Sept. 20 (Bloomberg) -- The Pipe and Glass Inn is deep in rural northern England, so deep you might miss it.
It’s the countryside of my life in the early 1970s, when I worked for British Rail surveying tickets: riding the milk train to Hull from Doncaster, or heading past Beverley at night, returning from the seaside town of Bridlington out of season.
In those days, lunch was a fish-paste sandwich from a plastic bag. Dinner was haddock and mushy peas in an ill-lit fish-and-chip shop. Luxury was the box of coffee bags I took with me on trains. I also carried the economics textbook from the evening classes that helped me escape to university.
My salary was 1,080 pounds ($1,750).
Things have picked up for Beverley, as well as for me. The Pipe and Glass serves British food that is so good, it helps erase the memories of how poor the country’s cuisine was for so many years. The inn’s service and its beer are also commendable.
Dating back to the 15th century, it stands on the site of an old gatehouse. Part of the current building is 17th century, and the place feels homely, with large fireplaces, wooden tables and chairs, and walls filled with pictures and bric-a-brac.
It was Michelin’s Pub of the Year 2012, and is the only restaurant in East Yorkshire to hold a Michelin star. The Pipe and Glass placed 31 in the National Restaurant Awards last year, ahead of well-known London establishments including Scott’s, Marcus Wareing, Gordon Ramsay, River Cafe and Locanda Locatelli.
Chef James Mackenzie, who co-owns the Pipe and Glass with his partner Kate, is also an aficionado of real ale and has his own brew which is great with food. The wine list is so inexpensive by London standards, you can drink very well without suffering a fiscal (or physical) hangover.
Starters include a jar of Gloucester Old Spot potted pork, with sticky apple and crackling salad, warm spelt toast, which costs 7.97 pounds ($12.90). The soft meat oozes flavor and this single dish shows a finely tuned balance of textures and tastes.
The same is true of the ham hock and guinea-fowl ballotine with a scampi fritter, pease pudding and English pea shoots (9.95 pounds.) The prawn cocktail is jumbo, even in starter size, and so generous, a couple might share it. Indeed, all the portions are larger than you would expect in London.
Vegetarian options include heirloom tomato, avocado and Wolds mozzarella salad with spiced gazpacho and basil sorbet and black-olive flat bread. Never did I feel in less need of meat. (There’s a separate vegetarian menu.)
Having said that, I couldn’t resist some of the daily specials on a blackboard in the bar: roast loin of deer with buttered cavolo nero, celeriac puree, haggis pasty, for example.
Desserts are just as tempting: Ginger burnt cream with poached rhubarb and East Yorkshire sugar cakes, for example; or trio of apples, which features apple-and-bramble crumble, sticky apple sponge and apple sorbet.
The recipes are in Mackenzie’s book, “On the Menu.”
You dine looking out across a garden to fields where cows graze and the main sound is birdsong. (Mackenzie grows many of the herbs used in his cooking in a small patch outside his house, next to the inn.)
It’s a picture of rural life that plays to idealized notions of a greener, pleasanter England. Maybe some things were better in the past, but not the food. It’s cooking of this quality that informs my national pride in 2012.
The Bloomberg Questions
Cost? 30-40 pounds for three courses, plus drinks.
Sound level? About 65-70 decibels.
Inside tip? Book early or you may dine in the bar.
Special feature? Charming garden.
Will I be back? Yes.
Date place? Yes.
What the Stars Mean: **** Incomparable food, service, ambience *** First-class of its kind. ** Good, reliable. * Fair. (No stars) Poor.
Pipe and Glass Inn is at West End, South Dalton, Beverley, East Yorkshire, HU17 7PN. Information: http://www.pipeandglass.co.uk/ or +44-1430-810-246
Sound-Level Chart (in decibels): 65-70: Office noise. 70-75: Starbucks. 75-80: London street. 80-85: Alarm clock at closest range. 85-90: Passing bus. 85-95: Tube train.
(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. He is U.K. and Ireland chairman of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Opinions expressed are his own.)
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