I have only been to this establishment once before and that must be a good 9 years ago for an office Christmas party. I don’t remember much about the place at all (and that’s not due to any antics that may have taken place that night I hasten to add!), so tonight’s visit was a ‘clean sheet of paper’ so to speak. Unfortunately my photos aren’t that good (for which I apologise) as I forgot to take along my ‘proper’ camera and had to resort to that on my iPhone but hopefully they’ll give you enough of an idea.
The restaurant is situated in the redeveloped Deanclough Mill in Halifax. You could miss it if you didn’t know it was there as it’s not in plain view on the high street but tucked away in a corner of the Mill complex adjacent to the Viaduct Café.
It has a very modern feel to it with brightly coloured pictures on the walls in the reception area and white sofas.
The restaurant is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and currently boasts two AA Rosettes with an aim to achieve three. (I’ve had to educate myself on what these AA rosettes mean as I’m more familiar with that of the Michelin stars. I’ll leave you, dear reader, to click on the links for the detail.)
We are seated in the lounge area to examine the menu having been brought our drinks order and some olives to nibble on. Interestingly, these are marinated in orange-flavoured olive oil (the orange segments had been left in the oil); it worked well.
There are three menus to choose from: a tasting menu; a set menu to choose 2 or 3 courses; or the à la carte. We both decide on choices from the à la carte, mine all selected from the vegetarian options, and sit back to enjoy each other’s company and catch up on the past months’ news.
Before long, we are invited into the main restaurant area. Our table for two is small, white and neatly laid out. The table is lit by a solo tea light and from lighting falling discreetly from behind some shades inset in the adjacent wall. The restaurant is not full but there is the gentle murmur of other diners as evidence.
Our waiter (and all the serving staff for that matter) is eager, ever smiling and enthusiastic throughout the evening. He is knowledgeable about the food that is presented from the kitchen and willing to spend the time to explain things in more detail for my inquisitive mind.
First up is an amuse bouche: celeriac velouté with cream cheese two ways: (1) coated in charcoal dust (2) rolled in nuts; pickled celeriac also two ways: (1) a mini rolled up version and (2) some just chopped up in little cubes.
We are left to pour the velouté into the bowl with the cheese and pickles.
The flavours are great with the creaminess of the cheese and the tartness of the pickle working really well with yet more creaminess of the velouté. I was a bit reticent about the ‘charcoal dust’ – a bit ‘off the wall’ I think.
We had also been provided with some bread rolls and butter which were very useful in mopping up the left over velouté lining my bowl.
My starter: Peppers, feta, couscous and artichokes.
What a lovely looking dish it was and it tasted great. The presentation was delightful and almost a shame to have to destroy it! The sweetness of the peppers with the feta was always going to work. I wasn’t expecting the couscous to come like a mini fishcake though! I couldn’t have guessed at its couscous content at a blind tasting I have to admit.
My main: parsnip, mulled wine pear, grapes & stilton.
When this dish arrived, I could hardly believe this was a main course. Half a parsnip with a bit of decoration?! I had been saving myself all day for the anticipated feast so was nothing short of famished by this stage. I couldn’t conceal my disappointment. If it hadn’t been for the sides of greens & roasted new potatoes I would have been left seriously wanting. I did provide feedback on this and was told the kitchen had thought the same when the dish was put together – remarkable I thought that it wasn’t corrected before appearing at the table.
That said, the flavours were all great and I do so love parsnip.
And so onto dessert: I settled almost immediately on the rhubarb. Being Yorkshire’s forced rhubarb season, it seemed it couldn’t be anything else.
The dish was beautifully presented and the flavours and textures were all great. There were two takes on rhubarb itself with a scoop of goat’s milk ice cream in the middle. I wasn’t sure what goat’s milk ice cream would be like. I had imagined it would taste of goat’s cheese I guess. But it was nothing of the sort. The flavour was very delicate. It wasn’t terribly creamy and seemed more like frozen yoghurt in texture. The two rhubarb creations were interesting and hard to describe. The one on the left in the photo was like a very fruity jelly containing chunks of rhubarb which was nicely tart.
That on the right was a soft strip of rhubarb (poached maybe?) surrounded by sponge and then covered in a layer of marzipan. It was nice although I gave most, if not all, of my marzipan to my fellow diner as it’s a favourite and for me proved too sweet and overpowering.
I still had room for coffee and petit fours (not surprising after my comments above!) and I am glad I had decided to do so when it came to the petit fours in particular. It was the strangest concoction and presentation of items I had ever seen. It was described to us by our genial waiter as: chocolate soil (soil?) with hidden chocolate bits in it, edible flowers, caramelised carrots and mint chocolate truffles.
We were given a teaspoon to eat what was effectively chocolate crumbs of some sort. I really didn’t enjoy any of it much. The carrots were more cold, cooked vegetable than a sticky, candied sweet and certainly didn’t go with my coffee. The chocolate crumbs were nondescript. The chocolate truffles were about the only reasonable thing I could recognise and taste.
It was at this point I thought that this restaurant was perhaps trying too hard to be alternative and, for me, it didn’t really work. We were confidently told that the AA Rosette people had been to inspect the restaurant and 9 out of the 15 dishes were already of the 3 Rosette quality they are aspiring to. All well and good I would say, but for me, it was all just a bit too poncey in the end. Please don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice restaurant if you like this kind of thing and the quality of the food generally good (just not very much of it). I guess I just don’t like that much art …
Before posting this review, I happened to have discussed my experience with two other friends separately and without divulging the above thoughts, their comments both corroborated my verdict.Design House Restaurant Dean Clough Arts & Business Centre Halifax HX3 5AX Telephone: 01422 383242 Twitter: @DesignHouseRest Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Design-House-Restaurant/186722041362337 http://www.designhouserestaurant.co.uk/