The Pipe & Glass Inn, West End, South Dalton, Beverley, East Yorkshire
The flotilla of nightlights on the tables outside the Pipe & Glass – a welcome sight after much peering at the map and several U-turns on dark, narrow lanes – formed an infinitesimal reflection of the glittering constellations arching over rural East Yorkshire. Coincidentally, many of the customers, who pretty much filled the car park on a wintry Tuesday night, were lured by a single star of a distinctly non-celestial nature, being bestowed by a tyre company based in Clermont-Ferrand. Less than four years after taking over a "tired and unloved" pub in the village of South Dalton, local boy James Mackenzie was awarded his county's first and only Michelin star in 2010. This glory was further burnished when the Pipe & Glass was named Michelin's Pub of the Year for 2012.
Mackenzie's ambition is indicated by the menus from stellar figures of the culinary world – Paul Bocuse, Thomas Keller, Fergus Henderson – that line the walls of his comfortable bar. The proceeds of his stardom have been ploughed back in the form of a large, gleaming kitchen, a conservatory, two bedrooms and a sexy salon privé. The main dining rooms are spacious and retain an idiosyncratic décor. Our table was flanked by a dressmaker's dummy and a Gerald Scarfe poster of local bard Alan Ayckbourn.
While mulling over a wine list that oddly classified wine under "Poultry & Game" and "Cow, Pig & Sheep" rather than price or provenance (our Beaune at £26.95 was fine), we were joined at the next table by an Anglo-Dutch party of six poultry entrepreneurs. It did not require Holmesian powers to deduce their occupation since for the next two hours they talked about battery farming without deviation or hesitation but with much repetition. Going by their choice of eatery, mass-volume eggmen prefer not to eat their own output.
While our neighbours expressed unity in tutting about the iniquitous cost of complying with European legislation on larger hen cages, the Hirst party was riven on the topic of my cauliflower soup. The creamy bowlful was topped with foam and a little archipelago of chestnut bits. Despite the elaborate finish, it struck me as being distinctly underpowered in flavour. My wife maintained that it was "subtle" (a quality I'm rarely prone to applaud, especially in soup). "Maybe it's just a tiny bit underseasoned," she conceded after a second spoon. "But it tastes of really fresh cauliflower." Her starter of rabbit rissoles, which took the form of two little breadcrumbed discs of flaked meat, was also sparing of salt. A well-balanced cockle and caper vinaigrette added piquancy. Evidently Mackenzie is no great addict of kitchen heroin, which makes him a great rarity in the culinary world.
The same inventive correction was evident in our main courses. My fillet of beef from Sykes House Farm, Wetherby, was juicy and a textbook rendition of "medium rare" but somewhat bland. Savour was delivered in a finger of salt beef fritter poised on top of the trapezoid-shaped steak. The accompaniments of (excellent) chips, pickled red onion salad and mustard hollandaise came in teensy pots and pans. "A bit like a dolly's tea party," remarked my wife. How strange that this emasculation of steak and chips should take place in, of all places, no-nonsense Yorkshire. Still, the locals don't seem to object. At £24.95, the dish is the Pipe & Glass's top-seller.
My wife's "slow-cooked crispy lamb" was a tender, flaky cylinder. In this case, piquancy was added by a mutton and kidney faggot wrapped in caul fat (an ingredient often required in recipes but scarcely ever seen in butchers) that formed a little turban on the lamb. "I like all of it," my wife announced. "But particularly the top." She was equally keen on our side order of mixed greens – courgette, broccoli, kale and Savoy cabbage – in walnut-infused butter. "A fabulous idea." I thought that the al dente broccoli could have benefited from another minute or two in the pot.
We shared two desserts. A small, oval Welsh rarebit had a layer of tomato chutney under a topping made from the excellent unpasteurised cheese Lincolnshire Poacher. Rarebit purists, of whom I am one, will regard this as an uncalled-for elaboration (and we call it rabbit). Once again, I was pooh-poohed by my partner. "Adds a sweet dimension." Part two of the desserts produced a rare unanimity. Lemon and thyme posset with honey-roast plums was a richly pleasurable combination. The velvety citric cream was enlivened by the honeyed fruit, while the thyme introduced a very English, almost medieval note.
The inventive Mackenzie merits his plaudits though he may want to keep a closer eye on the seasoning of his ingenious dishes. He deserves commendation for a tempting vegetarian menu. And he hasn't forgotten that he's running a pub. Next time, I intend trying the pork sausages with bubble and squeak (£9.95) though I hope it doesn't come with a non-stop accompaniment of eggs.
The Pipe & Glass Inn, West End, South Dalton, Beverley, East Yorkshire (01430 810246)
About £140 for two, with drinks
Tipping policy: "The amount of the tip is entirely up to the customer. All tips go to the staff"
Side orders: Yorkshire's finest
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