Gareth Dant checks out a new restaurant which doffs its cap to a village’s earliest history

A CURIOSITY in both name and location, Rascills marks a move inland for the partnership of Lindsey and Richard Johns.

Previously collectors of various awards for their restaurant Artisan in Hessle, East Yorkshire, they opened Rascills on the edge of this village near Easingwold, last autumn.

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It’s in a building most recently occupied by the Purple Partridge café and farm shop. And the name? It’s a nod to the village’s listing in the Domesday Book – Rascill.

It’s just off the A19 down a lane, with ample car parking, and a slightly anonymous entrance that makes you feel a little like you’re calling at someone’s back door.

They’ve done their best to dress it with elegance befitting of fine evening dining, as well as some cosiness, but with only a couple of dozen covers to fill the joint, ambience is perhaps a little thin.

Bear with me (and them) though, for what comes on the plates and in the glasses more than makes up for décor and layout.

We visited on a Saturday night last month. A warm welcome from Lindsey and we were soon settled in the bar area with a glass of Prosecco, a couple of delicious gin and tonics (Tanqueray for Andrew and Opihr spiced for me) and sparkling water for the driver.

There were offered a choice of two menus – either a five-course gourmet tasting option for £50, or the dinner menu with three starters, three mains, a couple of puddings and a cheeseboard – two courses for £29.95 or a third for another £6.95 (since our visit, raised to £8.50). We opted for the latter, and with four of us could give everything a try.

Cheese straws fresh from the oven provided an appetiser while we made our decisions.

Moving through to the dining room, a high-ceilinged affair, two of us started with aged beef fillet steak tartare with half a warm quail Scotch egg.

This was perfectly executed, the egg yolk soft-boiled and glowing like a little yellow sun. Melanie would have liked to have been able to season the beef herself (such things are of course personal, but it was a little odd not to find salt and pepper on the table).

Andrew had opted for home-cured treacle rainbow trout, baby herb salad, roast red peppers and lemon oil. The yellow oil and reddish fish made for a colourful plate, and flavours were distinctive and delicate.

Anna’s chicken Caesar terrine and Caesar salad garnish was yet another confident accomplishment from Richard in the kitchen – a mirror imaging of tastes from the terrine and salad.

When it came to main courses, Andrew’s honey-glazed Goosnargh duck supreme with wilted greens, onion purée, fondant potato and red wine sauce was faultless, and certainly kept him quiet.

The women had fillet of sea bream with basil pesto risotto – the latter fresh and vibrant and so different from the sludgy rice dish all too often inflicted, sometimes as a second-class vegetarian dish. “Amazing” was Melanie’s tribute, the grilled fish – like all the mains – a generous hunk of flesh.

I’d say my slow roast pork belly was the best main I’ve had in a very long time and was a fantastic sum of its four sensational parts: as well as the intensely-flavoured belly pork with its knife-through-butter fat, there was creamed cabbage and bacon, a delightful mini sausage roll and perfect champ potato. Add an apple and red wine sauce and the crispest finger of crackling ever served, and I was in edible heaven.

Desserts maintained these excellent standards – a chocolate mousse with pieces of bubbly honeycomb was as good looking as it was tasty, as was the lemon and lime posset with passion fruit and white chocolate. A creme brulee was similarly accomplished.

I opted for the artisan cheese selection (for an extra £3) with biscuits and chutney: five distinctive chunks which contrasted without jarring.

Together with a rich Rioja (£23.95), a couple of espressos and those opening drinks, the final bill just nudged £200.

Top-notch food that we all agreed would be worth returning for, with service that was knowledgeable and attentive.

But in that price bracket – particularly in this part of the world where we are spoilt for choice when it comes to fine dining – some attention to the décor to enhance the atmosphere is required to ensure Rascills really ranks with the best.

Rascills Restaurant & Wine Bar

Howler Lane, Raskelf, York, YO61 3LF

Tel: 01347 822031

Web: rascillsrestaurant.vpweb.co.uk

Food served: Wed-Sat, noon-2pm; Thu-Sat 6.30-8.30pm and Sunday lunch on the last Sunday of each month (12.30-3pm) Fine for wheelchair access

Ratings:

Food quality 4/5

Service 4/5

Surroundings 3/5

Value 4/5