IT WAS, we agreed, a bit like being a judge on Master Chef. We sat at our table, with its crisp white cloth, and accepted an ‘amuse bouche’ of smoked salmon and cream cheese.
There followed plates of artfully-arranged food, with little blobs of sauce and miniscule salad leaves, tiny pots of chutney and pools of puree.
Of course we didn’t have to come up with ever more inventive ways of describing the efforts of the chefs.
But every time we were courteously asked if we were enjoying our food, we could, in all honesty say: “Yes, very much” because we were at one of the eateries on the Stelfox family radar that seems to have maintained its reputation and status for years, while lesser dining venues have faded away.
I’m talking about the Design House, in the Dean Clough mill complex in central Halifax.
This fine dining room, seated in the basement of the vast textile edifice that once churned out West Yorkshire’s finest wools, is now a place where good food is consistently produced.
The Design House was taken over in 2003 by chef proprietor Lee Stevens Marshall, and serves what is commonly thought of as ‘modern British cuisine.’
A recent re-fit of the restaurant, installing carpeting throughout and fresh new decor, has retained the contemporary look but makes the dining area quieter and more comfortable.
Attention to detail and well-trained staff are a hallmark of the Design House. At our recent visit – the fourth in as many weeks – we were welcomed like old friends.
The reason for so many visits was the new menu – and new loyalty card (more about that later) – which has so many tempting dishes that we knew one dinner would simply not be enough.
We have eaten, variously, melt-in-the-mouth seared scallops with black pudding and crispy bacon; beetroot ravioli; classic steak bearnaise; mini rack of lamb and salmon with creamily mouth-watering celeriac veloute.
The Design House has a system whereby holders of its Boomerang Card get 10% off every meal and points, which can be saved towards a further cash discount.
The menu, which is not too extensive but provides ample choice, is priced at £15.95 for three courses or £12.95 for two courses at dinner. This allows diners to choose from several dishes in each section, while others come with a variable premium.