Restaurant Review: Alexander's In Skipton
Steve Whitaker, Literary Correspondent
The 2.7 million pound refurbishment which transformed an otherwise nondescript building at the top of Skipton’s High Street looks to have been an unmitigated success in the twelve months since Alexander’s opened its doors to a Pavlovian public.
Since the brave but perspicacious makeover, the interior is nothing if not eclectic in taste. A friend of mine described the entrance as ‘cruise ship decadent’, which seems to me to nail it precisely: oceans of polished brass, glass and pristine woodwork with a gleaming centrepiece bar, which was, crucially, full.
We were greeted by a thorough, organised and incredibly courteous maître d’ called Catherine, into a space thronged with cocktail drinkers welcoming in the weekend’s (it was Friday evening) easy ambience.
Declining the offer of a pre-prandial drink, we were led to our table looking out through floor-to-ceiling windows over a splendidly floral patio area for alfresco seasonal dining. It was similarly busy, with people enjoying the sun’s last knockings whilst peering out over Skipton’s hinterland.
A gratifyingly uncluttered menu with an emphasis on ‘sharing’ platters immediately appealed. Every last taste base is covered whilst avoiding the clear pitfalls of excessive choice, for both diners and chefs. My partner opted for the whisky glazed chicken wings starter, served with a light salad and toothsome rhubarb brown sauce dip. The sticky and counter-intuitively plump wings rendered the accompanying red cabbage slaw astonishing by contrast.
And there was plenty for two, which I discovered whilst taking a break from excavating my Globe artichoke. I chose this recalcitrant dish on the basis that I hadn’t previously, and was surprised to find an aesthetically-appealing floral arrangement that would have been equally at home on a lily pad in a pond, as on a plate. But this was a voyage of discovery: a paring back of the vegetable’s outer layers revealed the succulent heart whose flavourful and thick leaves were asking to be dipped into the accompanying collingham lemon oil vinaigrette. Parfait, as the French say.
A well-judged fifteen minutes between courses yielded a satisfying emptiness, in preparation for the onslaught of the main dish – a garlic and rosemary slow-cooked shoulder of lamb, presented at the heart of a sharing platter, and surrounded by perfectly roasted Chantenay carrots, potatoes and wilted spinach. The rich, olive-infused salsa verde added to a concatenation which threatened to render the pot of thick, incredibly meaty, gravy redundant. Though not quite. The result was a skilled balancing act of flavours presented in the form of a taste detonation.
Good to see locally-sourced lamb on the menu, and nice also to find high quality local(ish) beer as an accompaniment. We’d decided to give wine a miss this evening and opted for draught ale – the emergence of beers as flavoursome adjuncts to dining is a relatively new notion, and I found a harmonious conjunction in Magic Rock of Huddersfield’s ‘Inhaler’, whose heavily scented fruitiness offered a clean and fresh palate cleanser.
I was obliged to have two further schooners, for research purposes obviously, all served by the delightful Harriet whose cheerful friendliness and effortless good humour throughout would be an invaluable asset to any restaurant.
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Gorgeously rich and smooth in texture, the confection was declared a near triumph. Discretion got the better part of greed in my case. I opted for the lavender honey and lemon posset, which proved to be as light as a light thing, and a sharp and tangy contrast to the heaviness of the earlier lamb.
At middle-range pricing, Alexander’s gives excellent value for money in charming surroundings and with the incalculable bonus of sociable, jolly, and highly-motivated staff. An easeful antidote to the daily grind, we would visit again in a blink.
Restaurant Review: Alexander's In Skipton, 18th July 2018, 10:36 AM