Despite it being a short week with the bank holiday, this week seemed so long. I’m counting down the days until our trip to Dubai (just 4 more to go!) and longing for some relaxation in the sun. To make the wait more bearable we decided to treat ourselves to a tasting menu at The White Rabbit Todmorden with some friends.
The White Rabbit Todmorden
The restaurant is tucked away in the Upper Calder Valley, an hour or so drive from central Manchester. I drove straight from work in South Manchester on a Friday evening, which I thought would be hellish, but surprisingly the traffic was light and the views in the Calder Valley made it enjoyable. The restaurant is next to Todmorden station and trains depart Manchester Victoria regularly and take only 40 mins. If I’d had the choice, I’d have chosen the train like my husband, plus then there’s the added bonus of being able to sample the wine (and/or gin 😉 )
The restaurant, like most of Todmorden, was a quaint stone building. It’s had its fair share of rave reviews recently from Northern based media and is included in The Good Food Guide 2017, which brought it to our attention.
On getting inside at 7.10pm on a Friday I was surprised to find an empty restaurant! (A travesty in my opinion, given the food quality). Todmorden seemed surprisingly spritely for a small town, with revellers regularly passing the restaurant to enter the nearby wetherspoons pub. However, only 2 tables were occupied on the Friday evening we visited!
The White Rabbit is run by husband and wife team Robyn and David Gledhill. Robyn works front of house, whilst David works (alone!) in the kitchen. Robyn greeted me and chatted for a short while whilst waiting for the rest of the table to arrive by train. The inside of the restaurant is small (perhaps 18 covers) and quirkily decorated with Alice in Wonderland references. An eclectic playlist of artists from the last 20 years (think the Kooks, Razorlight and Shania Twain to name a few) gave the restaurant a relaxed vibe. The personal attention given by Robyn and David (who regularly came out of the kitchen to introduce his dishes) made the dining experience an intimate affair, almost as though we’d popped round to a friends (only the friend is offering 7-courses of high quality food!)
Three tasting menus were offered (7-course, 7-course vegetarian and 5-course), as well as an a la carte selection. We opted for the 7-course tasting menu and the gents on the table also had the paired wines (as designated driver I was left without a choice in the matter!).
Our May tasting menu began with ‘squashed oats’; dukka oats with butternut squash and smoked yoghurt.
The oats made this a really comforting dish. The strong smokey flavour of the yoghurt complimented the earthy butternut squash. Great crockery too (I love this dark clay crockery style which seems to be everywhere of late!). We were off to a strong start.
Unfortunately it didn’t last. The entire table was left a little disappointed with the second dish of ‘Beets in the Dales’; beetroot, crisp polenta, Coverdale cheese custard and watercress.
The ‘crisp polenta’ wasn’t crispy at all and was bland. There was a lot of ‘cheese custard’ which was all the same flavour and in my opinion not enough beets to give the dish balance. After this dish we were a little deflated and worried that we could be in for a mundane menu…
We needn’t have been. From here on all the dishes were fabulous.
The third course, entitled ‘Porcus Maximus’ was a meat-eaters delight. A perfectly executed chicken breast and Porcus ham hock terrine, with puffed pork crackling bits (because why not add more pork to pork?!), leek straws and mayonnaise.
This was a well balanced dish. The pork crackling bits, we were informed afterwards, were created using a dehydrator and were fantastic. There was debate on the table whether there should be more or less mayonnaise, but in the scheme of keeping everyone happy it was probably just right!
We were firmly back on track and excited for the next course called ‘Why you bean like that’; King scallop with edamame beans, chorizo and a delightful buttery emulsion. Great balance of flavours. Scallop cooked perfectly.
On to the main, ‘Wild Beef’. A nicely cooked beef fillet, served with wild garlic béarnaise and ‘gruyere choux pastry fries’. The fries are a little difficult to explain, but think thin churros covered in cheese – a winner for the majority of the table. Personally I’m not a big pastry fan, but I appreciated them nonetheless. An imaginative and tasty take on steak and chips!
A bonus palette cleanser course then made its way to the table. Peach on top of some sort of jellied square with a peach schnapps gel beneath. I didn’t care much for it (or the garish green powder on top) but gave mine to my husband who seemed to love it, as did everyone else on the table. Palette cleansed, we were on to desserts.
The first of two desserts was called ’24k magic’; carrot cake, white chocolate & cream cheese with popping gold. Everything about this dish sounded divine and expectations were high. Despite this, our expectations were exceeded.
The carrot cake was moist and flavoursome, the cream cheese comforting and the white chocolate with popping candy… oohh I do love little surprises like that! The whole dish was delightfully moreish and did indeed leave us wanting more! I think we’d have all been happy if the chef opted to serve us another three portions each. A winner all round.
Finally, the second dessert. Called ‘assault on the senses’ it was a salted caramel and milk chocolate mousse with crepe crisp, chocolate soil and honeycomb. This was a good dish to finish on and certainly lived up to its name – the sweetness was an ‘assault on the senses’. The consistency was more panna cotta than ‘mousse’ but it was good regardless. The crepe crisp stood out – it really retained the crepe flavour despite being dehydrated. I liked that there was a large variety of elements and textures on the one dish that all worked with each other.
Overall, we enjoyed an imaginative menu which utilised lots of impressive cooking techniques and delivered great flavours. The guys enjoyed the wine too and it was refreshing to have great, knowledgeable service.
Definitely worth a visit if you’re from Manchester or Leeds!