Woodlands Hotel & Bistro, Sandsend, Whitby - Restaurant review

If the British seaside is enjoying a much-touted revival, then there can be few better places to enjoy it than little Sandsend two miles up the coast from Whitby.

Its sandy beach makes for simple pleasures; parents can while away an afternoon behind a wind break while children build dams and sail their boats in Sandsend Beck until high tide washes the sandcastles into the sea.

Add to these timeless pleasures, seasonal refreshment from a sweet selection of wooden cafes on the front, two pubs and a hotel restaurant. This summer though, saw the opening of Sandsend's most aspirational venue yet. The location couldn't be prettier.

Follow the northernmost beck inland for a delightful stroll along 'millionaires' row' in old Sandsend, a collection of honeyed sandstone cottages clustered around the beck and village green, with picket fences and gardens tumbling with roses, hollyhocks and red valerian. Here, time, if not the price of property, stands still.

Then, at the very end of the village, by a private entrance to Mulgrave Woods, where the landowner, the Marquis of Normanby has his castle, and you see an old brick and weatherboard school house which was built in 1880 by the Marquis, now Woodlands, an undeniably glamorous boutique hotel and bistro.

The five luxurious bedrooms could have come straight out of the television programme 'Changing Rooms'. In the bistro, there is dazzling white on the walls, the tables, the retro acrylic chairs, even the chandelier. Splashes of colour come from the flowing silk curtains in vivid stripes of pink, turquoise and lime green.

The lounge beyond the dining room is done with equal brio: turquoise walls, grey sofas and funky white tables. It is no surprise to find that the inspiration behind it is Lizzie Clarke, who created La Maison, a stylish interiors shop in Whitby and York, and was the owner of Finlay's,Whitby's first modern caf�bar/ bistro.

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Her chef Carl Wood has an equally colourful background that ranges from Mr Chips at Whitby to sauce chef for Anthony Worrall Thompson. The menu lists half a dozen starters and mains at around �6 - �16.

Blackboard specials included a �40 'fruits de mer' for two, which usually involves shellfish but here features a collection of white fish: lemon sole and turbot and sea bass. There are other exotic sounding combinations: Chinese spare ribs served with vine tomato salad; crab omelette and scallops with stir fried vegetables and hoi sin sauce.

Feeling in proper Yorkshire holiday mood, happily perched between the North Sea and the North York Moors, we went for fishcake and 'luxury fish and chips' followed by venison and loin of lamb.

The fishcake was great. Chock-full of salmon, cod and monkfish, it was moist, juicy and delicious with a nice crisp coating although it was hard to spot the crab in the crab, dill and cream sauce. The fish and chip starter was a neat idea that lost its way in the execution: the sea bass fillet was overcooked; the straw potatoes arrived cold and flabby.

Top form resumed with a saddle of estate venison, which came topped with two nicely crisped slices of Parma ham, and a rich port reduction laced with juniper berries to play off the gamey venison. But we still weren't on the same wavelength as the kitchen when it came to cooking time - our lamb requested 'medium' was definitely well done - or with the vegetables. Baby spinach was served raw. Pureed peas turned up in successive courses. The dishes of plain boiled vegetables, carrot, squash and possibly daikon were uninspired companions for our meat.

Happily, the rollercoaster ride finished on a high with a crme brulee and clotted cream ice cream that was beautifully on song.We had good coffee, nice chocolates and pleasant service.Woodlands is a lovely retreat, and as the kitchen settles to higher consistency, it will surely prove an excellent addition to the enduring delights of Sandsend, but for now, consider it work in progress.

Review by Jill Turton

Woodlands Hotel & Bistro, Sandsend, Whitby yo21 3te

01947 893272


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