Next to food, sculpture is one of my passions, whether making it or looking at it, so it’s no wonder Yorkshire Sculpture Park is one of my favorite places to visit. At the start of 2019 I reviewed their new £3.6m visitor center and restaurant home at the Weston and loved it, especially as it brought my two passions together perfectly .
So, almost three years later, I was back for what I hoped would be a good lunch and a healthy hike through the park to see my old friends, Frink, Moore, Hirst, Goldsworthy and the rest who loved me. had missed so much during the pandemic.
After several raging storms and floods, it was the nicest weather day in weeks; it was also halfway through, and the Park and the Weston were rammed. There are also changes here too.
After Covid it is understandable that there is now a charge to enter the park which replaces the old payment system for car parking, although if you are only visiting to eat it is free. Outside a new terrace full of tables both inside and out is fully occupied but luckily we had reservations.
Although the atmosphere is nothing like what I remember – or what I feel was the intention of a different offer from the family bustle at the YSP Center cafe – they seem to be regaining lost ground from the pandemic, and if that means changes, so be it.
Leeds Michelin star chef Michael O’Hare of Man Behind the Curtain is aiming…
The menu is similar, not as adventurous or with the admirable food ties to the gallery exhibition and fundraiser for Punjab farmers that I remember. But times are different and the menu is always extensive, from breakfast with pastries, hot sandwiches, French toast and more.
Brunch favors eggs or mushrooms for vegans. Lunch is plentiful with snacks, delicious lunch plates, meat platters, salads and soups; there are many choices.
There’s also no time to linger as orders are taken quickly – and pleasantly – too quickly for me to notice their superfood smoothies, so I quickly add to my order only for it to arrive after the food, which was strange. Weird too, the smoothie was pink when I ordered carrot and zucchini with ginger. I was told there were also berries, although there was no mention of this on the menu.
A white sourdough and rye platter with smoked seaweed salted butter, aged balsamic olive oil and a green sauce that we thought would keep us happy until the main courses arrived.
However, I loved the butter, but there was no joy with the bread; it was so dry it crumbled, which is especially hard to do with sourdough, and no props would change that. Although barely touched, it was put away in the kitchen without question.
A plate of mixed leaf, beetroot, tomato salad brought back a little spark left by a lackluster dressing, and we went into the dish a bit crestfallen. However, a Fritto Misto of cod cheek and squid made me smile that I was even willing to ignore the slightly soggy batter on some of the squid.
The skin on fries were hot, crispy and excellent. Opposite, a respectable piece of slow-cooked beef brisket elicited a similar response with a big smile.
There was a nice drizzle of cranberry and port glaze, a little mountain of red cabbage, and the promised toasted hazelnut crumbs had an unusual and unexpected chilli bite.
I wanted to end on that high, so I was happy with the coffee, but the caramel apple pie was too tempting for my husband. The pie was okay, but nothing too special.
While sipping my coffee, I looked out over the park and, despite my slight discouragement, I was so happy to see the fun unfold. The happy chatter of families enjoying the unexpected sunshine, the yelping dogs, the children rolling down the small hill, all set against the beautiful sculpture-laden landscape of this fantastical park.
I am so grateful and feel lucky to have this wonderful place to enjoy here in Yorkshire. Maybe the Weston is settling into what’s needed and wanted now, less of a restaurant and more of a bustling cafe, I don’t know. What I do know is that nothing will stop me from going back.
The Weston’s Restaurant, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Bretton, S75 4BX. Tel: 01924 930004. Open: Tuesday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Non-alcoholic lunch for two: £56.65.