Northallerton. Population 16,832. County town of North Yorkshire. Home to one of Bettys outliers. Barkers wonderful department store. The Aladdin’s cave that is Lewis & Cooper – the north’s (better) version of Fortnum & Mason. MP Rishi Sunak. Prime Minister if you’re testing us for dementia. A railway station on the main London-Edinburgh line that allows you to be in London in 2 hours or so. And, until recently, a town with no restaurants worthy of the title. Not since the italian that was Romanby Court closed, in a time before the internet. You try Googling it.
Places have come and gone – McCoy, run by one of the famous ex-Tontine brothers who chose to employ 12-year olds as serving staff. Not much serving was done. The business model seemed to be to recreate the Golden Lion’s menu (obvs) and make customers wait whilst the servers practiced their times tables ready for school the next day. Hopeless.
Pizza Express. How could it fail? National reputation and no competition? It was the scene of Fawlty Towers style confrontations between front of house and chef. Wait 3 hours for food (we got drinks after only an hour or so) and our server claimed he’d hit the chef with a frying pan. They were more condescending to their customers then even our government. And that’s saying something…
We’ve had high hopes dashed but, at long last, we dare to hope that the famous Tithe Bar (long frequented by pimply 16 year olds and their 14 year old girlfriends/boyfriends*) has been reborn as ‘Origin’. Yes, we know, the ‘small plates’ concept was invented in 1832 by Russell Norman’s Polpo in Soho (inadvertently) as a response to the Last Great Depression. Nonetheless we’re giddy with excitement. Thursday evening and maybe 50% of the tables in use – packed, we call it up North.
Choose 6 or 7 plates, the menu advised. We chose 2 meat, 1 fish, 3 veg and 1 pud. One glass of Marlborough Sauvignon and two of a perfectly acceptable Pinot Noir. Ok, a bit thin (it’s Pinot…Ed) and a touch sweet but, hey, two glasses…on a Thursday. Lemon and ginger tea and a double espresso (for the brave). Simply wonderful. We thought we’d died and gone to Nottinghill. We didn’t say that to the staff. We don’t want them getting above themselves. They need to keep trying – keep up the standard – and we need to keep supporting them. And we will. We’ll never have a better chance.