Crab & Lobster

Asenby, Nr Thirsk

From the outside, having never been before, I did wonder if I’d made a mistake, the Crab & Lobster boasts a very large car park and a rather dishevelled looking building and to find it adorned with items more akin to Whitby sea front than this restaurant well inland, even given the name, seems a little incongruous., not to mention the garden full of enamelled baths!

Inside is no different really, an eclectic mix of nets and seashells with guitars, cello’s, violins, lots of drums of many sizes and ages, all mixed in with kettles, jam pans and other assorted copper kitchenalia, golf clubs et al, hanging in and from the netting strewn across the ceiling. I wouldn’t want to be the cleaner that has to dust that lot, could always be of course there isn’t one!

While the car park looked to be well populated the restaurant didn’t seem to have enough people in it for the amount of cars there were, unless of course everybody came in separate cars! We were given a choice of tables and my wife immediately chose the one nearest us just inside the door, a good choice too as we had a good view of the restaurant and beyond it into a much larger conservatory type room that was in the process of being laid up, presumably for that evening. I also had a view of the kitchen, well a little of it, every time someone went in. 

Besides all the ephemera there are also lots and lots of AA Rosette plates adorning the walls, I didn’t see the oldest one but given the newest is for 23/24 (that I saw) my guess is that these go back as far as the turn of the century and quite probably further back still. They were all (I think) boasting 2 Rosettes, at least the most recent ones were, so that boded well.

All the tables had table cloths, if you’ve read any of my other reviews you will see that I like table cloths, I also understand why not many places have them anymore, but if you are going to use them, please iron them!

The menu, or should I say menus, were simply printed on two separate sheets of paper, one printed both sides, that being the a la carte, the other single sided, the set price lunch menu, even this was a menu with lots of choice. While I am not that happy with huge menus, pretty much all of the items on the set menu were also present on the main menu too, so not quite as large a menu as it first appears but still big. As the smaller menu (the set menu) of the two was a fresh looking sheet of paper as opposed to the two sided one that looked like someone had already eaten off it (literally) we went for the set menu.

But as is often the way with large menus not everything was available! Not to worry, we would work around that. I ordered the Ham Hock Terrine with Pickled Vegetables and Pease Pudding, I love pease pudding, my mother always used to make it whenever she cooked a ham and of course no one’s comes close! Not even my own! Not that we got much of it at home as dad would always be in there first. As it was setting he would be scooping it out with his fingers leaving deep grooves where he had gouged it out. The terrine was okay, without any finesse, the pease pudding, okay, the pickled vegetables more of an after thought and not very well done, it was as though they had pickled raw pieces of carrot and cauliflower, a quarter of a radish, in vinegar for a few seconds, hugely disappointing. Whenever I would do these, often served with a terrine too, I would lightly blanch them first (taking the bulk of the crunch out but not all), then drain but not chill, and lightly season before dousing them in a pickling vinegar that I would have pre-made along with a little olive oil, letting them sit in that to cool and absorb it for at least 5 minutes. The pickling vinegar would consist of vinegar (white or red wine vinegar), salt, crushed pepper, ginger root, coriander and fennel seeds, crushed garlic, a few crushed juniper seeds, fresh thyme and rosemary along with possibly other ingredients I had to hand. As for the vegetables I would use whatever there was in season, such as cauliflower, broccoli, carrot, turnips, radish, peas, broad beans, asparagus, celery, fennel, whatever really. My wife had the Heritage Tomato and Avocado Bruschetta which she pronounced as “really very good if somewhat simple”.

Bruschetta                                                                                      Ham Terrine

Our wine, from a fair-sized list that is reasonably priced, was a Provence Rosé which was more than not bad, it was really very good. For main course I chose the Roast Cod with Potted Shrimps and a Prawn Butter which also came on a bed of crushed potatoes, if only it was what it said it was going to be, there were no shrimps, they were small prawns cut in half, not the same thing at all, not even close. While the fish was nicely cooked and the sauce okay, it was also not a prawn butter either, but rather a butter and chive fish sauce, nice enough but not what was on the menu. On subsequent  inspection of the photo I took there can be seen (just about, see if you can make them out) a couple of what may be described as Shrimps, but only a couple, I could not taste them on the day nor could I see them as the lighting in the restaurant is so subdued, even in the early afternoon. The potatoes were floury and under salted which was a real shame as crushed new potatoes, such as Jersey Royals would have been great. Jane’s choice was the Moroccan Spiced Lamb with Israeli Couscous, Yoghurt and Almonds. The lamb tasted lovely, nicely and delicately spiced, not too hot, the couscous was couscous, although I only saw it from across the table, I would question whether it was Israeli though, it appeared to be just normal. The whole thing was topped with fresh pomegranate bringing a great burst of colour and flavour.

Cod                                                                                               Lamb

Throughout the main course the (rather loud) mixture of Jazz, Rhythm & Blues and Ragtime that was playing boisterously, allegedly as background music, and as befits the name of the restaurant, it was mingled along with the aroma of Crab Bisque which permeated throughout the building for much of the time we were there. All this was accompanied by a periodic and none too rhythmic banging and scraping and crashing from the room above, turns out they were setting the room ready for a party booking, and that the floor above was not equipped with carpet meaning the unseen cabaret was rather obtrusive and worrying as it often sounded as though who ever it was up there was about to join us unceremoniously on our table. 

For dessert my wife ordered the Rhubarb Cheesecake with Almonds and Raspberries, only they had run out! She therefore opted for the Cherrie (sic) Brulé instead with Pistachio, it came, sans Cherrie or even Cherries, no Pistachio to be seen anywhere either. She pronounced it boring, unsurprisingly. I had the Chocolate Caramel Tart with Popcorn. It also came with a quenelle of white ice cream, I guess it was vanilla but all I can guarantee was that it was white and of undetermined flavour, the tart, really quite small must have been bought in as an empty case and filled on the premises but the case was so hard it was almost indestructible, I nearly dislocated my wrist trying to break it. The popcorn, a waste of space, time and money.

                               Chocolate Tart                                                                                          Brulé

All in all the experience was okay and I may have been a little overly critical as these faults are easy to resolve but that only makes it sadder really that they weren’t. If it is on the menu then make sure it is on the plate, or, change the bloody menu.

A former friend of mine always used to tell me he ate here quite often, always singing its praises, but this is the first time I have been, that was over 20 years ago though so some things have probably changed since then.

Would we return? Probably not sadly. By the way, it is worthy of 1 AA Rosette, 2 is one too many, sorry guys.

Food: 7/20  Service: 9/20

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