Vaulting ambition

Ate at Ilkley Moor Vaults on SUnday. After one local contact said they had 'the best chips in Wharfedale'. Praise indeed. No chips are being served on Sundays though. Haven't been since the re-fit. The old urine-stinking bar seems to have been replaced by a lovely stone real ale parlour, and the upstairs Mr Q's by a London gastro pub. Great service, very helpful, excellently kept beer, and (according to she who knows such things) lamb to kill for. I had a sort of mess of puy lentils, courgettes and goats' cheese which possibly wasn't to everyone's taste, but made a very nice alternative to rissotto. Dealt with food queries very well. Only downside was a lengthy wait for the mains. Which, given they only had ten or so people in, was a little surprising. However, we will be re-visiting very soon. REcommended, seriously hope the new owners make a go of it.

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 enough...it'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.

Bla-uuurgggh

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.

More food

Well, after everywhere shutting down together, loads of places are now opening up. Rumours of Pizza Express in the station, and a restaurant advertising for a chef de partie in the paper today, a new venture, specialising in East Asian cuisine.' Surely not another curry house? Nobu opening up north?

The race Pt.2

Well, the new Tubby's is now open, and the boys are working hard on the new Mossop's. A new bar at the latter, and ready to go for the 11th they reckon. Have to admit, I had no memory of the whopping stone fireplace in the redundant Steps, but maybe I was tooo busy complaining last time I was there. Meanwhile the new Tubby's features a menu which appears to be from a 70s theme bar. When was the last time coq au vin appeared on a menu? Still, given the average age of the Ilkley population, it may not be that silly a move.

The race is on

With the ex-Tubby's boys having bought the old Steps to set up Willy Mossop's (they get the keys on Monday) and the new Tubby's owners being in over the road, clearing up those rotting oranges (a nice leaving present from Robin) , the race is on to see who will open first. And who will still be here in a year's time. Good luck to both, Ilkley needs a strong restaurant quarter to enable the less scrupled estate agents (Mr Thornton, I'm trying to avoid looking at you) to add loads of money to the prices of local flats. Or, indeed, just to sell them.

So farewell

...to Tubby's. The last night was very emotional, lots of hugs from Robin and the staff, lots of insults flying. And, contrary to my previous claims, it is already sold for the full asking price. Thanks for the many memories, and for being the first place/people to make us truly welcome in Ilkley. ...and also to Steps. I've never been a fan, but for the main man to lose his restaurant because a business 'partner' in another venture ran off with the cash, leaving both businesses broke, is, well, not very nice to say the least. The place has already been stripped, and is on the market for considerably less than the Tubster's. We know two young(ish) gentlemen who might hopefully be interested.

Sad news

My home from home, Tubby Wadlow's, is to close on xmas Eve. The owner, Luther (whose money comes from careful marriage), has decided to sell up. It's been on the cards for much of this year, with Robin and Toby looking to buy him out (basically a matter of fixtures n fittings and goodwill as it's them that have built the revenue). When the offered price came in at £130,000 (remember this doesn't include the property itself), he was informed it was not going to be met. So farewell to the best of Ilkley's bistros, a venue for many happy after-hours drinking sessions, much cynical abuse from the bar staff, etc., etc. It'll be on the market next year sometime, so might be resurrected. Whether Luther'll get the 130K is rather more doubtful in the current climate. But, then, as I say, he didn't make his money himself, so his business knowledge is a bit limited.