Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Foodie Abroad: Van Zeller, Harrogate

As part of a general week of indolence and indulgence, we took ourselves over to Harrogate for lunch.  Van Zeller's is a restaurant situated in the Montpelier Quarter which is exceptionally pretty, although as we discovered, not particularly great for attracting passing trade.  We had been once before in the evening and D had subsequently received emails from them offering us a special lunchtime offer  of a seven course set menu for £35. This by any stretch of the imagination is incredible value but when it is food of this quality it becomes almost unbelievable.

I often complain about the fact that London (and Londoners) get the best deal when it comes to dining out.  The range and quality of restaurants in the capital just isn't comparable to what one finds elsewhere (and if there is any corner of the country that I've maligned by that comment then I'm sorry, but please do let me know so I can come and eat there).  But then you get a place like Van Zeller's that, apart from us, was stood empty for the entire lunchtime service and you begin to understand that perhaps there just isn't a market for it.  Which is incredibly sad, but there you go.  J Baker's couldn't survive in York, Anthony Flinn didn't make it work in Leeds; I would guess that there is money in all of these places but clearly not an appetite.  Quite literally.

If you find yourself in Harrogate and fancy a fine dining experience then I would definitely commend Van Zeller's to your attention.  There is something Roganish (that's a thing now) about his food in terms of both style and content and it comes as no surprise to discover that Tom van Zeller lists L'Enclume as one of his favourite restaurants.

It's very clever food too.  There were a couple of dishes where the component parts didn't quite work on their own but put it all together and BOOM - perfectly balanced fireworks.

Our particular favourite was the lamb with lettuce, artichoke, mint and ricotta:...


...where the sourness of the artichoke and slightly bitter char on the lettuce were utterly lifted by the sweetness of the other ingredients.  The only problem was that we could have eaten the plate twice over.

I was also extremely struck on the quail with tomatoes, jersey royals and hazelnuts - again such a magical touch with unlikely combinations, and so good to get a tomato that actually tastes of tomato:...


And honourable mention to the doughnut dessert - another brilliant balancing act with sour blackcurrants tangoing with fennel, lemongrass and marscapone, and kudos to anyone who will actually serve up doughnuts for pudding.  There are not enough doughnuts in the world for my liking:...


Standard lunch is £35 for three courses and dinner is £50 for three, although that will include a couple of amuses and little bits thrown in.  D and I have resolved to try and go there as regularly as we can - as I honestly don't think there's anywhere local doing anything quite so lovely at the moment, at least at those prices.  And if that alone is not enough to tempt you to make the trip to Harrogate, remember that you can always have a cup of tea at Betty's when you're finished...

Van Zeller
8 Montpelier Street
01423 508762

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