“Sowerby Bridge, so full of surprises” – through the looking glass at a quaint neighbourhood bistro
ACK by the hedge? A herb past its best apparently, but the sweet cicely is still sprightly down on the banks of the Calder. Hence the freshly foraged sprigs adding their mild aniseed tang to a Flamenquin pork special across the table.
Just one of many surprises in the Alice Through The Looking Glass parallel universe of Gimbals.
In a world where chefs’ blood pressure goes through the roof as they strive to heighten their profile on the Great British Menu, and there’s a breathless rollout of concepts looting the world’s ‘street food’, it’s a miracle for a small mill town restaurant to stay happily under the radar over two decades with no slackening of enthusiasm or quality – and an utterly delightful rediscovery for us.
Welcome to Gimbals, run by husband and wife team Simon and Janet Baker. As chef, he constantly reinvents a playful, eclectic menu while she creates a decor that soars beyond quirky, does warm front of house and scours the woods for all that edible greenery.
Janet talks us through the delights of Hebridean sugar kelp. Well, we did ask.
Our evening begins on a herbal note, guided by Janet. We’ve negotiated the stairs to the first floor bar, running the gauntlet of gargantuan gilt mirrors, flags, disco balls and random kitsch objects.
From our all-embracing chaise longue we gaze across busy Wharf Street at the much-expanded local Indian, all giant naans on hooks and a squadron of chandeliers, before paying serious attention to Gimbals’ impressive gin list.
Here against the backdrop of Gimbals’ own – more lavish – chandeliers, and a massive snowflake illumination rescued from a warehouse in Blackpool, Janet talks us through the delights of Hebridean sugar kelp. Well, we did ask.
Hand-harvested Hebridean kelp is signature botanical in the Isle of Harris gin at the top of the list, which gives you the option of sprinkling extra sugar kelp aromatic water into your G&T. So I did. It was bizarrely lovely.
Downstairs in the restaurant proper, where various ceramic birds flutter across the walls and over the chairs and tables jumble sale job lot, there’s a merry buzz from gaggles of regulars – quite un-Big City.
We choose both our mains from the specials list – the aforementioned Flamenquin (£18.90), Simon’s version of a pork loin, Manchego and Serrano ham crumbed roulade that’s a Cordoban speciality, and for me sauteed East Coast (presumably of Yorkshire) stone bass fillet (£20).
The Flamenquin is served with a ragout of spicy tomato butterbeans, which mitigates against a slight porcine dryness; my bright, juicy bass comes with the crisp of its seared skin and the crunch of wild sprue asparagus.
There’s ‘wayside’ garlic in there but it’s the delicate melange of ginger, lime and green onion that adds the wow factor.