Clare Finds a Tasty Treat in Wickersley
Travelling for food is hardly a troubling concept for me. Some of my favourite places to eat are located in the Peaks and I regularly take trips to Leeds and Manchester just to eat at a specific restaurant. I can even justify a trip to Edinburgh, London, or Rome, with the promise of some fine food once at my destination.
So when the husband and I were invited to Vasco in Wickersley, a mere 20 minute drive out of town, I thought little of it, especially when I found out that Matt Hodkin was running the kitchen. Having eaten his food at The Milestone and The Wig and Pen I know that the man can cook. And that is an important point, I won’t travel for any old grub, it’s got to be good; a little special.
Vasco is located on Bawtry Road which is a busy main road which makes the ample parking spaces out back worthy of a mention. The restaurant is on the first floor of the premises, above the bar. It’s light and bright with lots of oak, deep red leather seating and an open kitchen. The waitresses were immediately welcoming on our arrival and I liked that we were offered ‘Yorkshire tap’ on taking our seats.
So far so good, but we were there for the food… and I was glad to see that the menu reads well with lots of meat and game options as well as fish. And, although I quite fancied the duck roulade starter (which comes with its own liver) and the king scallop (who doesn’t ever fancy the king scallop), I couldn’t resist my favourite; Mackerel (£5.95).
The fish came prepared in three different ways; hickory smoked, tartare and Boudin. Hickory smoked mackerel was both moist and crispy, in all the right places. Tartare was clean and fresh and the Boudin was, to you and me, a fish sausage that had been breaded and fried. The accompaniments of a horseradish snow, golden beetroot puree and gin espuma ensured there was a little wow factor. And although there was a lot going on, these flavour combinations are well oiled and the dish worked.
In fact I enjoyed it so much that I didn’t really pay any attention to the husband’s starter of Yorkshire Blue Soufflé (£6.50). I do know that it came with chicory leaves, figs and a mustard tuille and he enjoyed it. The twice baked soufflé was of the right consistency and it had a good level of blue cheese flavour.
On-to mains and I went for Guinea Fowl ‘coq au vin’ (£14.95). Poached breast and confit leg was served up with the essential elements of a coq au vin; pureed mushrooms, wild mushrooms, thin and crispy as you like smoked bacon, charred onion, boulangere potatoes and truffle jus. Guinea fowl was soft and tender, all the flavours worked well and I was impressed with the styling of the plate. The husband had Venison Haunch (£21.50) was served with a ‘shepherdless’ pie, red cabbage and cobnuts. The meat was full of flavour, if a tad overdone for our liking and the pie was delicious; deep and rich.
Come desserts and I couldn’t resist the Chocolate Orange (£6.50). I’d seen the dish develop over time through Matt’s Twitter feed and I was just a little intrigued to try it. A thick and rich cylinder of chocolate came with tart orange sorbet, jelly and puree; each of which were too tart for me to eat alone, but complemented the chocolate nicely, resulting in a balanced dish. The husband was torn between the Honey and Plum Jelly and the Banoffee Delice (£5.95) and he went with the latter. Once again I was too interested in my own plate to take much notice of his, but I do know that he was particularly impressed with the salted toffee ice cream and banana jelly. Fast becoming the amuse bouche of the meal, as they give the chef another opportunity to show off a little, a selection of petit fours (£2.50 per person) rounded the meal off nicely.
Service had been friendly throughout. Owner Trevor and his daughter Heidi are proper Yorkshire folk who offer warm welcomes to all who dine with them. Heidi is efficient and friendly without being overbearing, but Trevor’s familiarity will intimidate some. However Matt is working on this, along with the noise from the bar which picks up at around 9 when the DJ comes on.
Despite these niggles, we left Vasco with satisfied and happy bellies. The food is solid cooking with flair (but with a Rotherham price tag). On that basis alone I think Vasco is worth the short trip out of town and I think that the food was special enough to ensure that we will be making a return visit.