DOS HERMANOS OOP NORTH: DAY ONE ( EVENING EDITION )
The evening began with the unlikely sight of four overgrown men hurtling along country lanes in a close fitting Nissan Micra. We looked like four Weebles , although, unlike that bestselling toy we were perfectly capable by now of both wobbling and falling down ( not Paul, of course, designated driver and all that )
Finally, after some distinctly mumbled directions from mine host, we arrived at The Blacksmith Inn,
Well, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see why they leapt at the opportunity to buy the place. It is beautiful, set in a tiny North Yorkshire village and surrounded by countryside straight out of “ All Creatures Great & Small”
The “pub” is really now a restaurant with rooms and it is obvious that it is a palpable hit with the locals as the place was rammed to the rafters and Sarah was in full effect marshalling her young brood of servers to get enormo portions of terrific looking food from kitchen to table lickety split.
Despite the fact that Gary had an accident as a child that leaves him unable to drink any beer other than Fosters, he keeps a fine old cellar of well kept real ales and both the Black Sheep and Tim Taylor’s added to the day's excesses without hitting the sides.
Sarah had put by a lovely table for us and we collapsed down to enjoy a little tasting menu prepared by chef, Andy Porter.
Let’s take a moment to discuss Andy shall we? Gary had told us he was a top notch chef with rosettes up the wazoo from former places of employment. He was right, this is a very serious chef who is capable of star level. Gary also told us that Andy was capable of talking the hind legs off a donkey in his enthusiasm for his ingredients. True again. He was happy to spend a great deal of time talking, not about himself, but about the quality of the ingredients he was able to find in this northern location. The mark of a true chef, in my humble opinion.
What Gary did not tell us is that Andy is also one of the funniest men on the planet. With that level of inbuilt grumpyness that only a true Yorkshire curmudgeon can have, the weekend was peppered with conversations in which Andy gave forth on everything and anything.
“ramblers? F**k ‘em. They come in here wanting to spend four pound and they want a drink for that. Yet they’ll spend £250 on a f**king Kagoul and a sat nav system. Where they going walking? The f**king moon?”
If anyone out there is looking for the next great celebrity TV chef, they could do a lot worse than talking to Andy. He’d be a sensation. Sort of Peter Kaye meets Gary Rhodes.
Let none of this detract from the fact that Andy can cook up a right storm as they say up North. The tasting menu was probably our best meal of the weekend ( and we had a few more to come ) and you could see the passion in the attention to detail.
Cream of Pig’s trotter with garden pea soup came with a big slab of confit bacon and a black pudding fritter.
Even better ( what better than black pudding?) was a sauté of exceptional wild mushrooms with baby spinach leaves, a perfect poached quail’s egg and a tarragon hollandaise. The egg was cooked exactly right so it broke to form a smooth coating over the mushrooms.
Cod with a celeriac puree came with cockles and some of the best tasting young leeks I can recall.
The main event was a big old chunk of rare breed pork with a pig cheek risotto, some locally made pancetta, another slab of that spectacular black pudding and a scrumpy reduction. Laid on top was the finest crackling either of DH had ever tried.
Gary told us that Andy wanted to cook the sort of things that Gary Rhodes would have cooked when he was good ( at The Castle, I guess ) Well, that era GR is my ultimate food hero so that is, as they annoyingly say on TV football commentary these days, “ a big ask” but this is as close as I can recall anyone getting to it. Local ingredients not fannied around with.
By Andy’s own admission, the only weak spot was the dessert where a tatin missed the mark primarily because the apples had not been peeled. I would have been just as happy to be given a big bowl of their exemplary house made vanilla ice cream which was riddled with seeds from the pod.
Gary chose the wine and I have no idea what it was. Let me guess, a Burgundy?
It’s worth bearing in mind that, while all of this was going on, Andy with help from one other cook and a couple of KP’s was banging out 40+ covers from a small kitchen. All the dishes from Steak with triple cooked chips to the Beer Battered Coley could have taken my fancy.
By this time though we were all a bit, well merry and the day had caught up with us. HP and Paul talked amiably but without coherence for half an hour and I did the same with Andy before we disappeared off to our rooms to suffer a night of inevitable consequences.
A good first day Oop North.