Yorkshire Sculpture Park offers stunning views and great works of art, and now its new restaurant is making culinary waves, too, writes Elaine Lemm.

The Weston Park, Yorkshire Sculpture Park
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I have many favourite places in Yorkshire but one that has always stood out for me is the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and I have been a regular visitor since it opened. It is not merely the sculpture that draws me there but the beautiful rolling landscape, wide open spaces and long walks; I have enjoyed creative courses, talks, their programme for children is excellent, and the food in the cafe is rather good too.
But it is the new £3.6m visitor centre pulling me there this time. The new gallery, shop and restaurant known as the Weston, which opened in March, has received significant support from family grant-maker the Garfield Weston Foundation. I had missed the Weston entrance and car park when driving here and so ended up across the park at the main entrance and asking for directions was told: “Go past the chapel and follow the Damien Hirst’s, you can’t miss them, and it’s down there.”
For sure there is no missing the artist’s latest installation, the pop of colour alone makes them easy to spot. Less obvious is the Weston, but there is a point when walking down that I first spied it in the distance; as I got closer, the stunning building from architects Feilden Fowles appeared to slowly rise from the ground as though hewn from the surrounding rock. Designed to have a minimum impact on the site, this is very much in keeping with other buildings in the park.
Walking into the Weston, it is clear this is a very different offer from the family-friendly hustle and bustle of the YSP Centre cafe. Here is one large open space flooded with soft natural light from the two walls of floor-to-ceiling glass offering up a massive vista across the park and lakes. Even though the Weston was in full lunchtime flow, there was a lovely calmness about it and not at all hushed or stiff. Staff are busy yet extremely friendly and both restaurant manager Matt Wagstaff and my lovely waitress, Gabrielle Bentley, made time to chat and share a great enthusiasm for the place.

Grilled Asparagus

The kitchen is open to the room and chefs under the direction of Tom Littledyke are busy sending out copious plates of fresh, beautifully presented food. The restaurant is currently open only from 10am until 5pm and is unlicensed. The menu sweeps across breakfast dishes including an egg menu of six different ways of serving poached eggs; there are small plates, light bites, salads and larger plates. Children also have their own very grown-up style menu with a vast range of healthy dishes and a few sneaky chips in there too.
There truly is something for everyone on the menu; meat lovers can indulge in beef brisket hash pork escalope and charcuterie plates. There’s fish with grilled mackerel, gravadlax, fish and chips. For the non-carnivorous, the choices seem endless with a wide range of fresh, locally sourced, seasonal dishes. The menu is impressive and well thought through and one which threw me into a total tizzy; I wanted almost everything on there.
I dithered between a broad bean and pea hummus with chargrilled sourdough (£5) but finally decided that first of the season Yorkshire asparagus (£7) had my name on it and a lovely dish it was too. Lightly roasted baby tomatoes circled a bed of fresh grilled asparagus topped with squeaky, chilli-infused Yorkshire Halloumi and garnished with toasted coriander seeds and a sprinkling of garlic oil, none of which stayed on the plate long.

Dal Tadka

An intriguing offer of a vegan Dal Tadka (£11) closely linked the gallery to the restaurant. The dish was devised in association with the artists Thukral and Tagra, whose exhibition next door tackles issues faced by farmers in India and £1 from each dish is donated to support community kitchens in Punjab set up by the artists. The Dal Tadka of cumin roasted sweet potato, basmati rice, roti bread, hot spicy brinjal pickle and onion and fresh mint salad came in three gorgeous lidded pots also created by the artists (and available to buy in the gallery shop).
After such a good lunch and the lovely vibe here at the Weston, it looks like my love of Yorkshire Sculpture Park may continue for some time to come. The synergy of exquisite food, beautiful presentation, super-efficient friendly staff and the worthiness of the dal dish is an impressive example of what they are out to achieve here at the Weston, and that alone is enough to keep me coming back.
The Weston, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Bretton, Wakefield. Tel: 01924 832631. Open, 10am to 5pm (summer), 10am to 4pm (winter). Hot food served until 3.30pm.

About The Author

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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