Some things are worth going that extra mile for.
Just past Penistone on the road to Holmfirth, there’s a restaurant which is so worth the drive - The Spiced Pear, owned by award-winning chef Tim Bilton.
Even before you make it to the table, you know you’re in for a special evening. The meandering stone path from carpark to restaurant glitters with lanterns and fairylights; the entrance hall is all cosy tartan carpets and candlelight and at the bar, a waiter is expertly making house martinis with rosewater and lychee and topping prosecco with mint and lime.
Bilton trained under Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons for two years, made his name at Bibis Italian in Leeds city centre, then took on The Butchers Arms in Hepworth, a village close to Thurlstone and Millhouse Green, transforming it into a multi award-winner.
He left to set up boutique B&B and restaurant The Spiced Pear down the road in 2013 and despite recently battling with eye cancer - Tim was treated at Sheffield’s Northern General - more accolades have come by way of rave reviews and the title Waitrose Good Food Guide 2015 North East Restaurant of the Year.
His ethos is classical dishes cooked from locally-sourced produce - yet with a modern approach which fuses Yorkshire, France, Italy and Asia.
The menu is like the atmosphere - a marriage of classy refinement with comfort and simplicity. Unlike the extensive wine list, it is small - eight starters and eight mains, supplemented by a luxuriant specials menu. Everything is seasonal, pear features often and the meats (including 30-day aged steak) are from Barnsley’s Cannon Hall Farm and Round Green Deer Farm at Tankersley.
I start with three whopping Lindisfarne oysters, £9, served Rockefeller - grilled in their shells with spinach, rich cheese sauce and crispy bacon. Husband’s £8 William pear and onion tart tatin is sublime; light as air pastry and subtle of flavour, ripe pear enhanced with a gentle whiff of Shepherd’s Purse Yorkshire blue and the earthiness of walnut offset with a wildflower honey salad.
Plate of Pig, £28, sounded dangerously like a Little Chef mixed grill. No worries; a dainty pork chop and succulent, sweet, crispy belly of suckling pig came with a black pudding Scotch egg (served hot, with a runny yolk), broccoli and parsnips, all delicately presented.
From the night’s specials, the fish platter main is a celebration of sea. Everything was deliberately simple. The sweetness of a meaty loin of cod and fat queenie scallops and the delicacy of wild line-caught sea bass shone through thanks to the reverence of the chef. Huge grilled langoustines oozing with garlic butter and crispy prawns with sweet chilli dip completed the £28 huge plate.
Desserts are £8-9 a pop but unmissable. Lemon tart, it said on the menu; they under-egged that. On a flower-scattered plate, an amazing slice of citrus curd atop light pastry comes with a shot glass of lemon posset topped with raspberry lemonade foam and raspberry and lemon balm sorbet. Marmalade bread and butter pudding surpassed expectations in equal measures.
The Spiced Pear is expensive, but worth it. This is food you remember for a long time. Flavours and textures are cleverly married but the ingredients themselves are allowed to shine by a confident and talented chef.
Star ratings out of six: