The monkman cometh

Much to the suprise of the gentleman over at Ilkley-More, yes, Chris Monkman's new wet fish establishment/bistro is indeed called Monkfish. Monkman's reputation, both as ebullient (sometimes oleaginous) host and creator of above-average eateries such as T'Fleece in Dingham gave us all high hopes for the new establishment. First, the conversion of the old lighting shop on Cunliffe Road seems to have included recovered lights, and a rather odd green colour on the wall. The downstairs (always bad for the head) has become the kitchen and the wet fish shop also contains a bar area where six or so people ate on the Sunday we were there. Ilkley has needed a proper supplier of fish for a long time, though Arcade fruits have done a valiant job (and I feel a little sorry for them if this impacts on their business), and Monkfish is definitely at the high end of the market. Having both a shop and a bistro does, however, mean that the front door is open most of the time. I was sitting in a permanent draft. Which was slightly unpleasant. There's about 24-28 covers in the bistro area, which is fairly-very crowded (intimate might be the word their marketing will use), with a bar at the back end. Menus are on the blackboards. Its Sunday and is booked out which shows a) Ilkley is waiting for somewhere nice to eat on Sundays, b) its small and c) Monkman is known to everyone. Indeed, his blown kisses and hellos to everyone walking in begin to grate after a while, but that's my misanthropy speaking. We have initial confusion. There's no moules on the menus, but one couple is eating them. Hmm. Apparently they ordered in advance (we weren't offered the option when booking, but maybe we shold have demanded). There's also no bread on the menu, but bread is brought out to two tables. And, no, it doesn't come with the soup. Hmm, probably made in the now-deceased brick oven as well. Damn. That's the second way in which we (me and t'angel) feel like second class citizens in this eaterie (not a usual feeling for us, I have to say). So, nice range of dishes---four-five starters, the same of mains, plus three or four salads. And, yes, all fish. I order the Fsh Soup, angel the haddock (IIRC). Hers is delicate and light, rather lovely. Mine, well, Provencal Fish Soup it ain't. The fish pieces one would expect to see have been reduced to a very thin mince. Rustic it's not. And it's lukewarm, barely even that. One-all I guess, but most deli's do a better version of the provencal. For mains, I plump for the reasonably priced (£10) fsh and chps, angel for the herring salad. My fish (haddock) is cooked in light batter, not greasy, the peas are interestingly mushed. But the chips have obviously been cooked too quickly at too high a temperature. They're uncooked in the middle, and brown-black on the outside. Obviously trying for the rustic feel, and not succeeding once more. And there are roughly ten of the things. Very measly portion. With angel's dish we come to the real problem. She's made clear that she's allergic to dairy. The (very helpful and efficient) waitress has helped her choose the right dish and no hollandaise appeared on the starter. Half-way through the main she finds one, then two, then another slice of cheese. Hmm. Calling the waitress over, the dish is taken away. On her return, we're told that though there was no cheese in the dish 'officially', the chef hadn't cleaned out the mixing bowl properly. Hmm times two. Waitress deals properly with the event 'I can't apologise's no consolation, but I wanted to explain why it happened.' And, of course, we're not charged. Service overall from the two waitresses working was very good, at least by Ilkley standards. They seem to have gone a cut above the usual sixth formers and to have people who have more than a modicum of training. It was noticeable, however, that having approached our table three times during the first two courses, Mr Monkman himself was noticeable by his absence once the incident had occurred. Too busy greeting his obviously wide circle of acquaintances (yeah, I know, bitterness, but I run a venue, and make sure my bistro manager or myself is out there as soon as we know of a customer problem.) (£25 over all, would have been £32, though only water for drink) So, positive--excellent to have in Ilkley, great starter, helpful and friendly staff, good value. Negative--sloppy service from the kitchen (and potentially dangerous too), lukewarm soup, bad chips, drafts from the door. So, teething problems presumably, but ones needing to be dealt with, and one that simply isn't acceptable. With Monkman concentrating on this, it'll also be interesting to see how The Fleece does. More coverage if we return.

From the Councillor

This was a comment left by Cllr Hawkesworth. While I have criticised and name-called in the past, some things (like our beloved moor) are too important, so I completely endorse all comments. I'm going up there later, had looked forward to spending a few hours on the moor (it being my birthday and all), but, now...
May I please trespass on your hospitality to give visitors to your blog some news about the Moor? Although you cannot see from the town, 30% of Ilkley Moor is burned out and dead. This includes the most ecologically important sites, the best grazing for sheep and a good proportion of the grouse habitat. I am meeting English Nature and DEFRA tomorrow to discuss what I fear will be a long road to recovery. All who love our town and moor must work together to assist this goal. I may not agree with all that is said to me, I may not act on all suggestions put to me, but I do listen. I am very happy to listen now. The only thing I am not interested in is points scoring. We all value the work of our Fire Service, but I must in addition record our grateful thanks to our own Council staff, the employees of neighbouring estates and the farmers for the huge efforts they put in to contain the fire. I am sorry to have taken up so much space.


Someone claiming to be Cllr Hawkesworth has responded to my previous post. What I love is the imputation that I'm holding her commments back because I'm unwilling to listen to criticism. Councillor Hawkesworth accusing someone else of not listening to the public, and not answering questions? I think we have a definition of irony.

While Ilkley Moor burns

...Councillor Hawkesworth plots. It seems that the fires currently 'raging' (and well done Maisie the sheepdog) are just the excuse the power-mad old harridan needs to suggest changing the rules governing access to the moor. Apparently, it being common land simply isn't good enough. These fires show the need to give Bradford Council the right to close down free access. So much for the proposed trust giving control to the 'people' of Ilkley. The Trust will contain the usual great and good, who will use their new powers to close down access whenever they feel like it, or whenever they and their friends fancy something like a bit of shooting. and any excuse will be good enough to concentrate more power in their hands.


Thanks to Fraser for the alcoholic marmalade. Its midday-ish, and I had meant to do some work today. But instead I'll lie in the sun with the cricket on and hazily doze till its time for another slice of bread.