Artisan, Hessle, East Yorkshire - Restaurant review
Our critic explains why this intimate venue has been crowned our Restaurant of the Year
As the traffic sweeps over the Humber Bridge or thunders on to Hull, it's easy to miss Hessle. But it's worth a detour to this pleasant little town, if only to see what all the fuss is about at Yorkshire Life's Restaurant of the Year.
You'll find Artisan in a grade II listed townhouse just beyond the main shopping parade on The Weir. It has just half a dozen tables, making it feel like the husband and wife team who run the restaurant are actually making lovely meals for you in their own front room.
Lindsey Johns sets the tone immediately as maitresse d' with an award-winning front-of-house performance. Smiley and attentive, she took our coats, proffering drinks and menus, jugs of water and big juicy olives. And so it continued through the meal, not just with us, but with everyone. She worked those tables with the efficiency of a Las Vegas croupier, but with triple the charm.
Richard is the quiet one, beavering away in the kitchen, a self-taught cook whose Restaurant review FOOD&WINE only previous experience was a few months in commercial kitchens. But he's more than just an enthusiastic amateur. He went through a busy Saturday night with skill and proficiency in abundance.
His menu has just two starters, two mains, two puddings and cheese (all are available on a tasting menu in smaller portions).We opted for the a la carte, but first came a complimentary little pot of celeriac soup, smooth and frothy, which did its job of gorgeously whetting our appetite.
One starter was scallop and bacon with truffled cauliflower puree. Now where have I seen that before? The famous Winteringham Fields, just over the Humber Bridge, where Richard enjoyed a spell under the great Germain Schwab. The Artisan version is simpler and less gussied up, but works just fine: the fresh, perfectly timed scallops taste of the sea, the slick of cauliflower puree is infused with truffle and the bacon adds crunch and salt.
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Our second starter was rose veal in a foie gras veloute - two contentious ingredients in one dish. The veal is British, so the issue of intensive rearing and transportation in crates to the continent is by-passed. Foie gras, the liver of a goose that has been force fed, may sit heavier on some consciences. It has been banned in several US cities and last year York was the first city in the UK to ban it on council premises (was it really so prominent on council canteen menus before the ban?). In my case, indulgence conquered conscience and I lapped up the rich, creamy earthy sauce and slices of tender pink veal. There really is no pleasure like a guilty one.
My main course was wild sea bass and herb risotto. The risotto was impressively green but tentative on flavour, given the confident assertion at the heart of Richard's food. The sea bass was sweet and accurately cooked and the ubiquitous cherry tomatoes so gently roasted that while they held together on the plate, they provided an explosion of flavour in the mouth.
The other main was a meaty plate of local Wilberfoss pork. It had been slow cooked for so long that the flesh easily dissolved into wonderfully sticky flakes, held together by a ring of delectable crackling. It came with apple puree, a slice of pork sausage, neat little arrangements of sliced potatoes and a red wine sauce, adding up to a beautiful seasonal dish.
We only managed one pudding between us, but it was a text-book perfect white chocolate panna cotta with raspberries that neatly completed a fabulous meal, cooked with transparent love and respect. Lindsey Johns gave up her job investigating scenes of crime to follow her dream. Artisan proves that giving up crime pays. It richly deserves to be our Restaurant of the Year.
Review by Jill Turton
ARTISAN RESTAURANT The Weir, Hessle, East Yorkshire HU13 0RU
Open: Tue-Sat evenings