Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Market Place, Malton

Sun 22 March 2009

If I'm involved in organising anything it is generally planned, booked and sorted well in advance. This is particularly true when money spinning 'events' like Mothering Sunday loom. However, this time around I wasn't involved and, come Saturday morning, it was me ringing highly recommended pubs around the North Yorks Moors and, um, more or less being laughed at.

After a bit, the baton was passed to Andy and I was mortified when the first place he rang actually had space for 4 for Sunday lunch. It wasn't a country pub, but a small restaurant in Malton's market place - and we were fast running out of options!

Malton is tiny and, on a Sunday, not a lot is happening so we arrived at The Market Place Restaurant rather earlier than anticipated. This wasn't a problem and we were seated in the small room upstairs.

The set menu offered us 2 courses for about £15 and 3 for £18. There wasn't a huge amount of diversity in our ordering: one pâté and three smoked salmon for starters, three roast beef and one roast pork for main. On the pudding front we managed a little better: two bread and butter puddings, one cheese and one chocolate tart.

The starters came to the table along with some warm (and very tasty) bread. The smoked salmon was served simply, with a lemon and caper dressing and a little salad. It was a generous pile of salmon and a good start to the meal. The pâté was HUGE: a huge chunk, loads of bread and not for the faint hearted.

The main courses hurried after the starters: the roast beef was generous, thick slices of beef which was actually medium rare. I almost regretted ordering the roast pork except that I love pork and the meat was moist. The meals all came with large Yorkshire puddings and bowls of vegetables (roast potato, carrot and swede mash, broccoli) came separately - along with instructions that if we needed any more vegetables all we had to do was ask.

Main courses demolished we moved on to pudding. I really enjoyed my cheese (it's a bit difficult for me not to) and the other dishes received a thumbs up. In particular the custard on the bread and butter pudding made Andy happy.

There were aspects of the experience which were a little uneven: I was expecting us to be doused in wine as our waitress sloshed it into our glasses, the roast beef eaters struggled with cutlery not quite up to the job and two of our four coffees were forgotten. But when I asked about a pudding wine, I was brought a very generous sample as well as the bottle to look at. The staff were attentive and wanted to make sure we were warm enough and that we had enough vegetables. The forgotten coffees did eventually arrive with a sincere apology and they were gratis (and the coffees came with both cream and milk).

I feel a little mean for using so few words about this restaurant because I did actually really enjoy my meal there. The food is not outrageous or wildly innovative - but that can be a good thing. There really is nothing wrong with a pile of smoked salmon and some roast pork. It can be very easy to lose sight of that, while in search of gastronomic complexity. And friendly, happy faces more than make up for niggles in service.

My own benchmark for restaurants is whether or not I'd go again. In the case of The Market Place - why, yes, I would.

1. The Market Place Restaurant, 46 The Market Place, Malton, North Yorkshire, YO17 7LW, phone: 01653 697100, map.
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