Woodlands Eat, East Row, Sandsend, Whitby, North Yorkshire

Let the crowds head to nearby Whitby – all the more space for you to discover this bijou jewel for yourself

Sandsend is the new Southwold. You heard it here first – unless, of course, you live in the north-east of England and are now sighing impatiently, in which case please forgive my ignorance. So, Sandsend. This little seaside town is a couple of miles north of Whitby in North Yorkshire and has a charm and freshly scrubbed appeal missing from many of our more, shall we say "developed", resorts. The local shop sells great coffee and locally made jam. The coffee bar on the promenade has vibrant hanging baskets and good lunchtime surfers' fuel.

Any more bijou and I'd expect to see a Disney animal frolicking on the village green. Oh, hang on, there are three winsome rescue goats tethered under a tree with a little box for contributions to the winter-feed fund.

It's adorable, I get it. But what I didn't expect to find is a restaurant that feels so young, so clever so – to use a ghastly but apposite phrase – now. Woodlands Eat is the faintly tricksy but accurate name of the food offshoot of a little hotel around the corner, Woodlands Sleep. They do what they say on the tin, if the tin is Farrow and Ball "Mouse's Back" paint. That is to say, very stylish versions of places where you eat and sleep.

The hotel is run by mother and daughter Lizzie and Natasha Clarke, and the restaurant's chef, Alex Perkins, is Natasha's fiancé – which might cut down on the wages bill but in no way diminishes the quality of the food. Alex is a star in the ascendant.

The Markwell brigade rock up on a Thursday night in August, in wellies and anoraks after an afternoon on the beach – well, this is England. We're in need of hearty food and no pretensions. Woodlands Eat is tucked back from the seafront, with seats outside and a small but tempting deli counter at the front. Inside, there are just seven tables and quirky touches such as clusters of antlers, a postmodern grandfather clock and a feature wall of tartan – but this is about as far from hunting lodge as it's possible to get: José González is on the soundtrack.

Specials chalked up include monkfish cheek, fennel and cockle pie, mussels with Yorkshire cider, and some halibut that's just been landed. Since we're at the seaside, we eat all of the above, plus some potted shrimps and Dover sole. All the plates are thoughtfully and prettily presented; the pan-fried halibut comes with pea purée, a tartar hollandaise and some excellent chips (I'd expect nothing less). If the kids are disappointed not to have battered fish, they fall silent and polish off their plates soon enough.

We're on a fishy mission, but otherwise the roast pork belly with black pudding, mustard mash and Ampleforth cider gravy or confit duck with pan haggerty (a Northern potato gratin-style dish), bacon and dandelion salad both sound like wet-weather comforters.

Meanwhile, my Dover sole is wonderful; small but flavour-packed with a punchy caper-y brown butter, served correctly on the bone with some good boiled potatoes. It's "as nature intended" looks work well as a foil to the pie, which is elegance itself. Only the slightly less than meltingly tender cheeks let it down, but I dunno, maybe monkfish have Botox.

Through the porthole I can see Perkins skittering about the tiny kitchen – Woodlands Eat closes at 9pm but at 10 minutes to, a table of six piles in, fellow hungry wellie-wearers, all intent on three courses. Luckily, quality doesn't dip and pudding, especially Yorkshire parkin on rhubarb with vanilla ice-cream, is very good. (The man at the next table, back for a second visit with his wife, confesses guiltily that it's better than his mum's, and he's a Yorkshireman.)

There's an airy modernity about Woodlands Eat which is very appealing, although Perkins is savvy enough to understand that twiddly nouvelle foams and gels won't cut it up here. What have vexed a few visitors (and these niggardly folk are always the first to comment to Trip Advisor, which is why I never use it) are the prices: starters are £7-£8, mains all north of £17 and puddings £7. But why should fresh, seasonal and local produce, intelligently cooked and served in a delightful setting by eager, knowledgeable staff be cheap as the chips in Whitby?

8/10

Scores: 1-3 stay home and cook, 4 needs help, 5 does the job, 6 flashes of promise, 7 good, 8 special, can't wait to go back, 9-10 as good as it gets

Woodlands Eat, East Row, Sandsend, Whitby, North Yorkshire, tel: 01947 893 438. Tues-Sat 9am to 9pm; Sun 9am to 4pm. About £35 a head for three courses, with drinks

More coastal gems

Fistral Blu

Fistral Beach, Headland Road, Newquay, Cornwall, tel: 01637 879 444

Good food in a romantic setting, with a wonderful sunset over the Atlantic; this large beach-side operation is known for its delicious fresh seafood

The Shed

Porthgain, Pembrokeshire, tel: 01348 831 518

Imaginative fish dishes in a rustic and cosy setting have made a big name for this quirky and lively seaside spot

The Jolly Fisherman

Craster, Alnwick, Northumberland, tel: 01665 576 461

A coastal boozer whose continuing popularity may account for its sometimes iffy service; even critics, though, tip it for its excellent crab sandwiches, and its lovely sea views

Reviews extracted from 'Harden's London and UK Restaurant Guides 2010'. www.hardens.co.uk

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
A bartender serves beers
news
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig and Rory Kinnear film Spectre in London
film
Life and Style
The finale at Dolce and Gabbana autumn/winter 2015
fashion
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: Car Sales Executive - OTE £36,000

    £12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Knaresborough ...

    Beverley James: Accounts Payable

    £23,000: Beverley James: Do you have a background in hospitality and are you l...

    Recruitment Genius: Cleaning Manager - York and Bradford

    £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The post holder is a key member of the V...

    Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Drivers

    £18000 - £28800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Driv...

    Day In a Page

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?