After a hard school year myself and a best mate had our school holiday detox at the Harrogate Turkish baths, to remove any school demons out of our system and settle into the holidays. I’d been eyeing up Van Zeller and booked a table a month ago. Van Zeller has built up a fantastic reputation since it opened amongst its diners and critics, winning many awards. Most recently it was named Readers Restaurant of the Year by the Good Food Guide. The restaurant is run by Tom van Zeller and has backing from David Moore, the owner of 2 Michelin stars from Pied à Terre and L’Autre Pied restaurants in London.
We were welcomed into the restaurant by the Front of House Peter Gillespie and I was really pleased to be seated at the very front of the restaurant by the window. It was lovely and light and had a great view of Montpellier Street. The restaurant has two levels, the main dining area is on the second level, but if you can try to get the table by the window!!
We were very tempted to order from the Ala carte menu, but we were good girls and stuck to the 5 courses for £25 lunch menu.
We were brought an amuse bouche and it was delicious, if you were blindfolded you could describe the flavours immediately because each main component was distinct and showed a lot of clarity. My favourite parts were the pea sorbet which was extremely refreshing and had fantastic flavour, the salmon which was perfectly smoked and the topping of crispy potato crumbs giving it a lovely crunch.
Now that was a fantastic start to our lunch, and we were hopeful for the rest of our dining experience. Our starters were brought over and we were not disappointed. The croquettes had a tasty filling of salt cod wrapped in a thin breadcrumb crust. The sea spinach had a slight saltiness which helped along with the capers to cut through the rich butter sauce. It was a small enough portion so it didn’t get too rich and overpowering as a larger portion could have become too much.
For the main course I chose the Longhorn beef, while my dining companion ordered the hake. Presented beautifully, without being pretentious. My beef had incredible flavour and was so tender, the carrots gave a gentle sweetness, the onions, greens, soft risotto and it’s sauce completed the dish. The dish was perfectly cooked with all the ingredients complementing each other. I was told the sea bass was perfectly seasoned and cooked, with crispy skin and well flavoured sauce with tarragon and fennel. They gave it 10 out of 10 for hmmm factor and said they could have also dunked their heads in it, it was that good!! I did try some of the fish and it was beautiful and soft, a delicious plate of food.
Our pre-dessert came in a little shot glass. It was very refreshing and did its job of cleansing the palate before our dessert. The only questionable thing we said about it was we weren’t sure about the pine leaf and pistachio custard, it had a nice creamy texture but its flavour just didn’t do it for us. Apart from that the cassis granita and the blackcurrant compote were both fantastic.
Our dessert of Vanilla parfait was soon brought out and looked very pretty and perfect for a summers day!! The vanilla parfait was smooth and packed full of vanilla, topped with what I think was dehydrated strawberries. It sat on a shortbread biscuit which was perfect, lovely and short, with its characteristic crumbly texture. The tonka bean and elderflower kept it light and the strawberry gel and fresh Makin strawberries were summery and sweet. A great end to a fantastic meal.
We both loved our dining experience at Van Zeller, the service was superb with both our waiter and front of house doing a great job. They provided the right balance of making you feel welcome while being attentive and informative, we didn’t feel rushed in the slightest and felt we could ask questions about the dishes if needed. We’ve been to Michelin starred restaurants where the service here matched to those.
The 5 courses for £25 lunch deal is very much worth it, overall the dishes are interesting, pack a punch in terms of flavour and the food is cooked well technically. There is a lovely atmosphere in the restaurant and we felt very relaxed throughout our meal. Our total cost for the lunch including wine and service charge was £100. I’ll definitely be making a bee-line for Van Zeller the next time I’m in Harrogate.Van Zeller No.8 Montpellier Street Harrogate HG1 2TQ 01423 508762 http://www.vanzellerrestaurants.co.uk