Last week, Ben turned 30 – woohoo! Because he’s a few years older than me, I’ve always taken the opportunity to tease him about how old he is, but I think I was starting to hit a nerve as he approached 30, particularly as I think he, like most people our age, feels like he can’t really be that age. I wrote all about this in a recent newsletter I sent out entitled “When can I go to Neverland” – sign up here to receive that and to check out previous newsletters.
So with it being a fairly big birthday, I wanted to arrange a couple of bigger presents for him. Usually we tend to buy each other presents that are things we really need or just really like rather than panicking and buying random things (which I am known to do – he’s not a fan of the cuddly toys I bought him during our first year together!). Instead of buying something fancy like a watch, I decided to go down the experiences route (as well as a few cookbooks and candles!). Inside his card, I printed out the booking confirmation for Sarah Millican tickets I’d bought us for next year, as well as a specially designed-by-me voucher for Rascills Restaurant in Raskelf.
Rascills is a restaurant that has just been included in the Michelin Guide as well as the Good Food Guide, and is only just down the road from where we live. It seems to often be listed as Rascills, York, when in reality it’s in Raskelf – a little village a few miles from us. It’s been open for a year and I see the sign for it everyday on my journey to and from work, but we’d never booked it, mostly because we thought it might expensive. I finally took the plunge and did so for Ben’s birthday and we were more than pleasantly surprised! I booked a meal for two at Rascills on Friday evening on the 20th October and managed to keep the surprise for nearly 3 months!
The restaurant is owned by husband and wife team, Richard and Lindsey, who previously ran an artisan restaurant in Hessle, East Yorkshire. I’m glad they moved over to our side of Yorkshire, because this truly is a hidden gem in the vale of York! We were very warmly welcomed by Lindsey who wished Ben a happy birthday (completely forgot I’d written it on the booking form!) and sat down in the wine bar entrance area for a drink before going to our table. And by complete chance, the night I’d booked our meal was Rascills’ 1st birthday celebration, so we were handed a welcome glass of champagne as we arrived for our meal at 7pm, a lovely bonus touch to the meal!
The restaurant is only small – there was one table of 4, another two tables of 2 and us, plus an empty table while we were there. It was very intimate but didn’t feel quiet at all. The way we were attended to by Lindsey and the attention and care into the whole atmosphere felt more like a dinner party setting, but you weren’t overheard by all the other guests. The room itself is very high ceilinged and open while feeling cosy at the same time, lit by candles and lamps – I immediately proclaimed that I need a room like it for yoga practice!
But onto the most important part – the food! We were handed the Tasting Menu when we sat down in the bar area with our drinks and given a chance to look over it with some warm homemade cheese straws. The menu was 5 courses and Lindsey mentioned that if there was anything not to our fancy, to let her know – I imagine they could have offered alternatives, but we were more than happy with everything. She also explained that the pace of dining was slow and comfortable, again adding to that dinner party-esque atmosphere.
First up was a wild mushroom velouté served in a tea cup with sour dough and the teeniest teaspoon ever. I ate one spoonful of this and immediately declared it the best soup I’ve ever had. I could seriously eat that soup and only that for the rest of my life and be happy. It was smooth, deep flavoured and velvety.
Second course was a whipped goat’s cheese served with beetroot, apple puree and parmesan crisp. Everything was in perfect balance on this dish, particularly with the different slices of beetroot.
Then onto the fish course, we were served a salad of Whitby crab (pretty much as local seafood as you can get round us!) with avocado mayo, cucumber oil and mango. I don’t often eat crab but I love it – this was very delicate and sweet, and the mango complimented it perfectly. Even Ben, who doesn’t like to eat fruit savoury food (don’t talk to him about pineapple on pizza!) agreed that the mango was right here.
And onto the main course, a slow roast rump of aged beef served with creamed cabbage, roast baby onions, carrots, a red wine gravy and the cutest little dish of cottage pie! Oh my goodness, this course was mindblowing. The beef was cooked to absolute perfection: being slow cooked, it was tender all the way through but had plenty of bite (if that makes sense!) and was slightly pink. I couldn’t have asked for a better cook on it! The sauce with it was rich and deep. And finally the cottage pie – I don’t like cottage pie normally. Mince is the only ingredient I’m still very fussy about (having been an exceptionally fussy eater when I was younger), and I’m not keen on mashed potato, so put them together and it’s not something I want. But this was different. The mince was flavoured so well, but we couldn’t quite put our fingers on it. I hesitate to say this, but it tasted slightly barbecquey, but in an amazing way – I think it was quite likely a combination of something like balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire sauce, and I loved it.
Finally we finished off with the Rascills pudding plate. The menu didn’t give anything away as to what this was, but it was a sticky toffee pudding, creme brulee and coconut ice cream with popping candy – my favourite, even if Ben isn’t a fan of this! You can tell how much I enjoyed this dish by the fact that the picture was taken halfway through it when I realised I’d dived straight in without taking a photo – #internetcrime!
Drinks-wise, I was driving so the glass of champagne at the very beginning of the evening was all I had. Fortunately they had a blackboard with “Drinks for drivers” detailing a few more interesting soft drinks – I always love options like this because I rarely drink – so I picked the Morello Cherry fizz. It was really good, but about half way through the night, Ben turned to me and said: “You do realise we’ve come out for a fancy meal and you’ve picked Cherryade?” I swear it was much better than any Cherryade from a bottle! Ben picked from several of the local beers they had an ended up with a Hambleton Ales one that he really liked – I think we may now have to go out and buy more!
The tasting menu was £45 per person, which we thought was definitely very reasonably priced based on the fact that we had 5 dishes, all of which were spectacularly flavourful, well balanced and used local and seasonal ingredients where possible. On top of that, the atmosphere was excellent and the service was fantastic – Lindsey was very knowledgeable about the menu, particularly when we enquired where the meat was sourced from, and it felt like chatting to a friend.
So basically, this was by far the best meal I’ve eaten in our local area and I’m so proud to be able to say we have such wonderful food on our doorstep – I just want to shout all about it! Being in the countryside, it’s sometimes difficult to find good eateries, especially ones that have accolades such as the Michelin guide recommending them, so we’re very lucky to have this one. We’ll most definitely be going back. But first, we have a voucher for the Black Swan at Oldstead, another local Michelen restaurant, in fact the best restaurant in the world according to Trip Advisor, that my parents got Ben for his birthday!