Brook’s offers stellar food in Calderdale – and no storms and floods can but a dampener on that, writes Amanda Wragg.

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When I see a sign saying “under new ownership” outside a much-loved neighbourhood restaurant my heart sinks a little. Darrell and Petra Brook ran their eponymous place for nigh on 30 years so their “retirement” is well deserved, and they can step back secure in the knowledge that they kept a tidy house and many eaters happy for all those years.
Stepping into those big shoes must be a bit daunting for the new owners too. Comparisons are inevitable, and some of us are change-averse. Simmer down everyone, it’s all fine. In fact, it’s more than fine; it’s really very good indeed. Locals Lauren Midgley and Greg Foggo are the new young blood and they’ve created a cool, stylish, contemporary space in the handsome, double-fronted, floor-to-ceiling windowed building. One or two walls have a striking peacock design paper – but other than that it’s a muted palette, resulting in a rather sophisticated finish.

French Martini and White Lady.

There are tall tables in the bar, perfect for perching for a pre-prandial and a short but really interesting aperitivo list, which includes homemade dry vermouth, a homemade sloe gin, a White Lady (Old Tom gin, Cointreau and egg white) and a couple of alcohol-free ones – my pear & ginger shrub with soda is a revelation – and with Neil Young and Van Morrison on the air, I feel I’ve found my happy place.
The menu “is driven by an enthusiasm for sharing… (the plates) are simple yet modern and change with the seasons – well they certainly come off the page. Goat’s cheese profiteroles with truffle honey and haggis croquettes are found in “bites”, the profiteroles a perfect pop-in-the-mouth-size, the pastry exquisite. You might not know you like haggis until you neck a couple of these beauties. In the “small” section are the likes of beer braised pig’s cheeks, black pudding and confit garlic purée and Wookey Hole cheddar beignets, pecorino and tomato fondue, but coming our way, a chunk of nicely braised lamb belly with a puddle of creamy polenta cut through with a touch of sharp gremolata – a snip at eight quid. Lobster mac ’n’ cheese is dreamily indulgent and I love the smoked eel with tiny batons of pickled apple and bits of smoked bacon.

lamb & polenta

But dish of the night is a perfectly executed Jerusalem artichoke and wild mushroom risotto, with translucent slices of pickled fennel and a scattering of artichoke crisps proving that someone in the kitchen knows their onions.
That person is Dan Maxwell, former chef at the Gray Ox in Hartshead, which is where Midgley and Foggo met before heading off on an 18-month odyssey to Australia and New Zealand. Maxwell is clearly adept at bringing to life the couple’s vision to recreate a slice of the easy culture they found working in restaurants on their journey.
Next up from the “large” section, creamy smoked haddock chowder with Scottish mussels, pancetta and sweetcorn topped with a poached egg – a warming, nourishing dish on a cold night. We’ve gone a bit mad in the “smalls” so I can’t tell you about the Skrei cod, scallop and squid gratin or the venison haunch suet pudding, but I can tell you that the baked cauliflower cheese from “sides” is a belter.

profiteroles

I feel as if I’ve short-changed you if I can’t bring you news of the puddings – but we can’t fit another mouthful in. In the interests of full disclosure, they include a rhubarb and ginger mille-feuille, a chocolate malt cake with marshmallow ice cream and an impressive baked Alaska. There’s a carefully curated cheeseboard including the likes of Cropwell Bishop Stilton, Herefordshire Finn and Gubbeen, accompanied with a slab of whiskey and walnut cake. The wine list has also been really well thought-through, with a number from New Zealand and Australia.
As I write, Storm Ciara has wreaked absolute chaos in Calderdale, and Brighouse got hit too. Folk there are made of stern stuff but they still need our help so please go along and support them – not just because of the floods, but because the food is fabulous. There are plans to bring brunch and Sunday lunch to Brook’s. Until then you’ll find me sitting in the bar with a Perfect Manhattan, a bowl of spiced nuts, Neil Young and an appetite.
Brook’s Restaurant, 6 Bradford Road, Brighouse HD6 1RW, 01484 715284, www.brooksrestaurant.co.uk

About The Author

Amanda Wragg

Mandy Wragg is a freelance food journalist, writing and inspecting for the Yorkshire Post, Alastair Sawday, the Morning Advertiser, the AA, Cool Places and David Hancock's Inn Places. She co-writes www.squidbeak.co.uk, an independent guide to eating, drinking and staying in Yorkshire.

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