Yorkshire Life Lunch at Vennell's Restaurant, Masham
It may be a small restaurant but the food is perfectly prepared and served, reports Esther Leach
There were almost 30 hungry guests arriving for lunch at a North Yorkshire award-winning restaurant and just one man in the kitchen. But that’s how chef Jon Vennell likes it. ‘You just get on with it,’ he says with the confidence of a man who knows he has everything under control.
He and his wife Laura opened Vennell’s, in the market town of Masham, six years ago and have never looked back. The restaurant’s reputation for a warm welcome and beautifully cooked food is well known and Yorkshire Life guests were eager to sit down and begin. And no one was disappointed.
Each of the four courses revealed the chef’s light touch and gift for combining the finest flavours. The Dales Venison Carpaccio, one of Jon’s favourite dishes, was an exceptional example of his ability.
The main course of Roasted Dales Grouse was a perfectly executed dish bringing together wonderful tastes and textures. It was not surprising to learn that Vennell’s grouse week was a sell-out with a record 160 grouse cooked and served.
Jon Vennell began to cook as a child at home in Essex with his mother – ‘Mum got me into cooking – I was 10 and I wanted to be a chef, it’s always been my ambition,’ said Jon.
He studied at the Colchester Institute after which he spent two years as commis chef at Au Premier, Zurich, Switzerland, before arriving in Leeds to work as commis chef at Hayley’s Hotel, Leeds. He took the post as chef de partie, pastry at Crathorne Hall Hotel, Yarm, but was lured back to Hayley’s Hotel as sous chef, quickly to become head chef where he remained for 10 years. He always wanted his own restaurant and opened Vennell’s together with his wife Laura in 2005 the Grade II listed building in Silver Street, in Masham, home of the Black Sheep Brewery and Theakston’s Brewery.
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‘I wasn’t looking for awards, just wanted a business I could manage myself,’ said Jon. But the awards came anyway and there are no apologies for listing them here: Best for Sunday Lunch, The Independent 2006; Country Restaurant of the Year 2005, Yorkshire Post; Michelin Bib Gourmand; 2AA Rosettes; Good Food Guide five points, Hardens one star and of course Neighbourhood Restaurant of the Year 2006, Yorkshire Life.
Jon may prefer to work single-handed in the kitchen but his wife Laura is very much a partner in the success of the business. Vennell’s is a small, unpretentious restaurant where some of the finest local food is beautifully cooked and it is not surprising that it is a destination restaurant for many from around the region.
Wines for lunch were supplied by Bon Coeur Fine Wines Ltd, Masham, and presented by managing director James Goodhart. See his notes on the wines served.
Contact: Vennell’s Restaurant, 7 Silver Street, Masham, North Yorkshire, HG4 4DX. 01765 689000. www.vennellsrestaurant.co.uk
Reception drink with canap�s Vin Mousseux Blanc de Blancs, Simmonet Febvre
Dales Venison Carpaccio With fois gras, soused vegetables, parmesan and truffle Pouilly Fuisse VV Vincent Girardin 08, Burgundy Fruits of the Sea Terrine With tomato chutney, golden beetroot, lemon dressing
Roasted Dales Grouse With poached mini pear, liver croute, red cabbage, potato layer cake, bread sauce and roasting juices Encierra Vineyards Reserve 07 Chile
Praline and Raspberries Sandhutton raspberries, praline, vanilla cream and raspberry sorbet La Fleur D’Or, Sauternes 06, France
Introducing Barncliffe Yorkshire Brie Yorkshire’s only Brie supplied by Michael Lee Cheeses, Featherstone, West Yorkshire
Wine notes by James Goodhart, managing director of Bon Coeur Fine Wines Ltd, Masham, North Yorkshire.Vin Mousseux Blanc de Blanc Made in the winery centre of Chablis, apple fresh with citrus tones. Refined and refreshing a good alternative to Champagne.Pouilly Fuisse, Vincent Girardin 2008 Vincent Girardin is well known for skilfully making wines with great balance and complex minerality. Dry with vibrant citrus, gooseberry and apple fruit flavours on the nose. Fairly rich and complex on the palate with subtle notes of gun flint on the long minerally finish. Good quality with well balanced acidity and freshness.Encierra ‘Vineyard Reserve’ 2007 A wine that we honestly believe is worth �20 a bottle so much so that we ship about 10 per cent of the production. I have included Derek Smedley’s tasting notes. Please note that he has given this wine a whopping 95 points. It’s Cabernet dominated (60 per cent) with an excellent backbone of Syrah (35 per cent) but has three per cent Camenere and two per cent Petit Verdot that gives the wine extra complexity. It can be drunk now but no hurry. La Fleur D’or, Sauternes Sweet with lovely vibrant honey and orange fruit flavours. Long on the finish and drinking well now.Bon Coeur Fine Wines Ltd, Gill Head Farm, Warthermarske, Masham, HG4 4JR. 01765 688200. www.bcfw.co.uk.