When chef John Robinson told us he had ditched his à la carte in place of a no choice, tasting menu, my heart sank. I’ve just about had it with square plate after square plate of tiny morsels, sprinkled with Liliputian veg., smeared with skidmarks and showered with pea shoots or whatever the current fad is. After sampling four brilliant courses for just 25 quid (nine courses for £50 at weekends) we reckon Whites is the exception that makes the rule.
The decor is low key: wood floor, glass art, fairy lights, bare tables, linen napkins. But the food soars: superb ingredients, simply prepared, pared down, held back and – glory be – actually assembled by the chef so you don’t have to chase the dots and dabs around the plate. JR is much influenced, I feel sure, by two years at Winteringham Fields under the great Annie and Germain Schwab. He’s certainly absorbed the prime lesson of fantastic tasting food. It must be four or five years since I last ate here – it was good then – but the improvement since is off the scale. This guy, working solo in midweek, is one of Yorkshire’s best chefs. Fact.
So what did we eat? Appetizers of crisp little croquettes, choux buns, a tiny button of jellied crab something. Excellent bread of buttermilk white, treacle soda and freshly churned butter. Churned that evening, they said.
The surprise menu launched with a cracking risotto of barley with brown shrimps and smoked eel. Don’t knock smoked eel ‘til you’ve tasted its wonderful smokiness. Fabulous. Sea bass came with sea vegetables, pureed cauliflower, langoustine foam and caviar. Foam, I know, but this one did taste of langoustine.
The 36-hour, rare breed lamb, sourced from the lovely people at Taste Tradition was also excellent. Tender, tasty, homely, comforting. It came with a few char grilled onions and that was it. No veg, no nothing, just a gorgeous plate of protein. If, by the way you’re veggie or have dietary preferences, say when booking and chef will accommodate.
Pudding was chocolate and red wine delice, – an intense hit of chocolate with melt in the mouth crumbs of ‘chocolate snow’ and a small but perfectly formed panna cotta infused with hay – yes, hay. In a good way, it tasted of a newly mown lawn!
The wine list begins at £19 and has some interesting selections and sensible tasting notes. If you want a quibble, it’s that the surprise, no choice menu is kept under wraps throughout so if you want to know which wine to choose, well it’s a bit tough luck.
The menu changes daily so if you want to stop over in Beverley and sample four more courses of Robinson’s finest, then collapse into one of their four lovely bedrooms.