One of Leeds' most prominent chefs has taken over a pub in Thorner and launched his new restaurant concept. We sent food critic Elaine Lemm to review the experience.
by Elaine Lemm
I don’t watch MasterChef; the format bores the pants off me. If that is tantamount to treason from a food critic and former chef, I apologise. So, no I didn’t watch Leeds-born chef Matt Healy’s runner-up honour in 2016 or Marcus Wearing eulogising about his sauce. I know though that Matt has merit. He worked with Simon Shaw, one of my favourite chefs and owner of the fabulous El Gato in Manchester (opening in Leeds soon).
There has been much talk of his success at Matt Healy x The Foundry, in the South Bank area, and Grön Kafe in Oakwood, both opened in the past year.
Now he has added a third venue to his portfolio, taking over the Beehive pub in the desirable village of Thorner, north of Leeds. With a £180,000 refurbishment, the Beehive X reopened last month and I was a little bit excited to try his food and see what all the hype is.
We came in at the back down some slightly grubby steps from the car park and thereby missed the gloriously colourful murals in the entrance. It was easy to see where the money has gone here - it’s a smart refit, quirky but not flash. There’s a dark snug area and lots of brick and industrialisation around the bar. Beehive motifs are everywhere, and there are two airy dining rooms with great seating.
There’s a crowd around the bar, which bumps up to the kitchen, impeding the staff, and as we tried in vain to order a drink, more than once they asked us to move. Suddenly we were handed menus and whisked off to our table. It all seemed slightly frenzied and not very friendly; I will not bore you with all the details, but things did not go well.
One drink arrived and eventually after 30 minutes, I reminded them we still did not have the other nor ordered any food. Another 30 minutes for food to arrive and another 30-minute wait between courses.
It gave us time to watch the few staff in place struggling to cope and also dwell on the cigarette smoke drifting in through the open window (who puts a smoking area under a dining room window?) and other mishaps.
But what of the food? When it does arrive, for the most part, it is good. In neon lights above the pass, Matt claims “nowt fancy”, his maxim for the Beehive and it isn’t, but that doesn’t mean it is predictable.
Yes, there’s fish and chips and a pie, but I enjoyed delicious hot, crispy salt cod croquettes; the Bloody Mary aioli seems to have slipped past both the vodka and the garlic though.
Potted duck is tender and pulls apart easily, but needs more seasoning to bring out the flavour. The toast on the side is hard and dry so even had there been a little butter it would not have changed anything.
The signature Beehive burger comes with chorizo and onion relish and is a beast-sized dish with excellent meat and enjoyed across the table. The accompanying fries would have been delicious had they come straight from the fryer, not from under hot lights.
Vegetarians don’t get much choice here (a couple of starters and one main), but a Portobello mushroom wellington seemed promising. When it comes, it is in fact a pithivier (a posh round French pasty-like dish). Whatever name it goes by, it had lovely crisp, golden pastry and the mushroom filled it nicely both in its size and flavour, but I couldn’t help feeling it was missing something - imagination.
I decided as there was much more that could be done to make this exciting; some of that famous Healy sauce, perhaps? French peas had gone the same way as the earlier fries and sadly lacked the vibrancy of petits pois à la Française, on which they are based. Not one to be deterred, the husband finished with a light, delicious lemon syllabub with lovely crunched up amaretti on top.
There is so much to like here, and Matt’s food certainly promises in spades but for whatever reason does not deliver 100 per cent, with far too many niggles to ignore. Maybe it was too soon to go, or that they hadn’t settled down yet?
We left £70 lighter for nowt but fancy pub food so that really should not be the case, as we are not paying to be their guinea pigs. I hope they pull it together. The Beehive shows great promise, and they could start that by sweeping those back steps.
■ The Beehive X, 83 Main Street, Thorner, Leeds LS14 3DE, telephone 0113 289 3555. Food times: Tuesday to Saturday, lunch 12-3pm, dinner 5-9pm. The bar is open longer.