If you’re going out for lunch tomorrow, bear in mind the good people preparing it are likely to have one eye in the latest ‘Where To Get A Decent Tea’ guide as they are on your scran.
Granted, the Michelin tome doesn’t float everybody’s culinary boat – and the increase of quality elbows-on-tables/sauce-in-beard gaffs can only be a good thing – but sometimes it’s nice to release the inner posho and eat somewhere with proper cutlery.
They’re likely to give the guide a good thumbing over the pass at van Zeller; a place that ticks all the sparkly boxes without getting too far up its own jacksy. Precision cooking with creative flourishes; a welcoming and well-informed front of house team; nicely furnished bogs. Affirmative all.
There’s also a no-messing wine list that moves through the gears at quite the pace: from £20 to the best part of a grand in about 7 seconds flat by my reckoning. The thriftier end of the scale, we can vouch, has been well thought through, in case you’ve blown half your budget on a slice of toast at Betty’s round the corner.
You can get involved in some big bucks taster menu action if you want, or, if you sign up on the VZ website there are monthly deals with which to get jiggy, (a £17.50 set menu including cocktail on this visit,) but we go for the 35 quid-a-pop a la carte lunch and get knee-deep in 3 courses of bold flavoured fodder.
Proceedings kick off with a pea and feta amuse; a zippy reminder that summer did happen; and some classy bread (rye and beer, garlic and montgomery cheese) that they welcomingly bring round twice; a fine demonstration that not all Yorkshire folk are tight.
Whoever smoke-cured the eel did so like they meant business, and fair play to ‘em. It packs a punch without tipping into overkill. Cucumber and apple ‘stuff’ (there’s a bit of whizzbangery gel/snow action going on here, of course) and toppy chervil do their green bit to balance the fish out.
Quail came with tomatoes of the quality that TV chefs, groping and slavering over supposed superior specimens from sunnier climes, say you can’t get in this country. But these were as ripe and greenhousey as they come. Plus they’re ‘heirloom’, which sounds fancy.
Lamb – sweet and tender, and hare – hints of offal and outdoors, are cooked on the money.
Save yourself the arseache with that broccoli ‘custard’ that comes with the lamb though, chef. There’s nowt wrong with it per se but in essence you’ve taken a piece of the green stuff, put it through a few processes and ended up with a bit of something that tastes like, well, broccoli. The reduced-reduced-reduction is, however, plate-lickingly ace.
Sharp greengage, crunchy hazelnuts, and a couple of deeply-flavoured faggots are a spot-on match for the gamey hare, and make for a robust but sophisticated number.
There was dessert but by this point we were hanging one on a bit (soz front of house and pastry chef, and ta for not booting us out) and memory proves stubbornly blurry.
Looks good though, eh?
Star or no star, hats off for some satisfyingly fancypants stuff.