The presentation of a menu speaks volumes about the intention of both chef and restaurant. For me, short and relevant wins over rambling and confused every time; laminated always better suited to a caff and clean should never be an issue.
Michael Carr, chef-patron of the recently opened Restaurant 92 in Harrogate, has this factor well and truly nailed, with a smart grey folder that says serious before even opening it. Within, printed on heavy paper are a comprehensive five starter and six main a la carte; a tasting featuring dishes from the former; and a grill menu. Put together this way, the menu cleverly affords Michael creativity yet still with a tight hold on the kitchen. This smartness comes from a chef who is but 23 years old yet has an illustrious résumé including three years at Claridges under the stewardship of Gordon Ramsay and 18 months at the Westbury.
In true fine-dining style, we nibbled on a tapioca crisp with tiny dollops of taramasalata and cheese gougeres while choosing dinner, which despite the brevity of the menu was no mean feat. We are recommended the free range roasted truffle chicken to serve two (£25). The chicken comes served with lemon and truffle shavings, presented at the table, then carved. Despite rejecting it this time, it does look rather good and is on the list for a future visit should we return.
After raving on about the impressive menu, the bread that arrived before dinner set me off again. Bread again is important as another reflection on quality, which sadly so many still gets wrong. Not so here. The fennel bread was so moreish I had it removed for fear of leaving no room for dinner and dared not touch the sourdough.
If you do not care much for blobs, twizzles, foams and micro garnish, then this is not the restaurant for you. Given Michael’s pedigree, it came as no surprise to find these here in an abundance and done extremely well. Scottish langoustine & braised pig jowl (£12) comes with plenty, and each one adds to this accomplished dish. Likewise with plump Norfolk quail breast (£10) with pumpkin, crunchy hazelnuts and sweet and sour shallots.
We parted company when it came to mains. Vegetarian dishes were not abundant but a pleasantly sounding charred cauliflower steak (£12) with curry and crème fraiche sadly left me wishing I had chosen differently. Without a doubt, roasting a thick slice of the humble cauliflower was clever and the result tasty but with the talent in the kitchen, it was a tad disappointing.
Not so a cutlet and breast of Yorkshire lamb (£18) served with Black Sheep puree, onions and king cabbage, which was the winner of the evening. I did not like the puree; it was too bitter but I stood alone on that one. Across the table he loved it.
I scored with dessert, though. A plate of Yorkshire rhubarb yoghurt and ginger beer (£8) came as multi-coloured blobs of power-packed flavours, Pain d’Epice, slivers of soft rhubarb and a hit of ginger. Not that a chocolate Aero with milk, Horlicks & smoked salt (£8) wasn’t just as good. Sharp chocolate with fluffy milk ice cream with Horlicks pearls was devoured before my eyes and before I managed a taste (always a good sign).
Restaurant 92 is a serious newcomer to both the Harrogate and Yorkshire dining scene and not just for the food and excellent wine list. The decor is stylish yet restrained, with leather benches meeting fancy chandeliers; the tables are simple marble-topped sewing machines (they are not the most comfortable but look good) and tongue and grooved covered walls come in soft oatmeal and caramel colours. There are no tablecloths but beautiful Laguiole knives and copper place mats create a very sophisticated setting. I loved it.
What’s not to like here? Service is professional but still approachable; there is a smart bar next door also owned by 92, which though empty I imagine later in the week is packed out. And, all of this is wrapped together with a superb chef. Restaurant 92 is one of the more exciting openings for some time. I am set to return; I want that roast chicken for sure.
• Restaurant 92, 92-94 Station Parade, Harrogate HG1 1HQ, 01423 503027, restaurant92.co.uk; open Tuesday to Saturday, lunch, 12-3pm, early bird, 6-6.45pm, dinner 6.45pm to close, closed Sunday and Monday.