It’s been feted by the foodies at the Telegraph and other national publications and fully deserves its success.
The chef uses the finest seasonal ingredients –his dishes are inventive, mouth-watering little delicacies – one after the other. The food is consistently good with an ever-changing seasonal specials selection.
There’s just one snag … to eat there on a Friday or Saturday night you have to book six or seven weeks in advance. I often don’t know what I’m doing the next day, never mind in two months’ time.
With this in mind I rang the sister restaurant, Ricci’s Place, located right next to the town hall in the centre of Halifax, on Tuesday of last week and managed to get an early table for the Friday night.
Ricci’s (pronounced Ritchie’s) Place is the original restaurant opened by Huddersfield-born Michael Ricci in 2011. Last year it underwent a revamp, resulting in a contemporary interior – a cross between 21st century industrial and shabby chic – housed in the Grade II listed building.
In keeping with its Dean Clough sister, Ricci’s Place features exposed stone brickwork and oversize metal pipes running below the vaulted ceiling. Atmosphere is metropolitan without being too noisy.
Request a table away from the glass door as those sitting closest were exposed to icy blasts as new customers arrived. It was fairly full when we arrived with an eclectic crowd dressed from smart to casual. The restaurant is open from 9am every day except Sunday and I imagine it sees brisk business at lunchtimes as well as evenings.
What Ricci’s Place doesn’t have is Dean Clough’s head chef Mark Kemp, who trained under Simon Shaw at the award-winning El Gato Negro in Ripponden. Incidentally, El Gato Negro is opening in Manchester on February 22 and promises to be worth venturing over the Pennines for if the pre-opening hype is anything to go by.
Back at Ricci’s Place we were seated next at a table to the open kitchen and enjoyed watching Mark’s opposite number, a tattooed and blond spiky-haired female chef preparing dishes and shouting “Service!” to the waitresses. There was no hanging about, dishes came out of the well-run kitchen piping hot.
Unlike Dean Clough’s tapas-size portions, this is a three-course Spanish/Italian/British themed menu, written – much to my delight – in large black letters on trendy brown paper table mats. As well as seasonal specialities there is a huge range of options divided into sections: breads, nibbles, starters, antipasti, salads, pasta, risotto, vegetarian, fish, meat, sides, desserts and cheese. I defy anybody not to find something they like.
The antipasto looked good, as did the man on the next table’s Aberdeen Angus sirloin steak. We considered the house speciality of Jamon Iberico (Spanish ham) from Extramadura which is cured for two years, given a serial number and can be traced right back to the breeder and even individual pig.
In the end I chose a delicious starter of large tiger prawns in a light, slightly salty tempura batter with soy and sweet chilli dips.
The sesame seeds were packed full of flavour and, with the spiralised carrots, made the perfect accompaniment.
Trish went for one of the specials, tiradito of venison with balsamic mushrooms, caper berries and pecorino. The paper thin carpaccio of venison was extremely delicate; very fine. It was, however, slightly overpowered by the intense flavour of the mushrooms.
For mains we had the trio of Iberico pork (£15), pig’s cheek on apple puree, loin with king scallop and bruschetta of pig’s ear. The loin was outstanding with such a depth of flavour rarely found in pork (outside of the Caribbean). The pig’s cheek was also excellent with a very different, distinctive taste.
The ear, the least interesting of the trio, had been sliced into small strips and was served in a rich tomato sauce. The accompanying mashed potatoes served in a little metal bucket were to die for – I shudder to think how many pounds of butter were in there.
I chose the special of Moroccan spiced lamb skewers with harissa couscous and raita. The lamb was pink and tender, again with plenty of flavour, with a gentle kick to it.
Despite the generous portions we felt obliged to sample one of the homemade desserts and shared the Catalan crème, a large crème brulee with a wonderful zing of orange in the custard.
Two coffees later we stepped out into the cold night air, promising to return.