Port Mulgrave might be off the culinary track, but people will be beating a path to Restaurant 20’s door, writes Jill Turton.

Restaurant Number 20
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Tell anyone you review restaurants for a living and there are two questions people always ask: what’s your favourite restaurant and do they know you’re coming? The answer to the second question is no, they don’t. I book a table, usually under an assumed name, eat a meal like any other customer, pay the bill and leave.
My favourite restaurant is a harder call. I usually say it all depends. It depends on where I am, who I’m with, what mood I’m in, how much I want to spend. I could happily go somewhere fancy like the Yorke Arms at Ramsgill but more likely it would be a laidback place like Leeds’ Swine That Dines or York’s Cave du Cochon. When you’ve eaten in the most highfalutin restaurants, you crave simple food. But if pushed for a favourite restaurant, I would until last year, have gone for the Fox & Hounds at Goldsborough.
Few had ever heard of it, and no wonder, as it was a little pub in a tiny hamlet on a blustery clifftop five miles up the coast from Whitby. The food though was outstanding; superb ingredients, unpretentious dishes, simply cooked. There were no sharing plates, no tasting menus, no concepts, no menu that needed explaining, no foams, no spherification, no water baths, no blobs, no smears, nothing experimental, just three starters, three mains, two puddings and cheese. I went countless times over the years and never had a duff meal. Ever.

Jason Davies was the chef, his wife Sue, front of house. There were two rooms, half a dozen tables, a flowery carpet and a 50s tiled fireplace. It felt like your granny’s front room and it was lovely. But last year, with a prospective rent rise, the struggle in such a remote spot to fill the restaurant on a wet Wednesday in February proved too much. They handed back the lease and got “proper jobs”, Jason as a development chef for a local food producer and Sue to look after Sainsbury’s cheese counter.
But Sainsbury’s was never going to satisfy the ebullient Sue and you can’t hold a good chef down who is bursting to cook wild sea trout straight off the boat, Cornish spider crabs and Galician beef and so they set out and found a place that might work much as the Fox & Hounds had done.

Seatrout fillet, asparagus, pea and spring onion braise and jersey royal potatoes.

What they found was the Ship Inn at Port Mulgrave, a small village between Whitby and Staithes, a mile inland from the Cleveland Way coastal footpath, not quite as remote as Goldsborough, but not far off. They renamed it Restaurant Number 20 and opened last month.
It has one room, 24 covers, crisp white linen on the dozen or so tables, an open kitchen finished in shiny blue tiles and, for the price of a family car, they bought a Josper charcoal grill.
The offer is much the same as the Fox: three starters and three mains with ingredients taking primacy. We begin with spider crab: sweet, sea-fresh and juicy with a carefully dressed salad of radicchio and sliced fennel and wholemeal sourdough.
Old Spanish cow doesn’t sound great on a menu, Galician Blond beef rather better. It’s the beef that chefs are going mad for at the moment and no wonder. It comes from retired dairy cows that are allowed to go on munching sweet, green grass for between eight and 15 years, compared with the two-and-a-half years for most beef cattle. It’s beautifully marbled and, it turns out, full of flavour.
This particular old cow was flashed on the Josper to caramelise, then thinly sliced, properly seasoned and given a Davies signature of salmoriglio, a dressing of thyme, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic. If 12 quid for a starter takes your breath away, believe me when I say it’s the best beef I’ve eaten. Ever.

Almond lemon and polenta.

I couldn’t help feeling a bit of food envy though when the third starter, a pair of grilled lamb cutlets with broad bean crostini, sailed past. Ditto a main of fillet steak, grilled polenta and grilled radicchio.
Davies has always been strong on fish and his turbot with Jersey Royals and a braise of sweet peas, asparagus and spring onions was a perfect marriage of fish and veg, seasonal and perfectly cooked. Equally fabulous was monkfish with fennel braised potatoes and spinach, with piquant sauce of anchovy and rosemary.
At dessert, pinenut, almond and lemon cake doesn’t quite wow us like the earlier courses and the chocolate truffle cake, while it is elegant, rich and intensely chocolatey, was such a regular at the Fox & Hounds that it would be good to see Davies spread his wings a bit. But I’m being picky. It was great to see him poring over the stove, still on top form and kicking all those food fashionistas into the long grass. Long may the two of them continue.
Restaurant Number 20, 20 Rosedale Lane, Port Mulgrave, Saltburn by the Sea, TS13 5JZ, 01947 459647, www.restaurantnumber20.com; open Wednesday to Friday, 6-8pm, Saturday, 12-2pm. Price: dinner for two including bottle of wine and service, £125.

Open: Wed-Fri 6.30pm onwards
Saturday 12noon-2pm & 6.30pm onwards

About The Author

Jill Turton

Jill Turton is a freelance food and travel journalist who writes for numerous publications. She inspects restaurants for national food guides and is a regular reviewer for the Yorkshire Post. Jill is author of Good Food in Yorkshire and the Time Out Guide to the Lake District and with Mandy Wragg writes the Yorkshire online food guide www.squidbeak.co.uk'

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