current mission is to hunt out offal, so an opportunity to sample the devilled lamb’s kidneys was one not to be missed. My partner went for the cod and chips with homemade mushy peas. The mushy peas were lovely with a hint of lemon. My only real criticism would be that the chips were not the nicely thick cut, twice fried wholesome affairs that I was expecting from a place like this. On the contrary, my lamb’s kidneys were flawless. They melted in the mouth and were accompanied by a well seasoned devilled sauce that could compete pound for pound with that strong offal flavour. This was dished up with some of the fresh bread, which came in handy for soaking up the sauce at the end. It also saved me the embarrassment of having to lick my bowl clean.

Dessert was a shared Crème brûlée. When it arrived we were glad it was shared, as it was rather large in size. This was the richest, creamiest and most perfectly balanced Crème Brule that I have ever eaten. It was sublime. Double cream had been used with the freshest and richest of egg yolks to create the custard. This was so much more than the usual pallid, lightly creamed offerings that usually appear on menus.
We reclined to the music and washed down our food with another pint of Rudgate Blonde. As we did so we couldn’t help but think, we will be here again soon. So many establishments don’t seem to understand quite how to achieve returning custom. For the Malt Shovel Inn it is objective number one.

2 Courses for two without Drinks; £30-35 approx. 


Goan Chicken Curry with Roasted Wings, Crispy Skin and Indian Flatbreads Recipe

An authentic adaptation of a curry from the west coast. The addition of the wings worked out great with the roasted meat flavour contrasting the delicate, creamy, spiced curry. The crispy skin adds a new texture whilst the slightly charred breads are the perfect edible mop for that sauce. However, if this all looks a bit much, the curry on its own served with Basmati Rice is well worth your time.


Spice set 1

3 dried red chilies or more if you like it really hot
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground cumin powder
1 tsp ground coriander powder
salt, to taste

Spice Set 2

2 tbsp desiccated shredded coconut (unsweetened)
3 cloves
7 black peppercorns
1 stick of cinnamon
2 cardamom pods, crushed (use inner seeds only)

The rest of the curry ingredients

4-6 Chicken Thighs, skin on and bone left in
4 Chicken Wings
1 medium onion, grated
3 large garlic cloves grated fine
1” piece of ginger grated fine
300ml proper full-fat coconut milk (don’t mess about with reduced fat stuff, it is rubbish)
1 ½ tsp tamarind pulp, soaked and mashed into ¼ cup of boiling water. Strain this brown juice through a sieve and set aside
2 tbsp oil, vegetable oil or groundnut oil
A large handful freshly chopped coriander
Salt and Pepper to season again if needed
½ tsp Garam Masala

Preheat oven 200c

For the Flatbreads (Chapattis)…

140g Chapatti Flour
85ml tepid water
1 Tbsp Butter or Ghee
½ tsp Salt

Put all of the ingredients into a large bowl. Add the water bit by bit, stirring until you have a non-sticky dough, knead by hand for 10 mins or in a food mixer for 3 or 4 minutes. Form into a ball, wrap in cling and set aside to rest. (Yes, Chapatti dough gets tired when you beat it up).

Take off golf ball sized pieces from your dough and roll them into thin pancake sized discs. Heat a large non-stick frying pan on a very high heat and place the flatbread in the pan (no oil required here, it’s all done dry). Leave it until air pockets start to appear and expand on the top side. This means it’s ready to flip. Flip it and cook the other side for a further minute, pressing out the bubbles. Remove, cover with foil to keep warm (and to stay soft) and repeat the process for the other 3.

For the Goan Chicken Curry, Wings and Skin…

Grind together spice set 1 into as fine a powder as possible using a pestle and mortar or coffee grinder, set aside until needed. Do the same for spice set 2 and set aside in a separate container.

Heat a casserole pot or large wok. When searingly hot, add your oil and the chicken thighs (skin side down). You may need to do them in two batches. Season them with salt. Leave the skins to brown nicely, when they stop sticking as much, turn them over and cook the bottom for a further minute. Remove. Brown the chicken wings all over in the same pan as the thighs and season them with salt as you go. Once they are browned, place only the wings in the oven at 200c for about 15 minutes.

When the chicken things are cool enough to handle, peel the golden skin away and place the skin in the baking tray with the chicken wings (softer side down). Leave the thighs to one side. Season the skin with a small amount of salt. Bake for about 15 minutes with the wings. Make sure you have everything ready for your curry so that the curry is complete at the same time the wings/skin are ready to come out of the oven.

In the same pan, add a little more oil if needed. Add the onion. Sweat on a low heat in the chicken juices (from the browning process) for about 5 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic, cook for a further 2-3 mins. Add spice set 1 to the pan. Stir and let the spices cook very gently for a few minutes before adding the chicken pieces along with spice mix 2. Coat all of the chicken pieces with the spices and aromatics by stirring.

Now add the coconut milk, bring to a light boil, reduce the heat, stir thoroughly, cover and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Then add the strained tamarind juice you made earlier. Keep stirring every now and then as you simmer for a further 10 minutes to reduce the sauce and get a more intense flavour. The chicken will remain moist as the thighs have a better marbling of fat than the breast. Turn the heat off and stir in ¾ of your chopped coriander along with the ½ tsp Garam Masala. TASTE the curry. Check the seasoning. If it could do with more salt, add more. Seasoning bit by bit as you go is the best way to keep a handle on this aspect of any dish.

Serve with Basmati rice and the Chapattis. Place the crispy chicken skin on your rice and your wings on top of the curry, drizzled with a little more of the sauce. Sprinkle everything with the remaining chopped coriander and enjoy something that will leave your local Indian bereft of your custom indefinitely… or at least for tonight.

Flatbread with an air pocket ready to be flipped

The finished dish. I know, it looks like a whole chicken. The wings have just been strategically placed.