Sunday, 13 February 2011

Crab and Lobster, Asenby, North Yorkshire

Today I met up with my sister and future brother-in-law for a long, leisurely lunch. We went to The Crab and Lobster, a North Yorkshire restaurant (it possibly just about classes as a pub, it does have a bar) specialising in seafood. I hadn't been there before, but had heard of it. It's been around for years and has become a bit of a Yorkshire institution with a good reputation.

Not normally a strong point of mine as I tend to focus on my food rather than the surroundings, but first a note on the decor. This place is eccentric to say the least. The main dining areas are kitted out in a sort of nautical theme, with fishing nets adorning the ceilings and even an entire vintage diving suit in situ. Some parts seem to veer off from this into a sort of 1920's opium den or speakeasy sort of vibe, with chinese patterned screens, hats and musical instruments adorning shelves and walls. The gents toilets win the prize for most bonkers of all, being entirely kitted out with photo's and paintings of Marilyn Monroe accompanied by actual real-life bra's and knickers hanging from the walls. Not sexy ones either, just plain white cotton smalls. All in all I rather liked it, mad but suggesting a place that doesn't take itself too seriously. Sometimes more upmarket, rural pub restaurants can be a bit po-faced. Not the Crab and Lobster.

Back to the food. The original intention was to order from the set menu (£18 for three courses) but it turns out that Sunday is the only day they don't serve this on, so a la carte it was. The menu is a mixture of classic dishes (fish soup, lobster thermidor, steak and chips etc) and some more ambitious sounding stuff (Grilled Fresh Local Halibut, Cauliflower & Almond Puree, Tomato, Asparagus Seared King Scallops, Lobster Bisque sounded good). I chose the fish soup, followed by fish and chips.

Pints or halves of well kept Best Bitter from local brewery Nick Stafford's Hambleton Ales went down nicely while we were waiting. The bread basket promptly arrived, and was excellent. Three different breads, one granary, one white with a cheese crust, and one dark with walnuts. The dark bread was my favourite, almost like a very nutty malt loaf. The accompanying butter was unsalted and creamy.

The fish soup was served the classic french way, with croutes, rouille, and Gruyere cheese. It was a delight to eat, the rich red soup having a good stock base and being chock full of salmon, mussels, prawns and scallops. The addition of all the cheese and rouille made it very rich, and a struggle to finish, but I just about managed it with strings of cheese dribbling down my chin. My sister's mussels (in a cream sauce with bacon and cabbage) were also noteworthy. Good plump specimens, not at all gritty.

After the fish soup, my main course was a little bit disappointing (probably also a poor choice after such a substantial starter). The fish was a good chunky fillet of haddock cooked just right, but the batter was too thick and rather stodgy. The mushy peas were dry and claggy, and would have been fine if let down a bit. The chips however, were excellent with very crisp exteriors and soft fluffy centres. The tartare sauce was also very nice.

Having ordered such substantial starters and mains, there was little room left for pudding so we ordered one to share between the three of us, a lemon meringue pie with raspberries. They were back on the top form of the starters with this, it was very, very good. Perfect balance of sweetness and tartness between the lemon filling and the meringue, and the pastry case was light and buttery. The raspberries on the side were more than just garnish, having the strongest, deep, tart raspberry flavour of any I can recall eating. No mean feat in February, I think they must have been macerated in some sort of raspberry syrup or liqueur.

In summary I liked this place a lot, on the whole it was very good. The fish soup was a particular highlight. It's expensive, 3 courses with service but no booze will set you back about thirty quid, but the set menu at £18 would represent great value. To add to the fun on a Sunday you get serenaded by a man with a banjo in a technicolour suit, who goes by the name of Richard Muttonchops, ably accompanied by his mate on sax. Apparently they play free jazz. Told you it was bonkers.


Crab & Lobster
Dishforth Road
North Yorkshire

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