(ad – pr visit) Cars and restaurants are two of my favourite things. It’s a little unfashionable these days but I’ve a good deal of formative memories centred around obscenely loud and powerful engines and have retained an interest throughout my life. I’ll happily bore you with my collection of books on the history of the land speed record any time! Eating out has become increasingly central to my life too over the last decade so a new venue near York that combines those passions seems custom made for me. The Motorist is based at Sherburn in Elmet and has steadily expanded, originally to offer visitors keen to check out the work of the body shop breakfasts and subsequently with a fully-fledged restaurant and a shop full of Yorkshire produce and motoring-themed souvenirs. The Arnage at The Motorist is the restaurant and the focus of a recent visit to check out their Menu du Jour.
A few years ago I was lucky enough to cover the launch of the 30th Anniversary edition of the Mazda MX-5 which took place in the Cotswolds at Caffeine & Machine, a motoring themed cafe that turns the car park into one of the main attractions thanks to the number of quality machines that attend. The Motorist mines a similar vein, with my Volvo family car not drawing much attention as we arrive and park near a Ferrari and a well preserved MK1 Toyota MR2. The Arnage has a large expanse of glass along the side that had been opened up as we arrived, letting in the sun and allowing you to inspect the car park more easily. Regardless of the bifolds being open it’s an expansive and light space, with a vintage car parked by the welcome desk of course. As always I’d made a thorough traverse of the menu before arriving so we were able to quickly focus on taking in the timber framed building and enjoying a cold drink.
Wood pigeon doesn’t appear on menus nearly enough so was an obvious candidate which was joined by an olive and tomato tian with lovage which piqued my interest. The pigeon paired nicely with rhubarb and a few bitter chicory leaves which took a knife to the gamey tang in the tender pigeon. Further balance in the dish was given by honey granola which took on a dual role, balancing bitterness while also adding texture. The tian, topped with crisps of bread, was augmented with a pea and spinach sauce at the table for freshness and made for a light and enjoyable dish that would bear re-ordering.
Little Fork’s chicken and chips arrived with pragmatic speed to keep her occupied while our mains were quick to arrive too, with lamb and sea bream winning the competition from the centre section of the menu. The fillet of sea bream topped a fine shallot and tomato tart and was in turn topped with a generous quenelle of black olive tapenade which seasoned the other elements of the dish well. Lamb was served rather rare, maybe worth noting if that’s something you might struggle with, and alongside a spiced lamb pressing, roasted apricot and okra to form a relatively unusual dish in these parts. Shot through with with zingy spices, the pressed lamb and the rare rump were quite the contrast and transacted neatly with the okra and apricot to make up a dish redolent of the middle east but not too challenging for our English palates. My habit for dessert recently has been increasingly toward creme brûlée and the example served up at The Arnage at The Motorist did its job in bringing the meal to a sweet conclusion, throwing in some raspberries as well as a bit of sorrel for an original note.
The Motorist is an impressively broad operation, equally able to sell you some pick n’ mix or a bacon butty while you admire the metal in the car park or turn out an impressive seasonal dinner such as this one, which also kept the junior member of the party happy too. It’s a little out of the way but completely justifies the short hop from York to check out what it has to offer; I’m thinking Sunday lunch would be a good excuse even if my Volvo is never going to be the pick of the car park.