Sunday, 15 August 2010

Surprise Pizza in the Yokshire Dales

The Red Lion at Burnsall is well known locally, both for its picturesque location in the Yorkshire Dales and as a lovely old pub with rooms serving fine food.

We stopped by recently one Saturday afternoon for a beer, having spent a day relaxing with friends by the River, swimming and catching crayfish.

The intention was to sit outside and have a cheeky beer in the late sunshine before heading back to our camp in Appletreewick, but after a couple of pints (the Timothy Taylor's Landlord was on great form) we spotted a pizza menu on the bar and decided to stay for a quick bite to eat. After enquiring with the bar staff we were directed round the back and across the car park to the grounds of the Manor House B&B, where we eventually stumbled across the River Cafe, nestled in the house gardens overlooking the River Wharfe and the hills beyond.

We ordered our food inside, along with a glass of Rose and a couple of bottles of Black Sheep Bitter and sat down at a picnic bench in the beautiful garden. Our drinks were quickly brought out and we happily waited, anticipating our food and enjoying the amazing views of the river and fells. We saw a chef come over from the pub and shortly our food was delivered.

We started with a portion of Dough Balls & Garlic Bread (£2.95 each). The garlic butter was deliciously heady with garlic and the handmade Dough balls rivalled any you can get in Pizza Express. With a crisp crust and doughy interior they were dunked into the pot of garlic butter and devoured; a hit.

Our pizzas promptly followed. We had opted to share a Margherita (the usual mozzarella, tomato & herbs, but with the extra addition of pepperoni - £5.50), a Hot Spicy Beef (minced beef, chorizo, jalapenos, onions, green pepper with Tabasco - £5.95) and a Rusticella (baked then topped with Parma ham, rocket, oven roasted tomatoes and parmesan - £5.95).

The pizza bases were very thin but the toppings generous and spread right to the edge. This meant that whilst not exactly crispy, there was just enough soft dough to carry the tasty toppings into our greedy, gaping mouths! The pizzas were delicious; not at all greasy and nor did they have that duvet-like thickness that often puts me off a badly made takeaway.

The sweet intensity of the tomatoes with the salty ham and peppery rocket on the Rusticella was a particularly memorable combination, but ultimately we couldn't agree or decide which one we liked best.

We are still not sure if it was just because we were slightly squiffy – yes it is possible that we were seduced by the delightful location, sunshine and the surprise and spontaneity of finding great pizza in the Yorkshire Dales - but we all agreed that these were some of the best pizzas we have eaten! Our experience was probably enhanced by the deliciously unexpected nature of our visit and the perfect end to the day but we would definitely recommend this hidden gem for a quick, cheap bite to eat. Well worth a visit - if you can resist the lure of the Red Lion itself, that is.

Dine inside or out, or also available to takeaway, the River Cafe at the Manor House is open for Pizza Friday, Saturday, Sunday and bank holiday Mondays 5.00pm - 9.00pm. Yum!

The Red Lion & Manor House B&B
Burnsall, Near Skipton, North Yorkshire, BD23 6BU

The Fish Shed at Dart's Farm

Darts Farm is a food lover’s haven and being conveniently located just off the M5 near Exeter it makes the perfect stop-off on the way to or from Cornwall. Sadly we were now on our way home but hit Exeter around lunch time, which inevitably meant a short detour for lunch at the Fish Shed at Dart's Farm. It certainly beats the motorway services!

Dart's Farm is a huge farm shop and deli, stocking produce from up to 200 different local food producers. There is also a restaurant which reportedly serves one of the best breakfasts in Devon (although I cannot confirm this) and the Fish Shed, which is both a wet fish shop and a great fish and chippery.

You pick your fish straight from the counter and it is cooked to order – either deep fried in batter or simply grilled. The fish, caught daily off the coast of Exmouth, is incredibly fresh and there is a good variety on offer - from cod and haddock to bream, sea bass and Dover sole. You can even have mussels poached with white wine, garlic and pesto or go the whole hog and order lobster and chips.

There are picnic tables in the outside courtyard and conveniently you can buy a drink to accompany your meal from the deli inside whilst you wait for your order to be cooked, which is exactly what we did.

Dave went for the monkfish which looked amazing, not least because it was served in a very generous portion.

I had battered scallops which made a nice change and although the portion wasn't as large it was very good indeed.

Both the chips and the batter were deliciously crisp and crunchy, fresh and just as good fish and chips should be.

We agreed that both the fish and chips were maybe even marginally better than Rick Stein's and undoubtedly the perfect way to round off our trip!

Darts Farm
Topsham, Nr. Exeter, EX3 0QH

This post forms part of a series about our 2010 gastro camping trip in Cornwall.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

The Greenhouse, St. Keverne

The Greenhouse is a great little find; an unassuming looking place just off the square in St. keverne, hidden away down on the Lizard peninsular. It is a small, village restaurant but with a huge emphasis on local, seasonal and organic produce.

Despite a mix up over the booking, which to be fair I had made 3 months in advance and without a follow up call, we received a warm reception. The chef-proprietors (Neil & Leonie Woodward) did everything they could to make us welcome and found us a table, despite not actually having our reservation and the restaurant already being fully booked.

We settled down with a pint of bottle conditioned Atlanic Gold - an organic beer from the Atlantic micro-brewery in Newquay - to peruse the blackboard menu. It's a small but interesting menu which changes on a weekly, even daily, basis depending on what is available and at its best. Neil describes the cooking as 'modern rustic' and it is epitomised in dishes such as Baked local scallops in their shells with black pudding, Pan fried plaice, local sea bass & monkfish with anchovy vermouth & caper sauce or Slow roast Cornish pork belly, braised puy lentils. They also do a weekly curry night in the winter months and a fish and seafood night every Wednesday throughout the year. Impressively everything from the artisan breads and pastries to ice-creams & sorbets are made on the premises.

The restaurant is informal, small and comfortable, essentially a couple of rooms of a cottage knocked through. It has an open kitchen at the far end and we could see Leonie calmly going about the cooking. Neil did the front of house himself and the service was first-class, despite there being a full dining room; unobtrusive yet prompt, friendly and helpful.

What is more, the food was startlingly good.

For starters I chose the wild rabbit terrine with home made picalli. Moist morsels of rabbit meat were surrounded in a lovely rabbit farce. The picalli was unequivocally the best I have had; lovely chunky crisp veggies in a piquant yellow sauce.

Dave had steamed Gweek mussels with coconut, chilli and coriander. Gweek is a tiny port at the top of the nearby Helford river and the quality of the local mussels was exceptional.

My main course of home smoked haddock croquettes with hollandaise sauce really worked well. The soft croquettes were full of smoky fish flavour, coated in a delicious crispy crumb and served in a pool of delicious hollandasie sauce with a wedge of lemon.

Dave had the Moroccan spiced mackerel with aubergine and yoghurt; a generous portion of two large very fresh mackerel with grilled aubergine and a minted cucumber yogurt sauce.

The main courses were served with Cornish new potatoes and some nicely cooked veg.

I just couldn't resist the tempting cheese menu, but was unable to find room for the full cheese plate. Instead I went for the single cheese option, choosing the Sharpham Rustic from Devon - a young semi-hard unpasteurised cheese with a moist, creamy texture - which was served simply with oatcakes and apple.

The commitment to the use of the best local ingredients is impressive and the quality of the food that is served here is testament to the owners' efforts.

You can even learn to bake bread at the Greenhouse as Neil also runs bread baking courses.

It is very refreshing indeed to stumble across a hidden gem like this. There are no celebrity chef endorsements or overly complicated menus, just simple tasty dishes, well made using the best local ingredients and served with genuine hospitality. We left feeling like we had made a major new discovery and already looking forward to another visit. So shh, keep this little place a secret between just you and me.

The Greenhouse
6, High street St Keverne Helston Cornwall TR12 6NN

This post forms part of a series about our 2010 gastro camping trip in Cornwall.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

The Cook Book

The Cook Book is a great little cafe cum bookshop in St. Just, an ancient mining town in the far west of Cornwall near Land's End. What better means to while away a thoroughly unpleasant wet, windy and misty Sunday afternoon than munching on delicious homemade cakes whilst browsing through the secondhand books!

The cafe serves an all day breakfast, seasonal soups, lunches, cakes and scones and as far as possible source local produce. It is dog and child friendly with cheerful staff and a warm welcoming atmosphere. There are daily newspapers laid out on a communal bar and the place is crammed with an ecletic selection of books - 5,000 or so in three rooms upstairs, spilling down the stairs and in the cafe itself.

Their cream tea is a true Cornish feast – two homemade scones and a saffron bun, served with Rodda’s Cornish Clotted Cream, delicious local Strawberry Jam and a big pot of tea. Saffron buns are a traditional Cornish specialty - rich yeast buns, coloured yellow with fresh saffron and loaded with currants. They are all to scarce these days, so a rare treat indeed.

Disappointingly Dave couldn't manage his saffron bun as well as the two large scones, so he wrapped it up for breakfast next morning!

The Cook Book claims to feed body and mind, it is true but places like this are also good for the soul.

The Cook Book
4 Cape Cornwall Street, St. Just, Cornwall TR19 7JZ

This post forms part of a series about our 2010 gastro camping trip in Cornwall.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Polpeor Cafe

Polpeor Cafe proudly lays claim to being the most southerly cafe in mainland Britain and it enjoys a stunning position perched perilously on the edge of the steep cliffs at Lizard Point, under the flash of the substantial Lighthouse.

The cafe itself is little more than a small cabin with a corrugated roof. It has a traditional, almost retro, vibe; not in the trendy sense but certainly not in a naff way either, you just get a feeling that it is slightly old fashioned yet a very homely and genuine place.

It is open during the day selling all manner of drinks and delicious homemade delights, but during the summer you can also enjoy an early dinner, sitting outside on the back terrace. The no-frills plastic tables and chairs don't detract from the experience in the slightest and with uninterrupted sea views it really is the most perfect location. If you are lucky you may see a rare Cornish chough (a member of the crow family with a distinctive red beak and legs) or even a seal in the water below.

It is BYO so we took along a bottle of Polgoon Aval, which the friendly staff were also happy to chill for us whilst we waited for our food in the evening sunshine.

Dave ordered the Luxury Fish Pie which seemed to be popular and, he declared, for very good reason. Generous chunks of white fish and prawns were covered in sauce and a bubbling golden top of potato.

The steak and kidney pie had tempted me, but being so close to the sea I felt obliged to do it's bounty justice. So I chose the Fish platter and it arrived loaded with white and brown crab meat, prawns, grilled mackerel and sardines, served with a fresh salad and bread and butter. I had also ordered a portion of chips, which I realised was rather greedy when I saw the size of the platter itself!

For desert we shared the cafe's special - homemade Jubilee Meringue with blackberry and apple compote, Cornish ice cream and clotted cream. The meringue was exactly as meringue should be; crunchy yet still chewy and gorgeously gooey in the middle. It was retro heaven.

The food is all cooked fresh to order in a small lean to kitchen and was fabulously good. It's not just about the food though, here everything conspires to make for a very charming experience .

We made the walk back up into the village and stopped for a few beers at the local pub. Given the sign outside it would have been rude not to and after a couple of pints of Skinners Betty Stogs Bitter, I can confirm that we were very happy campers indeed!

Polpeor Cafe
Lizard Point, The Lizard, Helston, Cornwall, TR12 7NU

This post forms part of a series about our 2010 gastro camping trip in Cornwall.