The Waterside Restaurant by the Leeds & Liverpool Canal does great food but the retro vibe doesn’t do it any favours, writes Amanda Wragg.

Waterside Restaurant
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Scoring a table in the last six months at Waterside has been tricky. Not so much to do with the number of covers (not many) but with a rave review last year from a national broadsheet critic who jumped on a train north on the recommendation of the chef’s uncle. I tried half a dozen times and then gave up. It crept into my head again. Midweek in January, the “dead zone” dreaded by restaurant owners, I did a bit better.

Bubble and Squeak.

I’m eating with a Saltaire chum, which is perhaps as well as I’d never have found it without him. From the choked-up main road in Shipley, drop down some steps, past the Tapas Tree restaurant, a car repair shop and a grim building housing a gym, down some more steps into a untidy yard by the Leeds & Liverpool Canal – and hey presto. It’s not the greatest approach I’ve had to my dinner, but then some of the best meals I’ve had have been in the least pretty places – a shipping container by a caravan park in Northumberland (fabulous wood-fired sourdough pizzas); a shed on the car park by the beach in Beadnell (if you’ve never had a kipper wrap, you’ve not lived); and a converted public loo on the front in South Shields (the finest fish stew I’ve ever consumed in this country).
A quick look at Waterside’s website reveals that chef/owner Paul Huddleston has had a gold standard career; he’s put time in with Marco Pierre White at the Criterion, then “started a journey across the Channel to Paris and Le Jules Verne restaurant in the Eiffel Tower with a secondment to Le Louis XV in Monaco”. I can’t help wondering how he’s fetched up in this slightly shabby basement in an unglamorous corner of Shipley.
“Have you eaten with us before?” asks FOH, who is also head waiter and, it transpires, the chef’s father-in-law. “No, and it’s not for want of trying,” I say, and then we get the full story of the Times review and how it kick-started the business last spring. I’ll hazard a guess that he’s come to his new job quite late in life, and that’s not to say he’s without charm. “This is what is technically called an amuse-bouche,” he deadpans as he brings a tiny soft swirl of something lemony and lamby. “But we call it ‘summat tasty’.”

Mutton

Before we talk about food, a word about the room. Unlike FOH, it’s characterless. Exposed piping in the ceiling, I don’t mind, but guys, come on. Nets at the windows is so 1980s, as is the music, and the harsh lighting. Fortunately the menu is much better looking and features the likes of wild mushroom ravioli, warmed smoked salmon with red onion relish, and bubble and squeak – which we fight over and I graciously give in. As it turns out, it’s under seasoned and the Jerusalem artichoke puree lacks oomph, but my carrot and mutton is an extraordinary thing. It’s a carrot, cooked in mutton fat, with braised lamb shoulder and crispy mutton crumb. And just in case that’s not enough mutton for you, there’s mutton jus, too. It’s not a looker, but man it’s a taster.
Next up, chicken supreme – when was the last time you saw that on a menu? It’s a stunning plate of food with a couple of pieces of perfectly cooked chicken, one poached, one roasted. Alongside, sweet braised celery heart and a cracking little croquette, beautifully crisp and moreish, finished off with a light thyme jus; it’s an absolute classic. My Saltaire chum has got “Assiette of Yorkshire Mutton”, which is, as you’ve guessed, another plate full of sheep, this time a chop, saddle and a cute pithivier, all faultlessly cooked and nicely presented. I can smell the truffle in the mashed potato from 10 yards away – I can’t stand the stuff myself (hold the front page! Food obsessive turns nose up at truffle!) but Saltaire chum devours it.

Chicken

Elsewhere on the menu there’s a fish pie, a 72-day aged steak and ewe’s cheese soufflé – a concession to the vegetarians.
There’s no doubt Huddleston can cook. His style is classical, but it all feels a bit dated – or is it just the room and the disco music? With a bit of thought, a small spend and some colour swatches in the hands of someone with a design eye, it might feel like an entirely different experience. I’d really like to see him sending his fabulous food out into a much more stylish space.

 

 

The Waterside Restaurant, 7 Wharf Street, Shipley BD17 7DW, tel: 01274 594444, www.watersideshipley.com. Open: Tuesday to Saturday, 10.30am-3pm and 5-9pm. Closed Sunday and Monday.

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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