I had heard that the Rishworth malt house was in new hands so we left for a top down entree, pub food pie and maybe fries or ham and eggs.
The last time I went to look for it was so long ago, it’s lost in the mists of time. Actually (check notes) it was November 2016 and I remember a large cold room with just another couple of diners and forgettable food. I took mum and we hung on a heater all night. It must have improved, right?
That thing when they seat you at the little table next to the swinging kitchen door and your heart sinks and the Motown soundtrack is so loud you want to turn on your heels? So it is with a certain sullen mood that I approach my dinner – never a good start. But the welcome is so warm that I feel my mood picking up.
One of Observer restaurant critic Jay Rayner’s pets hates waiters who take food orders without a notepad. “It will never end well,” he said. It’s in my head when our server does exactly that. But it turns out very well as it happens, especially after the music has been refused without fuss.
Jay Rayner on being a critic and his passion for good food
The menu is not too long and reveals a degree of imagination several notches above the offer I expected. Sure, there’s fish and chips, a decent bran chicken pie and the must-have burger, but there’s also a mussel and smoked bacon chowder with sea salt and rosemary focaccia and a Black molasses bacon chop with crispy egg, pineapple and fat chips.
The gin and tonic cured salmon “with beetroot textures” is a subtle start and a more beautiful dish than it could easily have been. The Scottish Egg with Chorizo is obviously homemade (I mean that in a good way) and full of flavor. King prawns tempura with charred corn are a cracker; the dough breaks with a fork and the lightly curried Katsu ketchup adds a touch of class.
Any dish promising melting potatoes with fatty lamb usually catches my eye (this one with roasted lamb rump) and it’s tempting on a chilly night, but the tandoori monkfish with lentil dahl wins and is a superbly seasoned dish with just the right amount of heat and spice, and a real onlooker. A side of tender broccoli grilled with a Dutch manual works well.
Elsewhere on the menu, the smoked garlic chicken kiev with scalloped potatoes and the prime rib braised for 12 hours with mushroom potatoes and bourguignon sauce for £ 15.
Owner Lee Roberts is a fit entrepreneur. He owns Sailbrand, selling seafood to restaurants and the indoor market; no wonder the fish dishes are so good.
Catch restaurant in West Vale was in his group, as were the multiple award-winning Barkisland Fleece, they are no longer part of his stable, but he added Alma to Cottonstones. He’s a crowd-pleaser and has been in the game long enough to know how to make the most of a place like the Malthouse, which has always had enormous potential; this is a lovely old stone country house in a leafy location right next to Rishworth School, convenient for hungry and well-heeled parents visiting their offspring.
He had the good sense to bring in an experienced team: Chef James Thatcher worked with Paul Heathcote and was the executive chef of Bolton Wanderers until he was spotted by Roberts for an undisclosed transfer fee.
Manager Andy Nulty has a long career in the hospitality industry and has managed the Florentine Hotel in Sheffield; nor is it foreign to memorizing commands.
The creme brulee with apples and caramel is inspired – why isn’t it on more menus? A look at the lunch offering reveals homemade fish sticks with pickles marinated at home. With a bowl of triple cooked crisps and a perfectly preserved pint of Vocation Bread & Butter, this would absolutely do.
The room has now filled up – pretty well for a rainy Wednesday in October – and I’m won over by the interesting and well-executed menu, unreasonable prices, and gentle, daring service. I love it when you walk away with a humble pie and end up with something far greater than the sum of its parts.
The Malthouse, 270 Oldham Road, Rishworth, Sowerby Bridge, HX6 4QB; phone, 01422 822382; malthuserishworth.co.uk. Open: Monday to Saturday 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.