Restaurant Review – Artisan, Hessle

My latest Yorkshire Post restaurant review is Artisan of Hessle.

This review originally appeared in the Yorkshire Post on 25th September 2011.

Artisan interior

Come Dine With Us

It’s a brave move for any restaurant to swim against the tide. Shifting culinary trends usually determine which way the entire industry moves and at a time when the rise of gastro-pubs continues unabated it takes an establishment confident in its offering that steadfastly refuses to bend to trends.

Artisan, in the small East Yorkshire town of Hessle, are proudly, defiantly daring to be different. For them it’s an intimate setting, a set menu, unhurried service, dignified dining, minimal fuss but maximum effect – it’s an experience, a proper night out. Brave in the current financial climate but braver still when you factor in that they do all this with just 16 covers and 2 staff in a quiet town on the edge of Hull.

Husband and wife team Richard and Lindsey Johns opened their restaurant in a modest Georgian townhouse eight years ago and have since built a reputation that has enjoyed significant regional and national praise for its elegance and dedication to excellence. They argue (quite convincingly, it must be said) that a meal out should be special and unique and that turning country pubs into restaurants devalues the dining experience by diluting with excessive options what should be a rarefied atmosphere.

This philosophy isn’t snobbish, it’s ensuring that your dining experience options are kept as wide as possible rather than duplicated and homogenised. They believe that we don’t need another restaurant offering a choice of four different steaks with straight, curly or wedge chips as well as 20-odd other well-worn dishes; we need more places that offer less choice, that decide what they want you to eat and serve it without excuses. It’s certainly true that we need places like Artisan that have a philosophy, know how to stage an evening and deliver without compromise.

Richard runs the kitchen single handed, producing 5 courses every evening of exemplary design and delivery. He puts great stock in his ingredients but he also has a keen instinct for how they combine and his dishes always look sumptuous. Front-of-house better half Lindsey hosts, serves and acts as sommelier with consummate ease. She occasionally has a helping hand on busier nights but watching her glide round the dining room, keeping all her customers fed and wined, you can’t help but think that anyone sharing the space with her would just slow her down.

Set menus may well deter the pickier diner but if you were travelling across France, Italy, Spain or many other European countries with a sensible culinary tradition you’d often be presented with a sequence of no-choice dishes rather than an over-stuffed menu and you’d almost certainly throw yourself into the experience. Why complain when it happens at home? Besides, looking at our evening’s menu it’s difficult to think that we’d have chosen anything different had there been more dishes on offer.

First up was a dinky cup of sharp and tasty potato and horseradish soup served with perfect home-made tomato and roasted red pepper bread. It’s a bit posh is Artisan so we asked permission to dunk, which was granted.

A bowl of roast tomato risotto with creamed truffle goat’s cheese and parmesan crisp got the courses proper off to a colourful, creamy start. I could have eaten a family size bag of the parmesan crisps, so tangy and satisfying were they, but with so much food still ahead the supplied single blade was sensibly ample. There was a smattering of parsley mixed in the risotto to bring the flavour of the cheese along and that it did ably.

Artisan salmon

Our first ‘main’ course was wild fillet of Scottish salmon with warm citrus, herb and smoked salmon couscous, basil oil and a dollop of caviar mounted on top. I am suspiciously picky about the source of my salmon but when the answer ‘line-caught on a day boat out of Eyemouth’ met my provenance query I felt I knew all I needed save the name of the skipper. The lemon-y sharpness of the fluffy couscous worked wonderfully with the faultlessly cooked fish and the caviar was a subtle and cunning accompaniment rather than a pretentious extravagance.

Artisan mainLindsey selected our wines for the evening and the powerful South African Pinotage she recommended sat deliciously with the next course – honey roast Goosenargh duck supreme. It was served with fresh truffle, spring onion crushed potatoes, duck sausage, carrot puree and red wine sauce and before we could succumb to the fatty/ oily worries that usually accompany an anatine arrival we were tucking into a marvellously-cooked wonder. The duck was mildly gamey, juicy and tender; the sausage yielding with a hint of chilli and the carrot puree so sweet and tender you could easily mistake it for custard (this is not negative, believe me). My highlight of the evening.

Artisan dessertDessert brought the evening’s only choice of dishes. There was crushed meringue and summer berries or a cheese board also on offer but we both decided to continue eating the same all night and plumped for Belgian chocolate pot with orange curd and crème fraiche ice cream. It looked a little undersized on arrival but closer ingestion revealed it to be thick, unctuous and sensibly apportioned. Offset by the ice cream, raspberries, peach compote and a chocolate twig it rounded off a fine array of dishes.

Our entire evening at Artisan demanded an unhurried four hours yumm-ing and aaaah-ing over beautiful food in an atmosphere of such dignified intimacy that you almost feel that you are in someone’s home dining room. At sixteen covers per evening, four evenings per week Artisan provide a special night out to far fewer people per year than probably any restaurant you can find. Their philosophy is sound – this is occasion eating of the highest order and highly recommended.

Set menu: £50 per head

Wines: £22 upwards

Open: Wed – Sat evenings and Sunday lunch on request

Artisan

22 The Weir

Hessle

East Yorkshire

HU13 0RU

Tel: 01482 644906

www.artisanrestaurant.com

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Categories: Restaurant Review, Writing, Yorkshire Post

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