The Beehive has been one of the landmarks of Thorner for as long as I can remember. It is - proudly - both a pub and a restaurant.
It even says so on the outside in big letters. Over the years, I think the restaurant side of things has taken on various different guises - English, French... and just under a year ago, it was given an Italian twist and became Con Amici at the Beehive.
At this stage you might be thinking, so far, so humdrum. But Con Amici has achieved something far greater than a mere menu change and a makeover. To list this among run-of-the-mill pub restaurants would be to do it an injustice, because there are pubs with awful restaurants, pubs with mediocre restaurants and there are even pubs with good restaurants. Con Amici is a pub with an exceptional restaurant, as I found out just before Christmas.
We booked online and were the first ones in, the greeting warm and friendly. Owner Massimo (I neglected to get his last name) has, apparently, fallen in love with Yorkshire and ‘the North’ in general, having previously run a restaurant in London. He’s an astute, alert and friendly chap, clearly with an eye for detail but laid back enough to engage in a bit of pre-dinner banter. Bravo. When he takes our order, it’s effortless and done solely from memory, which is impressive considering we were in a group of six.
Fresh baked bread, the kind which is a joy to tear apart, is delivered on a wooden platter, along with small plates for pouring the olive oil and balsamic that’s already on the table... and so we begin dipping.
Starters arrive a short while later and mine is the first to be place and can I just say, quite simply, it’s a work of art. I ordered pan fried east coast mackerel fillet with rhubarb pickles, rhubarb sauce and a light mustard vinaigrette (£6.95) but there was a menu change, so I received roasted mackerel fillet with oven backed cherry tomatoes, peas and lime pure. It was fantastic, from the moment they put it down on the table - the only thing I would change being the tomatoes, which I reckon would have been better warm.
There’s also fritto misto (£7.50), comprising white bait, black tiger prawns, calamari and langoustine, lightly battered in tempura and served with a rich roasted garlic mayo, which is so, so more-ish. The batter on the seafood crisp and wafer thin, letting the ingredients do the talking.
There was also a kids calamrai and kids margherita pizza (both £7.25), which again were a cut above, the pizza made from scratch, as rustic and earthy as you like, while the calamari was so tender, the batter so crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, it was a delight to eat. Often, restaurants will whisk dishes off the table before you’ve finished chewing the last mouthful but here there’s a nice pause between courses and so we chat and admire the decor, which is fresh and clean, the flooring a mix of tiles and carpet. Off-white walls and subtle downlights play well with the earthy wooden lintels and chocolatey comfy seats and chairs, while over on one wall is a grand fireplace, with logs stacked beneath.
Mains come in the form of pork belly (£16.95) for me and altimbocca di vitello (£16.95), while another of our party gambles on the turkey from the festive menu (£11.95), which comes with a neat little tray of sprouts with lardons.
First, the pork belly. Again, it’s 10/10 for presentation, which is why I said at the beginning this is not just your average pub/restaurant. There’s some serious talent in the kitchen, not just turning out well cooked food but with an keen eye for the finer things. Just looking at the plate, if you didn’t know it was going to fall off, you’d seriously consider hanging it on the wall. The belly is tender with a perfectly square crust of crackling on top, served with creamy, sweet potatoes and saffron, giving it a slightly perfumed, almost smokey flavour, all brought together by the most subtle dabs of green apple sauce, which deliver a necessary acid sharpness that just elevates the dish to another level. This isn’t just pub food, it’s knocking on the door of fine dining.
The saltimbocca (ham and sage wrapped Rose Veal escalope with a light marsala sauce and butter baby spinach (£16.95) is divine - it’s a classic Itlain dish done just how it should be. Faultless. Oh, and the turkey gamble paid off too, my guest gushing it was the “best turkey dinner” he’s ever had (and that’s going some).
Is there room to talk about dessert? We ordered apple tart (£6.25) and a calzone dolce (£6.25), a folded banana and nutella pizza, which is so staggeringly good I think it deserves to be immortalised in some sort of dessert hall of fame. Some espressos (£1.75 each) and a macchiato (£2.50) round off what was the perfect night. I said we were the first in. By the time we left, it was heaving. I can’t praise Con Amici enough, the food was faultless, the service effortlessly assured. Highly recommended.
Address: Main Street, Thorner, LS14 3DE
Telephone: 0113 201 7171
Opening hours: Mon 11am-11pm, Tues-Sun noon-11pm (check opening hours over Christmas)