Never judge a book by its cover. One of the first simple sayings I learnt as a child. It was a great playground come back that you could throw at someone even though you weren’t quite sure what it meant. It just sounded winning.
For me the ‘never judge a book by its cover’ has turned into ‘everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about so be kind’. I try to follow this mantra, however hard it may be when you are backstabbed in the workplace, betrayed by a friend or taken for a fool by an upholsterer (Jimmy and I are experiencing just that at this very moment in time).
I’ve thought a lot about first impressions and how important they really are. We have all met that one person, who on first meeting is a complete plonker, but who end up being one of the most gracious, caring and surprising people of our lives. First impressions are paramount. This is true of people, jobs and of course restaurants.
Certainly, it was true this weekend. I fell straight into the judgmental trap when I arrived at The Moorcock Inn yesterday.
Jimmy and I had just spent a wonderful weekend in North Yorkshire. Staying at the Yorke Arms near Pateley Bridge, we hiked the bracing moors with Heathcliff and Cathy. Enjoyed spicy virgin Mary’s in ye olde country pubs and visited the Oldest Sweet Shop in England which was on a cobbled street decorated with bunting. A cardboard cut-out of what the North of England is all about. Celebration, tradition and honest comforts. However, we ended our weekend with lunch at the Moorcock outside Bradford (of all places). Jimmy had read some reviews and so was adamant we go on our way back to London.
We arrived at the car park which was certainly scrappy. Even Jimmy was double checking google maps. Cracked glass doors into the restaurant. All a bit ominous. However, on entry we were greeted by a shelf of delicious smelling sourdough bread, a deep warm mahogany bar with cheers, laughter and jokes from bearded old timers who were enjoying a Sunday pint.
To the right of the pub area was the main restaurant. An inviting unpretentious dining room which had an almost Nordic feel to it (FYI Jimmy and I are going to Copenhagen in early December so more Nordic news to follow!)
I sat down to a menu of mackerel tartare, roast cod steak and wood roasted pear. No meat and no diary. Why? Because Jimmy had briefed the restaurant of my preferred dietary requirements and everything had been accounted for. No muss no fuss. Not only that but it read ‘5 course tasting menu £35’. My instinct was, hmmmm how good is this really going to be?
Everything is foraged, locally sourced and grown most likely out front in the veggie patch by the car park. The menu changes as per what is available that day/week/minute. One element I loved was you could order additional dishes as options. A sort of tasting menu special if you will. One of which was a ‘Crumbed Giant Puffball mushroom with yeast sauce and egg yolk’. We asked the sweet waitress where it came from and she just said ‘oh it was found yesterday in the woods’. This dish was everything I needed to know about this restaurant. Innovative, exciting but simple at the same time. You could taste everything. It reminded me of chicken in breadcrumbs. A household and childhood favourite of mine. The mushroom was meaty and moist, and the breadcrumbs were indulgent, crispy with a hint of lemon. Truly a delight, truly inspiring and took me right back to my childhood in one bite.
Chef Alisdair Brooke-Taylor, an Aussie/Brit who had spent the last 4 years as sous chef at In de Wulf in Belgium is the founder if the establishment. Not only is he the culinary creative visionary but also the in house potter, creating all the ceramics as well which were part of the restaurant’s instant Bilbo Baggins charm. Jimmy and I spent one of the happiest 2 ½ hours of our lives at this place. Enjoying, chatting, savoring, devouring every possible positive ‘ing’ you can imagine, we did. Especially eating.
What I loved most about this restaurant was not only the price because of the price. But the price is specifically important as it showed that exciting, delicious and innovative food is inclusive, not exclusive. It is for all to enjoy. And all should be able to enjoy it. To put it in perspective, The Yorke Arms where we stayed was serving a tasting menu for £110 a head which was a 1/6 as good, 3 times more expensive and 1 Michelin star up. Whilst the Moorcock was – 1 Michelin star, 10 xs as good and 3 xs less expensive. I mean, the math says it all.
I couldn’t really fault this restaurant. Truly I couldn’t. My only gripe with restaurants or menus, I should say, like this is the puddingness of the puddings. You want indulgence, you want gluttony. You want a treat. I was being ‘treated’ as diary free on request, so my pudding was fresh and yummy, but not Bruce Bogtrotter enough for me. It was poached pear with granita. It was good but not thick and naughty.
So, Jimmy shrewdly ordered the Milk Ice cream from the pub menu as an extra.
Now there’s the man I live with! Well done Jimmy. What an extra. It was a thick creamy door stop of yumminess with a sticky toffee pudding parsnip cake on top. Lordie lord, that’s a Sunday treat.
(The crab apple tea served as a palette cleanser was out of this world)
So, leave your judgement at the door or in the car park and go now. I learnt my lesson on the first impression and you will too. It may have no Michelin stars but its a 5 from me.
Rating (0-5) *****