Sarah Cotterill finds a corner of the French Riviera, in Brighouse.
Brighouse is another grey, unmistakable West Yorkshire town. A mix of ashen textile mills and sixties industrial units; car dealerships and carpet shops; an arbitrary dog bakery and an Aussie surfer café – Good Karma Coffee House.
For those of us with teeth, to nibble on, there are big juicy gordal olives and Marcona almonds
Brooks has been a mainstay of the Brighouse dining scene, if there is one, since 1989. Owned originally by Daryl and Petra Brook, an indomitable couple, known for their ‘mega-watt warm’ welcome, and eccentric style. Curious oil paintings cluttered the walls above white tablecloths which customers were invited to scribble on with crayons.
The menu featured char-grilled kangaroo, ostrich burgers and alligator. Three years on, and under new management, the most exotic meat looks to be a Barnsley lamb chop. Lauren Midgley and Greg Foggo have taken inspiration from their travels in New Zealand, but their sharing plates are decidedly ‘Modern British’, with a little Mediterranean influence here and there.
Appropriately 'Cote d'azur' - inside, it's fifty shades of blue. Beautiful blue vintage peacock wallpaper, bevelled edge mirrors, blue radiators, blue salt and pepper grinders, blue plates, blue dado rail. Little apothecary bottles of dried flowers dress the tables. Considering it's 2pm on a Thursday, the place is packed.
The demographic is broad. Good news seeing as my lunch date is a mere five weeks old. The staff too are young and attentive. Hot water to warm his bottles is no trouble at all. He tells me in smiles that the baby changing facilities are exemplary.
For those of us with teeth, to nibble on, there are big juicy gordal olives and Marcona almonds - the godfather of the almond kingdom. There’s a bite-sized profiterole enshrouding an airy whipped goat’s cheese on a pool of truffle honey, scattered with peppery chives. And of course, Jay Rayner’s ultimate weakness - malt bread. Still warm from the oven, this fluffy brown popover reminds me less of Soreen at school, and more of those bread rolls you get on the side of an airline meal. Individually wrapped and instantly gratifying. Dough devotees do descend.
Malt lovers will also find solace in an astoundingly good plate of triple cooked potatoes, sprinkled with miso salt on a shiny sphere of marmite mayonnaise. A real revelation. Next to the glimmering mackerel, this is the best-looking fish and chips ever. The aioli is pretty redundant alongside that marmite mayo. Dip everything in it. Forks, fingers - whatever. The mackerel is oily rich enough on its own anyway, falling away from its translucent bones.
A milky ball of burrata is lifted by a shower of orange zest; the confit duck scotch egg on a moat of spiced carrot ketchup egg, is jammy and golden. An artful plate of fazzoletti pasta is layered with fatty hunks of pork cheek and kale in a white-wine cream sauce. Paper thin shavings of parmesan melting over the lot.
For a slice of sunshine, try the homemade pineapple and ginger Aqua Fresca, refreshingly blended with mint and lime zest. The Hair ‘o’ dog Bloody Mary on the brunch menu looks well worth a try too. In fact, the entire brunch menu looks worth rolling out of bed for: Homemade crumpets with goat’s cheese mouse, pecans and honey; pancakes with dulce de leche, blood orange and mascarpone; shakshuka; cinnamon buns.
On the sweet front, save room for the Jamaican ginger cake, a cross between a parkin and an STP, served with a boozy spiced rum ice cream and a wheel of singed pineapple. However the pièce de resistance comes in the shell-like form of homemade madeleines, doused in lemon sugar. And go for the dozen, so you can clasp a cardboard box on the car journey home, wafting aromatically as you wind over the Valley.
The little girl on the table next to us has opted for a lunch of Dairylea Dunkers and the artichoke and Baron Bigod cheese soufflé. What a baller. Her grandparents, after notifying us of her conjunctivitis, proudly denounce Brooks as the best restaurant in Calderdale. Slim pickings perhaps, but where else can you get food this good and park right outside for 20p?
Brook's, 6 Bradford Road, Brighouse, West Yorkshire HD6 1RW
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All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidentials and completely independent of any commercial relationship. They are a first-person account of one visit by one, knowledgeable restaurant reviewer and don't represent the company as a whole.
Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Profiterole 6, malt bread 9, burrata 7, scotch egg 7, fazzoletti 8, mackerel 7, potatoes 9, ginger cake 6, madeleines 10
Young and attentive
Charming and relaxed