Tuesday, 26 June 2012
Some of you may remember the BBC show The Restaurant, in which Raymond Blanc, David Moore, and Sarah Willingham put nine couples through their paces, with the winner given the opportunity to go into business with Monsieur Blanc.
Well, David Moore is a very successful restaurateur with two Michelin starred restaurants of his own. Pied a Terre and L'Autre Pied. So he knows quite a bit about the business, and indeed the Michelin workings. So what's the link? Well all that I could gleen was off the back of the menu, "has the backing of David Moore".
In actual fact Mr Moore is new to networking site twitter and was intrumental in us dining here. You see he posted some pics of his recent visit on his page and they reignited my desire to eat here. So yes industry folks, it does pay to market your wares on twitter.
So, the beautiful Harrogate, and down a quiet side street Van Zeller.
As can be seen from the photos, its small but perfectly formed. We think the best seats are in the window and this is where we sat.
The menu's are appealing. A 7 course tasting at £55. A 7 course vegetarian for a bargainous £39.50. The three course carte at £39.50, although this does include an amuse and a pre dessert. Then at lunch they have a " 5 for £25 " which is what Mr Moore ate from and this was also our choice.
Bread was decent, white or granary, and arrived at the table warm.
An amuse bouche came shortly after, Asparagus mousse with parsley root.
The lunch menu has a choice of three, three, three, but the cheese course attracts a supplement of £9.50.
There are a few supplements on the carte but I'm bemused as to why the "Yorkshire Lamb" would attract an extra £5.
Broad Bean Gazpacho, Goats curd was one of the twitter shots that I had seen so it had to be tried.
Pretty as a picture presentation wise, and pretty decent flavour for a cold soup on a not so summery day. The smoked rapeseed oil, mixed herbs and the crunchy flaked almonds all added to the value. What you cannot see is some little pools of Kalamata olive paste which were also in the dish.
Across the table, was the very appealing Pork and Rabbit rillettes
The slash on the plate is Agen prune puree. My wife objects to barley if I suggest it in any meal at home, but the barley and apple vinaigrette disappeared from the plate rather quickly. We both liked this.
The Yorkshire Lamb on the lunch menu was not a prime cut, far from it. Lamb belly from my limited experience is hard to work with, but its dirt cheap. In fact its so cheap a cut, that if you pull a face at your butcher, he will probably throw this at you. My wife knew it would be very fatty so chose the fish option, which she very rarely does.
I'm not going to nit pick over the fattyness, I knew what I was getting, and to put it simply, the dish was great, and we all know what fat means, fl----r.
Essense of Lamb, with a wonderful rich reduction gave it the intensity that I desired. The belly fat had turned to jelly by very slow cooking (braising) then finishing it off in the pan. And yes I ate the lot, but I'm not at all squeamish.
Also on the plate btw is. Creamy polenta with what I though to be dill running through it. Spring cabbage and onions, and radishes. Oh, and I'm sure there is some quinoa riding on top of the lamb disc, to give the sauce a bit of texture.
The Brill from Brixham Market was much enjoyed also. Brandade, Piquillo peppers, chickpeas, kale and white onion puree and quite a decent hunk of fish.
So far, if this is the standard of cooking here. We think it to be very good.
We took an extra dish off the mains, and one that I had seen on David Moores twitter. So it had to be tried out. Tarragon Gnocchi Heirloom carrots, wild garlic, butterbeans, watercress cream.
I'll tell you what. If I was a vegetarian eating here I would be very pleased indeed. This plate of food delivered on all fronts.
Visually appealing, great textures, almost a "meatiness" about the texture of the gnocci. Bags of flavour throughout the plate
Just a very good dish.
Desserts to finish off did not disappoint. We had one of each, and really did not fancy the cheese course.
First though the dinky little pre dessert, Bay leaf custard with an orange granita.
Ever the gent, I gave my wife the choice of dessert knowing that there was not a cat in hells chance of her choosing rhubarb (one of the choices)
Star anise and Vanilla panacotta parkin, melon and mint.
Yep, simple but effective. We both love panacotta. This wobbly little beast slipped down a treat.
Rhubarb is on all the menus up and down the country, and so it should be, its bang in season. On the drive here I saw a lady picking some from what looked like a very decent harvest. And of course we are in Yorkshire so this offering is perhaps from just down the road from here.
Lime yogurt, Yorkshire rhubarb, granola.
Again whats not to like, especially if you have a sweet tooth and like rhubarb as much as I do. I liked the addition of granola, for its crunch and fruity distraction. So much so that I will use it next time that I make a dessert.
So thats it really. Some very good cooking using in the main fairly cheap ingredients. Nothing wrong in that on a lunch menu, but I do object to it a bit on an a la carte though.
I really do think though that extracting loads of flavour from cheap cuts sorts the cheffy men from the boys, and there was certainly bags of flavour in these dishes.
We both enjoyed the whole experience here, the service was good, the food was most enjoyable, I think Harrogate has a lot to shout about with a chef this good in residence.
I would have no hesitation in recommending Van Zeller. In fact if we lived within a decent distance we would have eaten the tasting and the carte by now.
Getting back to David Moore.
He already has two michelin starred restaurants under his belt. I wonder how he feels given that the Michelin guide have not yet promoted Tom?
Time will tell perhaps, but to my mind Tom van Zeller on this showing (and off the set lunch menu) is a very good chef indeed, and I would like to eat more of his food.