It’s not usually the done thing to review a restaurant after it’s only been open a few weeks; the staff need time to ‘bed in’ and the menu to have any glitches ironed out.
But we’d heard such good things about the Mill Bar & Bistro in Otley we thought we’d better go along and discover if the gushing reviews were fact or elaborate fiction.
Housed in an old mill - which is not surprising given its name - it takes some finding.
The first time I tried I drove past the entrance to the mill complex half a dozen times until a kindly passer-by directed me to look for the post box and turn in there. Then it was simply a question of following the signs down a cobbled road to the restaurant which overlooks the river Wharfe. It’s a bit out of the way but the location is pleasant enough.
The Mill is owned by the same family who have the Moody Cow steakhouses and the Amalfi Italian restaurant and it’s apparent that the same attention to detail has gone into The Mill as to their other ventures .
The Mill exudes bags of rustic charm.
The 52-seater restaurant is smartly decorated with tables and chairs nicely spaced out.
There are two rooms, one seating around 20, the other 32 and one or other can be booked for a private party if required. The outside dining area has been in great demand these past few weeks; diners can catch a glimpse of the river just over the wall and enjoy a cooling breeze. After complementing our waiter on the decor, she said the owner’s wife was responsible for the interior design.
We booked for a Friday teatime at 6.30pm and we were the only diners there but on enquiring we were told a large party was due later that night with an even larger one booked in the following night.
Other reviewers had commented on how lovely and friendly the staff all were and that was certainly our experience too. Everyone we encountered gave a big smile and a cheery hello and by the time we sat down we were in a really great mood.
Drinks were ordered, menus handed out and the specials board alluded to.
It’s not an overly large menu and it is printed on loose sheets of paper attached to a clipboard- it changes so frequently apparently that this is a far simpler option.
The dishes are a fusion of French and English cuisine that brings together all that is best in both. It’s not fancy and pretentious, just delicious and well presented.
Fish comes from Grimsby, a local butcher supplies the meat and herbs come picked fresh from a garden in Otley: even the ice cream is made in Leeds from completely natural ingredients.
Starters are priced from £5. We learned that some of the most popular dishes are chilli garlic king prawns and confit duck leg while smoked haddock mornay, calves liver and braised beef have proved popular for mains.
There is plenty of choice for vegetarians or anyone with a food intolerance. The specials board changes daily and reflects what is currently in season.
I went with the flow and ordered the chilli garlic king prawns on toasted focaccia (£9) . My companion the nachos (£9). Our waiter warned us the nachos were served as a large portion but neither one of us was prepared for just how large. It would quite happily have served three, never mind one
My prawns were juicy and plump, cooked with garlic and ginger to give a subtle flavour. I then took one for the team and waded into the nachos. They were superb. I’ve had nachos in many different restaurants and I can honestly say these were the best I’ve ever tasted.
They were crispy and tasty and piled high with a gooey mix of melted cheese, salsa, jalapenos, sour cream and guacomole.
Choosing the main course took some time. I opted for Gressingham duck breast (£15) which came with fingers of fondant potatoes, crispy bacon cooked in butter, cabbage and redcurrant jus. It was beautifully displayed and I loved every mouthful although others may have deemed it a little too salty.
My companion went for his usual fix of red meat and decided on the sirloin which came with frilled tomatoes and mushroom and a choice of potato and sauce; just for the record he ordered chips and green peppercorn. His completely empty plate at the end of the night was testaments to his enjoyment.
We didn’t really have room for dessert but I felt duty bound to try the sticky toffee pudding, my all-time favourite sweet dish. It didn’t disappoint and we left The Mill replete and happy.
The final bill of £73 including drinks offered great value for money and it won’t be long before The Mill will be the go-to place in Otley, if that’s not already the case.
Address: Wharfebank Business Park, Ilkley Road, Otley, LS21 3JP
Telephone: 01943 666822
Opening hours: from noon -2.30pm daily then 5-9.30pm (Fri & Sat 10pm); Sunday noon-8pm