We received a plaintive email last week from Vennell’s in Masham asking what they needed to do to get into Squidbeak, adding: ‘We’ll do anything’.
We are flattered by the compliment, and may even take them up on the ‘anything’ bit but the truth is they need do nothing at all. We’re delighted to review them because we rate them and because we’d promised to do so after their big refurb last year and it just slipped down our growing ‘to do’ list. So apologies to Jon and Laura Vennell, and thanks for reminding us.
The refurbishment was timely. We’ve long had a soft spot for its cooking going back to its days as Floodlite but the place itself had begun to feel dated and suburban. Then they brought in the designers (the same Bedale firm that did up Cedar Court Grand in York) and what a plush job they made of it: bold lamps and mirrors, statement wallpaper, moving the bar upstairs – all of which transformed it into a smart, modern restaurant.
The food hasn’t changed. It is as good as ever it was. Four starters and four mains provide enough of a choice when the kitchen is as skilled as this. The summer menu offers air dried ham and pea mousse; mackerel with celeriac; poached salmon and lemon jelly and tomato and Parmesan tart. At mains there’s steak, sea bream and rack of lamb and Vennell’s signature of slow cooked pork served with chick peas, pak choi and gooseberries.
There are seasonal celebrations like their July lobster festival when they shift 200 lobsters and the 100 grouse they send out during their grouse week at the end of August.
Puddings are spot-on, too: warm chocolate fondant with salted caramel ice cream or iced lemon parfait, strawberry sundae or a plate of Yorkshire cheeses.
It’s all good, precise and skilled cooking, stylish without getting too fancy or overwrought. And Masham’s glorious market square never looks better than late at night emerging, thoroughly well fed and watered, from Vennell’s.