On a map of Great Britain the town of Beverley in East Yorkshire looks a lot closer than the two-and-a-half hours it actually is from Newcastle. We had no plans to be in Beverley, little idea it existed, until I saw a tweet from owner James Alcock bemoaning a lack of bookings for his restaurant, The Pig & Whistle. Now because I’m a good guy, a really good fucking guy – arguably the best guy – I suggested we go given it doesn’t look that far out of the way home. So we did. We booked and went for lunch. It’s what the best guy and his girlfriend do.
Two and a half hours later and we’re trying to park in Beverley. It’s a beautifully gothic market town with the worst kind of parking bastards. The kind that drive around car parks the wrong way and steal spots as quickly as wives with the same kind of practiced looks of innocence. We walk the few hundred metres to the restaurant and James is there to shake my hand and say hello. His space is small and perfectly formed, full of hard wood and low lights. We could be in Spain. Literally could be in Spain given we could have flown there quicker from Newcastle.
It’s all nice. Really nice in that way a neighbourhood restaurant should be. You can see they care and know what they are doing. A gilda comes in one of those emptied anchovy tins that Brindisa charge a fortune for when full. The Gordial olive is impeccably sourced, with the anchovy packaging the pickled chilli. There’s a cornichon which I’ve not seen in Basque before that works and if you think I’ve dedicated too much time here to a Gilda you’ll be correct. I just really like them.
And that sets the tone for the meal; traditional Spanish food with their own twist when they feel it will benefit the eating. Sometimes it’s simple refinement like the emulsified mojo sauce that comes with the breaded nuggets of ox cheek, other times it the plentiful addition of fennel seeds in the chickpea stew that are a welcome aromatic note to the briney, iron flavours. There is a venison and pork meatball I’m not crazy on but I can’t figure out why.
And then there’s the dishes they don’t mess with. Padron peppers, heavily salted and smooched with the finest olive oil, and potato bravas, crisp, with more of that mojo and an aioli that properly spanked of garlic. One big glass of wine, one small glass of wine, a couple of canned negronis to drink back in Brum, and a bill of £70. Bargain. The drive home was a nightmare.
Now here’s the reality. The food at The Pig & Whistle is lovely, as are the staff. They should be full every night from local trade trade, not reliant on some fat lad from Birmingham who is almost passing on the way back from his holiday. These are the very places that hospitality needs; honest, affordable, and friendly. I’ve told him to call me if he ever wants to come to Birmingham, but for now I’d make that detour again. It’s what the fucking good guys do.
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