RIGHT. The gloves are well and truly off. It’s knives and forks at dawn. There are those who think that us Yorkshire folk are up our own mufflers because we take any and every opportunity to proudly wave the flag of the white rose.
But it’s hardly surprising is it? Not when you get patronising southerners turning up their noses at anything north of London. Now I know that not all southerners are like that – I’m married to one who soon saw the futility of taking pops at the north as a pre-requisite before the ring went on the finger – but there are plenty about giving it their worst, below the belt shots.
Of late the Yorkshire airwaves, internet ether and columns of print have been awash with indignation, which just goes to prove that food critic Giles Coren – born in Paddington, London, went to Westminster School, read English at Keble, Oxford – should keep his southern mouth well and truly shut.
He’s dropped himself right in the Yorkshire clart by saying the Leeds restaurant scene is “rubbish,” and that if he’s going out of London to eat it’s “more productive to leave the country.”
Fine. Off you go then, and don’t come back. He’s not the only one who can deliver cheap shots…
But in reality, what I’d like to do is get Coren to venture, if he dare, over the top of the M25 parapet and take him on a one of our Yorkshire food trails, a gastronomic tour of what we have to offer here. And by gum! Then he’d have to eat his words!
To be honest, if you hadn’t guessed already, the rant above is somewhat tongue in cheek – there are many London-based food critics who have swooned their way through many a menu of a Yorkshire eating establishment. But there is a serious note to all this, which is all about extolling the virtues of the vibrant Yorkshire food scene in the face of those who might think the only way is to the south west of Essex.
For there are more Michelin-starred restaurants in Yorkshire – six in all – than any other county in Britain, with a grand total of 94 Yorkshire eateries getting an honourable mention in the 2015 guide.
That’s most definitely not a number to be trifled with, nor is the fact that 66 of the county’s eating establishments receive plaudits in the latest Good Food Guide, now seen by many to be even more influential than Michelin.
In the nation’s latest Great Taste Awards some 40 Yorkshire food and drink producers have notched up around 125 tasting stars between them, with the Great Taste logo being a much coveted sign that whatever food it adorns is a quality job.
And many of these award-winning producers are supplying our restaurants with fabulous food and drink ingredients with which our chefs are creating their own culinary magic. To win one of these much sought-after taste stars means that our producers are among the best in the country. And yes, Giles Coren, that includes London…
We have more quality artisan breweries – more than 150 producing something like 1,400 quality beers – than any other county too, not to mention nine commercial vineyards producing excellent quality English wines. Which southerners might think is a bit odd given what they might perceive to be our dastardly northern slopes, but it’s not all slag heaps up here…
Our meat is among the best-reared there is, not just in Britain, but in Europe. Our game is much sought after, not just for Yorkshire restaurant tables but those in London too – some of the finest restaurants in Coren’s world are using our beef, pork, venison and avian game, with the oldest restaurant in London owning its own moorland estate right here inside the borders of the old North Riding.
Our Yorkshire Coast shellfish finds its way more to the south and across to the continent than it does up here and that’s not because we don’t want it. We do, but I’ll give this to our southern cousins – they know quality when they see it, so aren’t backwards in coming forwards when it comes to snapping it up.
On the cheese front we’re creating glorious soft and heady blues that rival anything coming out of France or Italy. With our penchant for variety we’re producing more than 10 per cent of the 700 different British artisan cheeses and any one of them could grace a world cheeseboard.
But the best thing about all this glorious produce, this abundant larder of ours, this cornucopia of gourmand delights, is that, by ‘eck, there’s a lot of chefs here in Yorkshire who know how to use it.
So, Giles Coren, come if you dare, sample the best of our fare and then tell us what we do is rubbish. But I bet you won’t though. Because like so many of your ilk you think only London counts and intransigently use that as your baseline when voicing an opinion about anything north of the capital.