The Fox and Hounds Restaurant, Goldsborough, North Yorkshire - Restaurant review
Nestled in a hamlet nine miles outside of Whitby is this 'fabulous' hidden gem
The blackboard outside the Fox & Hounds reads 'Come on in - Everything is fabulous' and everything was fabulous until an electrical fire closed down the restaurant just as the busy summer season was getting under way.
For a while its friends worried that as income haemorrhaged away it might close for good, one more unsustainable business in a disastrous year for country pubs. But almost four months to the day since the fire, it reopened.
You won't find it by accident. The Fox & Hounds sits high on the cliff top in the pretty but remote hamlet of Goldsborough, nine miles north of Whitby. It's a tiny place with 26 covers divided between two rooms, a tiny bar, and a summer garden with views along the coast, and that's it.
What makes it special is its simple, unfussy food, fresh fish caught just beyond the front door and the best rib eye steak this side of Texas. The Chef Jason Davies learned his trade at The Ivy in London and the Lansdowne, a gastropub in trendy Primrose Hill. His wife Sue from nearby Staithes was the driving force behind their return to Yorkshire in 2004 to start up on their own on this wild and wonderful stretch of coastline.
Back then, the Fox & Hounds was a sleepy old boozer on the Mulgrave Estate, a stop off for walkers on the Cleveland Way. They made the best of the swirly carpets and the red plush banquettes and while Jason cooked, Sue ran front of house. From the start it was terrific with a passionate word of mouth following from its early discoverers and it didn't take long for the restaurant inspectors to call. In 2007 Which? Good Food Guide nominated it Best Yorkshire Newcomer and this year it was voted one of the top 40 restaurants in the UK by the London Restaurant Awards, which is quite an accolade for a two-room pub in the middle of nowhere.
There's been a discreet makeover during the closure but its essential virtue of never being pretentious is happily intact. A short menu is chalked on a blackboard. It's the same, only better. Better because the wine list is stronger and more distinctive. The bread is superb home-made sour dough served with a cracking olive oil. Starters that appear artlessly simple are beautifully and cleverly conceived: celery salad, a horseradish cream and slices of smoked eel; ravioli stuffed with Swiss chard, pancetta and ricotta doused in sage butter; butternut squash risotto. It's food that easily stands comparison with any top London gastropub.
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Main courses are just as strong. A textbook slow roast belly pork. So slow in fact it went in the oven the night before so that it emerges rich and tender with crackling as crunchy as a toffee apple. It's plated up with cannellini beans, curly kale and a mustard dressing. If there is a more satisfying autumnal dish I can't think of it.
That's what Jason Davies does so well. With no formal training, he is an instinctive cook who understands flavours and textures and has an unerring knack for knowing what works. Take his turbot, which on this visit he served with waxy new potatoes that had been braised with porcini mushrooms infusing them with a deep, ancient earthy flavour. He put this with wilted spinach for a metallic edge and lemon oil dressing to cut through the richness.
Davies is quiet, undemonstrative and modest. How he cooks is how he is. You won't find towers or timbales here. Everything is pared down, uncheffy. My dessert for instance was nothing more than a slice of plum and almond tart but it was a perfect, definitive plum and almond tart.
Perhaps the greatest trick of the Fox & Hounds is that it's not really like a conventional restaurant or gastropub at all. The warmth of the welcome is like being in someone's living room with exceptional home cooking. Of course if we could all cook like this there'd be no need for a Fox & Hounds, but happily there is.
Review by Jill Turton
The Fox and Hounds restaurantGoldsborough, Whitby. YO21 3RX
T: 01947 893372
Open: Wednesday to Sunday