The Wild Plum is an Instagrammer’s dream, writes Elaine Lemm. It looks impressive and the food is just as good.

The Wild Plum, Harrogate
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I had heard of the Wild Plum in Harrogate for quite some time, but, for whatever reason, it took till now to visit. I think not being able to book – which is the policy at the Plum – put me off; I hate queuing no matter how good the food is. So, thought I, we will go a little ahead of lunch, and hopefully, it won’t be too busy. Haha, how wrong was I, the place was heaving and looked like it had been for hours. Feeling somewhat victorious, we did manage to bag one of the purportedly hard-to-get lunch tables quickly. We enjoyed our time waiting for the switch from breakfast to lunch drinking coffee and watching plates piled high with seriously good brunch food wafting by and hoping that if this was anything close to what was to come, we were on to a winner.

The Wild Plum in Harrogate .

Wild Plum is above Snooty Frox, one of Harrogate’s best award-winning dress shops and owned by Hilary Haresign, and as her chef-daughter, Bethany, heads the café, it is no wonder this place is so popular with these two at the helm. I have heard the Plum called an Instagrammer’s dream, and it is easy to see why. Everywhere a talented interior designer has been at play. There’s lovely, brightly coloured banquettes, wallpaper, and soft furnishings, and the two beautiful living walls are breath-taking. If you are going to stand in the queue for a while, then it is a lovely space to hang out.
Bethany was the Harrogate Chef of the Year at the 2019 Hospitality awards and in her young career, has also worked alongside an impressive couple of Michelin star chefs. Her brigade is all-female, and, as the kitchen is open to the café, you can see the team working flat out yet apparently having a good time too.
The menu here is a movable feast as Bethany insists on “only the very best, seasonal, quality ingredients using local, independent suppliers”. Her menu takes inspiration from across the globe, so no surprise, there’s an eclectic mix from earnest buddha bowls and salads to a Lamb Massaman curry and barbecued scallops. The menu may be small, but almost everything is cooked fresh, and the portion sizes will certainly keep Yorkshire diners happy.

Apple-y Ever After

A perkily named Apple-Y-Ever After (£8.50) described as chicken liver pâté and toasted brioche, sounds pretty standard and a good lunch sharing starter. We were stunned when what arrived was a picture-perfect plate of what at first glance seems to be a Granny Smith. But it isn’t, it is a gorgeous shiny apple made from clarified butter and a little green food colouring. Totally out of character for me, I was lost for words. Neither of us wanted to cut into it, which when we do we find a delicious, creamy, perfectly seasoned pâté and in the centre a neat blob of cranberry sauce. There’s a couple of hefty slices of bread, a smear of butter, and pickled vegetables alongside. Two of us struggle to eat it all.
There are the same weighty portions of remarkable food for mains. Mine is described as a salad but comes as a still-life of an autumn harvest on the plate (£15.50). There are salt-baked beets and confit heritage carrots, crispy coated goats cheese bonbons, fresh leaves, a carpaccio of celeriac, seeds, and grains sprinkled around and – for me superfluous – a dollop of pesto. It defeats me in its size, but this is not going back to the kitchen; I ask to take it home.
Across the way, he devours a deep bowl of crispy shredded beef (£15.50). This salad had been our favourite on a tour of Vietnam, and the one here had all the right components in the precise balance to recreate it perfectly. It is a stunner of a dish. We both ate in silence, a testament to really great food.

Blackberry Crumble Cake

It was impossible to even think about a pudding after this, but there is a stunning array of bakes and cakes on the bar, so we have an apple crumble, and two deep mince pies wrapped to take home and enjoy both for dinner that night.
Calling Wild Plum, a café oversimplifies what the place is all about. The service is cracking, all smiles amid the busyness. I’ve already waxed lyrical about the décor, and the food is among the best I have eaten this year. But there is something else going on here, and controversially I will say, I feel that the young, enthusiastic, and seemingly happy female team in the kitchen has a large part to play. Food made with care, passion by happy chefs will always come out as a winner. Sweary, shouty chefs, please take note.
The Wild Plum, 34-36 Hookstone Road, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG2 8BW. Tel: 01423 815320. Open: Tues-Sat: 9:30am-4:00pm, Sun & Mon: closed.

About The Author

Elaine Lemm

Following a successful career as a chef and restaurateur, Yorkshire's Elaine Lemm is a highly respected food and drink writer and recently voted one of the top 50 in the UK. Elaine is a member of the Guild of Food Writers and author of three books,The Great Book of Yorkshire Pudding, The Great Book of Rhubarb and The Great Book of Tea.

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