We’ve had a couple of days off last week; purely to catch up on home stuff (ie getting ready for our new arrival in late August) and, on a more selfish note, have a couple of days out. Which, as you all would have guessed, mostly involves eating and drinking.
So, we visited Harrogate – the main reason being our interest in the Yorkshire Meatball Company. In these times of ‘Yorkshire’ everything, it seems (and don’t worry, I know i’m perpetuating that beer angle as much as anyone…), I was genuinely interested to see what this young restaurant had to offer. I mean, who doesn’t like Meatballs? Exactly. But can you base a whole business around them?
The restaurant itself is bedecked in rough wood; light to dark, pine to mahogany, and the welcome was warm and informal. As we perused the menu (which we’ll get onto in a second) our eyes were drawn to the chandeliers; cheese graters and colanders clustered around bare bulbs. Nice touch. Overall, it’s a lovely space to dine in; a little acoustic music in the background, and friendly staff in branded t-shirts giving an attentive yet chummy service. Perfect for lunch.
One major angle that the YMBCo gets right is the provenance of their ingredients; it’s all from Yorkshire. Fish from Ramus. Yorkshire cheeses, wine from Yorkshire Vintners and bread from Hughes. The meat comes from Sykes House Farm and the beer list is provided by Yorkshire Ales.
Yes, there’s a beer list, and perhaps now you can guess that I had an ulterior motives for coming here; I wanted to see what a restaurant with a decent beer list did with it. Well, there’s plenty to choose from; Yorkshire Ales have picked two beers from most of the major beer styles so, if you so wish, you have a decent course-by-course range. You can expect to see beers from Saltaire, Geeves, Great Yorkshire/Cropton, Bradfield, Treboom, Wold Top, and Wensleydale amongst others – plus a smattering of Cider.
So far so good; if you’re a little informed or reccgnise some of the breweries on the list. As it happens, the waiter saw that I was opting for lighter beers and recommended a new arrival from Wold Top (Hello Velo) to guide my hand a little, but perhaps some notes or even recommendations on the menu would be good, too. Still, it was a good shout from our waiter and the kind of thing I want to see; a little helping hand for those who want to try things out.
As we happened to be visiting during the week that a cycle race is coming to the county (really? I wouldnt have known!) there was a slightly truncated menu; served with a Gallic flavour rather than the regular smorgasbord of Meatball delights. We chose beef and pork balls in a Bourguignon sauce; the balls meaty yet succulent, the sauce winey, rich and packed with softly sweet root vegetables, bacon, pearl onions and garnished with mash.
Alongside that, we picked white bean and lemon balls, crumbed and deep fried, sitting in a Provençale sauce with creamed lentils on the side. The balls – crunchy then yieldingly soft, sung with high lemon and fresh coriander notes – kind of like a European falafel, if you will. Where the beef balls were robust and hearty, these bean balls were zippy, light and moreish.
Carried away by the flavour of the food, I ordered a Wharfe Bank Yorkshire IPA for the bean balls; my thinking being that the slightly asian herbing would lend itself to the punchy IPA. It didn’t; the two flavours fought on the palate, cancelling each other out. Instead, Great Yorkshire’s bittersweet Yorkshire Lager (which I’d ordered as an aperitif) cleaned up perfectly; the more neutral flavour scrubbing the palate and readying me for the next course. Lesson learned.
Which was cheesecake. Vanilla cheesecake balls with a raspberry coulis, to be exact. Oh yes.
Now, here’s the thing. If you offer a range of beer – and your guests indulge themselves in it – these little discoveries happen. My smooth, buttery cheesecake, chilled and drizzled with tart berry sauce, were perfectly complimented by the Wharfe Bank IPA. Smooth, strong and carrying and aroma of orange jelly, the IPA’s long, bitter finish lifted all the cream without dominating it, as well as dovetailing nicely with the tart berry. Beer and dessert? Yup, no problem.
So there you have it. A good meal, a beer and food preconception busted – and a resolve to go back and try the full menu. Which, as a new business, is all you can ask for, really. YMBCo also deserve a pat on the back for offering a decent, local beer range, too – hence this post. It fits their ethos, and looks completely natural alongside their menu.
Oh, and in answer to my question at the start around basing your whole business around them, it would appear so. I hear new Yorkshire Meatball outposts will be appearing across the region shortly, so keep your eyes peeled.