Simon Richardson treks out east to complete the Matt Healy restaurant holy trinity
I only know Thorner exists thanks to the many sweaty trials and tribulations around the Leeds Country Way, but there’s now a second reason to remember the name – The Beehive. Recently taken on by Matt Healy, his third venue (afterand ) completes his holy trinity of the Leeds food and drink scene: fine-dining restaurant, trendy Scandi cafe and now rural gastropub. Matt Healy craft beer bar, anyone?
It’s gone in an instant too, so it must’ve been good
Anyway, it’s a bit of a poke – you’re looking at £40-£50 return in a cab if you live in west Leeds like me. Or you could stay sober...
It’s a charming venue which has been half ‘trendified’ – some of the wallpaper is city centre, some is out of your Nan’s 1950s semi and some is a collection of newspaper clippings of positive reviews of Matt Healy’s establishments. You even get to eat off his face if you order certain dishes, like the fish and chips. Hmmm. In the corner, there’s a comfy looking after-dinner area and the restaurant area isn’t too packed in. We’re seated and playing guess-the-menu – I reckon I can get 50% of it. That’s the point of an upmarket pub, isn’t it?
To the starters, then. Steak tartare (£7.50) is one of my desert island dishes and this one looks textbook. The yolk perches atop the pink flecks of meat, glistening, threatening to burst at the slightest touch. It’s well put together, with some on-point crusty bread, but I prefer a higher caper ratio and, to be frank, a bit more on my plate.
The cheese scones come hidden beneath two large rashers of crispy bacon. They’re delicious – and I don’t normally like scones. These aren’t the dry, dull affair that you’d get in a snooty tearoom. The addition of blue cheese is a real highlight and all the flavours marry together perfectly, with just a hint of sage in the butter. Lovely.
For the mains, it’s that classic ‘You have meat, I’ll have fish and we’ll both get food envy’ kind of affair. The roast lamb (£15.80) is perfectly cooked, presented in fat, pink, succulent slices. A classic list of Moroccan flavours gathers underneath like it’s paying homage to the meat. Couscous? Check. Harissa? Check. Yoghurt? Check. The freshness of the flavours and the contrast of textures from couscous to flatbread to lamb and back again continues my list of positives and the presence of that crucial bit of food sorcery – hot and cold on the same plate – adds a final autograph to excellence.
Our white fish is turbot (£17.40) – we’re in poshville now. You want such a delicate piece of white meat to fall apart as you cut into it and that’s exactly what happens, giving way to a chickpea stew underneath. The saltiness is provided by pieces of chorizo which, while quite robust, don’t ruin the turbot by being too large or chewy. We also get a side of honeyed carrots (£2.50) which come out in long, roasted strips, perfect in texture and deliciously sweet. Of course, the only problem with a fish and meat combo is choosing a suitable wine. We go for Rioja Crianza (£30) in the end and it does the trick, matching well with the chorizo and lamb, without overpowering the turbot too much. It’s gone in an instant too, so it must’ve been good. Hic.
Time for the dessert klaxon to sound. Four classic choices, all six quid. The panna cotta ticks all the texture boxes but the flavour and accompanying cinder toffee are nothing memorable. Crème brulée, meanwhile, is a bigger test. How will it crack? Will it be smooth or slightly scrambled underneath? Unlike a frozen pond, where you should always get your younger sibling to test its durability before you risk your life, the first crack of a crème brulée is not something you should ever, ever allow another person to do. Apparently, my absolute heathen of a dinner partner didn’t get the memo. Revenge will be sweet. It makes a cracking (ha!) noise and is excellently textured and flavoured. Pretty faultless, to be honest. We celebrate with a whisky (or ‘posh after dinner booze’ in Matt Healy-speak), then toddle off home.
The Beehive is good, as I expected it to be. Matt Healy set out his stall to provide ‘simple pub classics with a modern twist’ and he’s done exactly that. The real consideration is whether it’s worth a very expensive taxi, or designated driver argument. For me, the jury’s out on that one. I could name several other options within the city centre that serve pub food just as well. For the extra journey, I would need it to be something special. It isn’t – but then it’s not trying to be. And regardless, like my favourite local pubs, I’d be in there every other week if I lived nearby, which I suppose is the whole point.
The Beehive, Main Street, Thorner, LS14 3DE
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Steak tartare 7, scones 8, lamb 9, turbot 8, panna cotta 6, crème brulée 8
Friendly, attentive and professional
Busy, enthusiastic crowd, comfy setting