Birthday meals out are fab aren’t they? All the family together, the kids well dressed, well fed and well behaved (mostly). Ditto the parents. It’s one of those occasions when formality (such as it is these days) can be left at the door, because what the heck, it’s someone’s special day, we’re here to have a good time, cut loose and dine like lords. And this is, fittingly, how we came to Sir Dukes in Wetherby.
It’s tucked away on Bank Street, a stone’s throw from the Town Hall, with slick black signage espousing serious intent and an interior which puts one in mind of one of those wood-panelled rooms from the 18th Century which has been painstakingly preserved. Not that there was any wood panelling but the vintage wallpaper and the general look of the place made it feel so.
Sir Dukes’ reputation goes before it. This place is never off face-book, as sundry satisfied customers genuflect to the modern trend of posting pictures of everything they eat on the web for all to see.
Certainly, the menu, which is not overly big, speaks of quality and quiet sophistication and there’s a sense that working behind the scenes are some quite serious, food-focused minds. It’s pricey though. An 8oz fillet steak will set you back about £28, which by way of comparison is about what you’d expect to pay at Gaucho in Leeds city centre and they’ve pretty much achieved steak nirvana. A sharing platter (which we ordered), costs £54.45, with an option to upgrade from rump to fillet for an extra £7.50.
But let’s rewind a little. Because as good as Sir Dukes is (and it is good, make no mistake), I came away with a few minor niggles.
The first of these was that as we waited by the bar for our tables to be made ready (not sure why they weren’t as it was all pre-booked), we ordered some drinks but the service was a little bristly, with questions fired at us minus the eye-contact. “White or red?” “Pinot or sauvignon?” They also completely failed to explain (and therefore sell) the extensive (and impressive) gin list.
Was it brusque or efficient? I couldn’t tell.
We didn’t let it dampen the mood. Our table, being for nine, was right over in the corner but it was lovely and intimate, like having your own private booth. Smiles all round. To be honest, I would have been happy to sit anywhere. Sir Dukes is small but exquisitely wrought.
The kids were having steak and chips and we ordered some bread and olives to keep them happy in the meantime but the bread - toast it was, really - came without butter, which we then asked for. However, this being a steakhouse, they don’t do butter knives, not even when you ask for them it seems. Like I said, minor thing. I can spread butter with a steak knife...
Moving on, I thoroughly enjoyed the salt and pepper crispy squid, which came with a nice, light rice wine and coriander dipping sauce (£5.95), while my other half had the meatballs (£7.70), which were tight little well-seasoned morsels.
But it was the main course I was looking forward to, if I’m honest, and quite literally too, not least because I’d ordered it two days earlier, this being a quirk (apparently) of Sir Dukes. Apparently, for tables of eight or more, all the food has to be pre-ordered.
So one balmy (or was it snowy?) Thursday evening as I was lounging on the couch at home watching Masterchef, I was forced to get the gastronomic crystal ball out to predict what mood I’d be in on Saturday.
It’s understandable, I suppose, given it’s a small restaurant and they want to provide you with the best food possible, which they did.
Our ‘T’Share’ main was the magnificent sounding Debauchery at the Butchery, pictured, which included (sharp intake of breath): 10oz rump steak, garlic and herb roast chicken, four ‘lovesome’ farm lamb chops, Doreen black pudding, wild boar sausages, runny scotch egg, caramelised apple, pickled onion rings, fries, peppercorn sauce and ale mustard.
Couldn’t really fault it, apart from the steak, which I found a tad chewy, as did my partner. I did, however, try a slice of the 8oz Rosemary and garlic Bavette (£15.75), ordered by one other among our part and I have to say it absolutely melted on the tongue.
Pudding: I had creme brulee (£6.95). Delightful, simple, subtle flavours with white chocolate and raspberry and a zingy lemon thyme shortbread biscuit.
My other half went for caramelised fig and frangipane tart with tonka bean ice cream (£6.95). Both were winning dishes - the tonka ice cream: fruity and spicy with lots of floral undertones.
Finally - and this was after ordering coffees and a delightful-sounding espresso Martini (£8) and simultaneously gawping at the price of the kids’ lime cordials (£1.80 a throw - what!?) and looking at the overall total of the bill (£416.10 - fair dos, with two bottles of wine) - the waitress came over and politely informed us they would need the table back in 15 minutes.
Can you believe that? A table grab after spending that much? I dislike table grabs at the best of times but this one grated more than most.
The bill for my partner and I was £120.5, which also included a Moretti (£3.95), a Fat Neil cocktail (which was melon-flavoured, light and refreshing with a satisfying kick at £7.95), a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Rita (£24.95) and a coke at £2.15.
So, we had some minor grumbles but the food, ah, the food is simply to die for. This is a top class restaurant, great if you live locally and, niggles aside, well worth the drive out if you fancy a payday treat.
Address: 6-8 Bank Street, Wetherby, LS22 6NQ
Opening times: Monday-Thursday noon–2pm, 4:30–9pm, Friday noon–2pm, 4:30–9:30pm, Saturday & Sunday noon–9:30pm
Contact 01937 587897