There are few prettier towns in the whole of Yorkshire than gorgeous old Beverley. And there are few more elegant buildings in Beverley than the splendid Georgian courthouse, described by that doyenne of writers on architecture, Nicolas Pevsner, as “most handsome”, with the scales of justice atop an imposing ionic portico.
Nowadays the courthouse no longer dispenses justice, but no-one is complaining. For it houses the Westwood, the best restaurant in the Hull area by some distance, and arguably one of Yorkshire’s finest non-Michelin star establishments. It's profile has grown substantially during the past 12 months and is currently short-listed for glory in the prestigious White Rose Awards, run by Welcome to Yorkshire, and is shortly to be featured in the Sunday Times.
The Westwood, which opened nine years ago, is run by the charismatic Barker twins, Matthew and Michele. Matthew is an exceptional chef, confident, eclectic and adventurous, while Michele is personable, attentive and very calm under pressure, of which there is a good deal every night. For the Westwood is very popular indeed.
We ate there on a Thursday night in the spacious restaurant and there wasn’t a spare seat in the house.
Matthew and Michele's career paths and individual journeys before opening the Westwood took them around the world, with influences from as far away as Sydney, London and New York, and with mentors such as Sir Richard Branson, Jean-George Vongerichten and Alain Ducasse to name, they were perfectly equipped to run a serious restaurant.
The starters are a clear statement of intent, setting the highest of the standards from the outset. They included hand-dived Orkney curried king scallops, with a cauliflower puree and raisin vinaigrette (£10.95); Bridlington white crab with dill pickled cucumber, avocado, grapefruit, white radish and rye bread (£8.95); Aromatic crispy duck salad, pomegranate, cashews, coriander, white radish, chilli and sesame soy dressing (£8.50); and Cured ham, pork and pistachio terrine, house pickled vegetables, grain mustard & toasted sourdough (£7.50).
Throw in a steak or tuna tartare and new season Wye valley asparagus and it was almost impossible to choose.
My wife Claire and I, fortified by a large glass of house white and an agreeably spicy tomato juice, eventually selected the duck salad (Claire) and the scallops (me). The duck salad was a perfect blend of complementary flavours and textures, whilst my scallops were the essence of classic simplicity, beautifully fresh and tender and enhanced by the delicate curried sauce. Full marks to Matthew, who was leading his busy kitchen in majestic style.
The main courses were equally impressive. Space prevents me from listing all the lovely dishes, but I must mention the pan-roasted chump of spring Yorkshire lamb, broad bean, pea and mint risotto, crumbled Yorkshire fettle and lamb jus (£21.95); pan-roasted Leven duck breast, cardamom honey and thyme poached Italian apricots, haricot beans, sautéed potatoes & thyme jus (£19.95); wild Skipsea sea bass cooked ‘a la plancha’, with sautéed potatoes, chicory, orange and radish salad and pomegranate molasses vinaigrette (£19.95); grilled Bridlington lobster, in wild garlic and hazelnut butter, with watercress and crinkle cut chips (£28.95); wild line caught halibut cooked ‘a la plancha’, with honey and port braised red cabbage and roasted hazelnut yoghurt dressing (£22.50); and line caught wild halibut, peanut crumb, sautéed bok choy & shitake mushrooms, caramel sauce, spring onion, chilli & coriander (£22.50). Claire’s lobster, bursting with flavour, was the finest she had ever tasted, while my superb halibut, new to the menu, showcased Matthew’s talent and his passion for Asian-influenced cuisine.
The best, however, was saved until last. My hot marathon chocolate fondant, with peanut butter and honeycomb ice cream (£7.95), was dripping with naughtiness and conceived and executed in heaven. Claire’s double dark and milk chocolate tart, accompanied perfectly by coconut ice cream (£7.95), was equally stung – the perfect finale to a perfect meal.
Beverley was recently named as the best place to live in the UK in an "Affordable Affluence" study by the Royal Bank of Scotland – and it has the restaurant to go with this accolade. The Westwood, named after those lush pastures on the western outskirts of this historic town, effortlessly combines quality and informality to create an unforgettable dining experience in an elegant setting. What more can anyone ask for?