Pride of Yorkshire

RESTAURANT Not just the land of killer puddings
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The Weaver's Shed, Knowl Road, Golcar, near Huddersfield (01484- 654284). Vegetarian meals. Open lunch, 12pm-2pm Tue-Fri, dinner, 7pm-10pm Tue-Sat. Set-price three- course lunch, pounds 10.95; a la carte about pounds 18 (all in, pounds 15-pounds 20); dinner pounds 35-pounds 40. Major credit cards, except Diners

Angel Inn, Hetton, North Yorkshire (01756-730263). Bar-brasserie open for lunch, 12pm-2pm daily; dinner, 6pm-10pm Mon-Sat. Vegetarian dishes. Meals pounds 12-pounds 20. Access, Visa, Delta, Switch

Purple Onion, 80 Corporation Road, Middlesborough, Cleveland (01642-222250). Vegetarian meals. Bar 12pm-12am; lunch 12pm-2pm; dinner 6pm-10.30pm, Mon- Sat. Meals about pounds 10-pounds 20. Visa, Access, Switch, Delta

Does restaurant food in Britain have regional style? The answer, in Yorkshire, has to be yes. Roughly summed up, there are great beers, big portions and killer puddings. Yet a recent tour suggests there is more going on - and that, in the case of The Weaver's Shed, Golcar, West Riding, it is extremely promising.

The Weaver's Shed is an old restaurant with a young owner. He is Stephen Jackson, a big, affable fellow who three years ago arrived as a trainee chef and managed to use a family nest egg to buy the place when he learnt that the owners wanted to sell. He took on to the staff the brother and sister of the old owners: head chef Ian McGunnigle and his sister Bernadette, who manages the place. They stayed on to help with the transition, and now happily work there as employees. Waiting tables is a lady who has been there 24 years; there is a moving trace of pride in the way she sets food before you, and a modest confidence that you will enjoy it. To judge by my meal, this confidence has been well earned.

The location is excellent. Golcar is a pretty village near several large, prosperous but not particularly scenic towns and cities, including Huddersfield, Leeds and Manchester. Mr Jackson says the premises were, in the 18th century, a cloth finishing mill - happily, of a size that now makes a well-proportioned restaurant. The conversion is clever and comforting: the beamed ceilings and flagstone floors do the olde Englande bit, but decorations consist mainly of framed menus, which signal that Mr Jackson likes to eat out and has done a lot of it, particularly in trendy London restaurants. Menus by Marco Pierre White, Nico Ladenis and Shaun Hill are among those on display.

Mr Jackson jokes that these make "cheap art"; just how cheap depends on whether he ate the set-price lunch at The Restaurant Marco Pierre White. What these menus actually do is announce: we're no yokels. We've been to town. We're cutting edge, thank you. For my money, the restaurant may be better than that. While it cannot compete with the swank surface polish of the London establishments, and their swishy service, the quality of the cooking and goodness of the ingredients may just be better.

A weekday lunch produced a fantastic black pudding salad. The sausage, made by a butcher just down the road, had been cut into discs, then layered, sandwich-style, with a hot mustard cream. This was surrounded by artfully placed salad leaves dressed with more of that terrific cream. The presentation was lovely, but it was the simple, strong components that made this dish: blood sausage, strong mustard dressing, cool leaves. Another stab at refining rough local food into a restaurant-issue "dish" was a starter of Yorkshire pudding with onion gravy. A nice idea, but the Yorks was not quite special enough to claim centre stage.

The kitchen was back in top form with something listed as "steamed sole, pickled vegetables and soy". The fish came perfectly cooked, squeaky and firm, on a bed of julienned carrots and mooli, a sort of Oriental radish, in this case a mild specimen that pickled well. These veg were firm, not too sour, and there was a touch of anise to the pickle which acted as a sort of subtle refrain for a generous garnish of fresh tarragon. The fish was encircled by carefully poured sauce. This was made with soy and had a light, viscous quality, but tasted light and fresh, not salty and overpowering. If there is such a thing as modern British cooking, then this assembly was it: ingenious, clean, digestible and delicious.

As dessert, a sticky toffee pudding was distinctive because of its lightness: the sponge was almost cake-like, and the sauce was again lightly rendered. If this had a flaw, it will only bother the few who for some reason are sensitive to such things: it had a slight trace of bicarbonate of soda.

Mr Jackson's family owns a farm nearby which in season, he says, grows many of the vegetables for the restaurant. Game, meat and dairy products come from neighbouring farms, and Mr Jackson says that it is all produced along organic lines. The effort of sourcing the food locally is admirable, and it shows on the plate. The restaurant makes its own bread - a dense, treacly number - and there is a very decent wine list.

To the north, about five miles out of Skipton in the rugged grandeur of the Yorkshire Dales, is the Angel Inn, at Hetton. The place is popular with well-heeled Yorkshire brass who clog the tiny village with their shiny new cars. The legend at the top of the bill describes the place as a sort of bar-brasserie; by contrast, the Good Food Guide refers to it as a restaurant and brasserie. To the newcomer, it looks more like a packed- out pub fashioned from a series of cottages that have been knocked together. Inside, exploring a warren of adjoining rooms, you are lucky to score a table. Some of these rooms look like a bar, others more like a restaurant. Some tables are laid, some bare. It is not entirely clear where you should sit, and, almost as a matter of sport, staff remain smilingly mute. As a consequence, while in the "bar-brasserie" you are not necessarily told that ordering, be it meals, drinks or coffee, is done at the bar, and then the food is brought to you. This you discover by studying fellow diners, and finally aping them. Beware of regulars - particularly a Prunella Scales lookalike with a blue cloche hat and big matching handbag - who queue-jump with startling aplomb. Ignore the supercilious barman, for whom an apron is power (with luck, he will turn his talents to car-clamping).

Ignore the irritations, for the general vibe is good-natured and fun: meals get ordered, pints of the excellent local Black Sheep Ale are poured, and the cooking is solid. A mushroom soup was dense and earthy, topped with snipped tarragon. A flavourful slice from a shoulder of lamb came generously cut, served with olive-oil-rich mash spiked with basil, and a dice of unripe but reasonably colourful tomatoes. An accompanying green salad consisted of good leaves which, curiously, appeared to have been oiled and seasoned, but the dressing had no perceptible acidity, vinegar or lemon. The Angel Inn is reputed to have a wonderful wine list. This I did not see - it may be available only in the restaurant I don't think I found - but there was a very decent list of wines chalked on the blackboard by the bar, for those good in queues.

Lastly, just over the Cleveland border into the industrial tangle that is Middlesborough, there is a new brasserie called the Purple Onion that is worth noting briefly. If the name rings bells, it is because many moons ago, the marvellous McCoy brothers, of McCoys at the Cleveland Tontine, began with a place of the same name. Contrary to popular belief, this new Purple Onion is not the work of the three McCoys at the Tontine. No, it is the business of a fourth McCoy, whose tastes are notably funkier and more nightclubby and whose style is a rough-and-tumble sort of urban Bohemia tailored for North Yorkshire farmers. The place is draught-riddled and furnished with fun junk. Our waitress, who was groovily clad in black, kept tumbling down a small set of stairs because of her platform shoes. The menu is trend-conscious, so there are lots of pesto-y things about - even with Brie, in a baguette. Linguine with tomato and pesto was a bit stodgy but perfectly satisfying. Theakston's, as ever, was as good as beer gets

Angel Inn, Hetton, North Yorkshire (01756-730263). Bar-brasserie open for lunch, 12pm-2pm daily; dinner, 6pm-10pm Mon-Sat. Vegetarian dishes. Meals pounds 12-pounds 20. Access, Visa, Delta, Switch

Purple Onion, 80 Corporation Road, Middlesborough, Cleveland (01642-222250). Vegetarian meals. Bar 12pm-12am; lunch 12pm-2pm; dinner 6pm-10.30pm, Mon- Sat. Meals about pounds 10-pounds 20. Visa, Access, Switch, Delta

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