It felt like for a time we'd all had our fill of taster menus. Manchester's somewhat uneasy relationship with fine dining never seems to sit right with too many airs, graces or patience. Leave it to a pair of Yorkshire folk to nail the format then, with eight courses of brilliant food, without any dust, foam or dry ice in sight.
The White Rabbit in Todmorden is the inspiration of chefs Robyn and David Gledhill, a couple who love cooking and certainly don’t take it all too seriously. They’ve created a cute little place that’s earning rave reviews for modern British fare of real quality, so last week we hopped on a train to the valleys and went down in to the rabbit hole.
A previous attempt to visit had been curtailed by the Beast from the East, and as luck would have it snow began to fall again on the morning of our second attempt, thankfully this time we made it. A warm welcome required then, and it was duly delivered with our first dish. A soothing veloute of white onion and freshly baked fried onion roll, velvety smooth and richly creamy in equal measures.
A pretty, poppy seed-showered salad of radish, roast honey beetroot and whipped feta followed. The sweet crisp veg played perfectly with that smooth, slightly citrusy sheeps cheese. Whipped fromage seems to be having a bit of moment right now, they’ve even started adding the stuff to ice tea in some quarters. I’m yet to be convinced, but in the mean time more than happy to have it on a plate.
Another ingredient that’s been given a new lease of life of late is the humble cauliflower. Rebranded as a vegan steak-replacement-service, the overlooked vegetable’s virtues have really come to the fore- our next dish made the best of it. Crisp steaming bhaji florets with fragments of pickled cauliflower, the bite and bitterness of mustard seeds and a vadouvan spiced mayonnaise all combine to create what could just be the perfect pub snack. Something like a deconstructed then deep fried piccalilli, moreish and gratifying in equal measures.
One thing that’s often missing from the more clinical fine dining experiences of meticulous cookery is something to sniff, or just the presence of some real appealing aromas. Not so here. Heavenly, heavily truffled celeriac somehow managed to grab my attention, for a moment at least, from the perfectly seared scallop on top. Sweetheart cabbage doing its best crispy seaweed impression finished the job on a really accomplished and well constructed thing.
Speaking of tempting whiffs, the homely hum of ragu and pecorino cheese came after. Luscious gnocchi added substance to the slowly disintegrated pulled beef sauce. Definitely one of those “kindly come back with the whole pan now” kind of dishes.
It goes without saying, the crescendo moment you patiently wait for during a taster menu is that big lump of meat before your pudding- this venison didn’t let the side down. A perfectly pink fillet surrounded by the earthy autumnal flavours of wild mushrooms and salsify puree, plus of course a bit of gravy- this is Yorkshire after all. The bouncy fruit of a versatile Sicilian Nero D’Avola had kept us well oiled throughout the meal, but it really shone against that delicious backdrop.
I made a pilgrimage to Wakefield last month for the Rhubarb Festival, an annual celebration of one of God’s own county’s lesser known culinary contributions to the world. You can have rhubarb in pork pies, pints and harder stuff too- but let’s be honest it works best covered in custard. We were advised to eat this deliciously dainty rhubarb and custard tartlet whole due to the precarious garnish of gingerbread crust. Neither of us did, but it’s always fun to make a mess eh?
A slab of chocolate is always a solid way to end things in my book. The lighter-than-it-looked pave mousse was accompanied by sharp winter berries and a sharper sprinkling of sherbet. Supple gel beads of Elysium black muscat added rounded texture, and a glass of the delightful dessert wine finished us off.
The White Rabbit
White Hart Fold
West Yorkshire, OL14 7BD
01706 817 828