The Westwood, restaurant review: 'A lump of grilled halibut might have come from the creature that housed Jonah'

The Westwood, New Walk, Beverley, East Yorkshire (01482 881999). Around £120 for two, including wine. Set menu £22.50 for three courses (Tue-Fri)

When you discover that a restaurant called The Westwood is owned and run by youthful brother-and-sister twins, it comes as a slight disappointment to learn that they are not called Hansel and Gretel.

Nor is the structure made from gingerbread, though it is equally singular. Opened eight years ago by the Barkers, Matthew (chef) and Michele (maîtresse d'), The Westwood occupies a wing of the former Georgian courthouse in Beverley, East Yorkshire. Described in Pevsner as "most handsome", it boasts a soaring ionic portico topped by a figure of Justice holding her trademark scales.

The courtroom is now home to a spa/hairdresser's called Sessions (it was the Sessions House), while The Westwood rambles through a series of opened-up anterooms including the holding cells, now mercifully bar-free (unless you count the alcoholic variety). Wisely, the décor stresses the arboreal rather than the judicial. In a dark wood setting, tree motifs recur on stools, wallpaper and artworks. On the misty Wednesday night when my wife and I sat in judgement, the place was packed with 80-odd diners.

Our starters provided an instant explanation of this potent appeal. Though not cheap (£10.95), my curried scallops scored on quantity and finesse. Four whoppers served on the half-shell were tinged with delicate curry sauce on the caramelised exterior and were fresh and creamy inside. Even this generous plateful was surpassed by Alison's aromatic, crisp duck salad. A pile that could happily have passed as a main course, it was given crunch and interest with cashews, white radish and pomegranate seeds.

A hiccup came with the eclectic wine list in which bottles were "arranged from lightest to heaviest". Four successive whites were £29, £38, £24 and £58. Though arguably more logical, it took a little working out. Like the qwerty keyboard, a price-arranged wine list may be irrational, but we know where to go. A Brazilian pinot noir (£24) caught my eye. "It stands up quite well against the French," said Michele Barker. "But if you don't like it, you can swap." We didn't (a bit thin and tannic) so we traded up to a Vivanco Chrianza rioja (£34). Though the label carried some blithering nonsense comparing the wine to "art, religion, literature", it delivered impressive depth and a good blast of vanilla.

From a shortish choice of mains (three fish, two meat, five steaks), I went for '4hr-cooked porchetta'. My slice arrived in a perfect circle resembling a fat hamburger topped with a wigwam of tiny, balsamic-infused carrots. At the first touch of my fork, it fell into its constituent parts of crisp skin, pork meat heftily spiked with fennel seeds and melting nuggets of fat. With a knock-you-down richness of flavour, it was a perfect rendition. "Lovely," declared my wife as she nibbled a forkful. "God, that's good. Wanna swap?"

Not that she fared too badly. Alison's lump of grilled halibut might have come from the creature that housed Jonah. Possibly the largest portion of halibut I've ever seen, it was served on a very French bed of peas, lettuce, lardons and silverskin onions that might have been a meal in itself. Our single side dish of sautéed ratte potatoes and wild mushrooms was as generous as it was superfluous.

This magazine's food writer proved to be a major influence in the pud dept. Shipwreck tart and Scandinavian iced berries with hot white chocolate have both been signature desserts at establishments associated with Mark Hix. Sadly, we could do no more than share a buttermilk panna cotta – restrained in its sweetness and all the better for it – accompanied by simmered clementine slices and the world's slenderest brandysnap.

Before our meal, I'd checked The Westwood's website, which mentioned that the owners had been separately associated with "Sir Richard Branson, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Alain Ducasse". Wrong-headedly, I presumed that Michele had served in some capacity for the buccaneering entrepreneur while Matthew had worked with the culinary superstars. In fact, it was the other way round. The talented chef cooked First Class vittles for Virgin Atlantic, while Michele sorted out front-of-house for Vongerichten and Ducasse when they opened new restaurants in New York.

When the twins decided to open their own place, they returned to home turf and applied the lessons learnt at their parents' pub in nearby Lockington. "Small portions are the kiss of death in Yorkshire," said Michele, though the success of The Westwood surely owes as much to her deft combination of attentive efficiency and relaxed charm. When Heston Blumenthal was once asked if food or service were more important in a restaurant, he replied, "Service, every time".

Food ****
Ambience ****
Service *****

The Westwood, New Walk, Beverley, East Yorkshire (01482 881999). Around £120 for two, including wine. Set menu £22.50 for three courses (Tue-Fri)

Christopher Hirst is nominated for Journalist of the Year at the 2014 Guild of Food Writers Awards

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
people
News
A boy holds a chick during the Russian National Agricultural Exhibition Golden Autumn 2014 in Moscow on October 9, 2014.
news
Life and Style
love + sex
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United 1 player ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Product Advisor - Automotive

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to the consistent growth of...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Automotive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ex...

    Recruitment Genius: Renewals Sales Executive - Automotive

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ou...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot