The White Rabbit, 1 White Hart Fold, Todmorden, OL14 7BD – Visit Now
Todmorden lies on the border between Lancashire and Yorkshire, a twenty-minute train journey from Manchester through the region’s beautiful countryside. It’s a quaint, laid-back place with a warm, friendly energy, straight out of an Enid Blyton book. Of course, every proud market town needs a restaurant to match – White Rabbit is that, and more.
Stepping inside this cosy restaurant is like taking a break from the real world
Opening in October 2015, the White Rabbit takes its name from the tardy bunny from Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland. As such, the decor is all charming trinkets and far-fetched fixtures and fittings. Elegant illustrations of characters from the book dot the walls, along with melting clocks and mahogany wood panelling. Stepping inside this cosy restaurant is like taking a break from the real world for a few hours.
Tasting menus are the order of the day, giving the owners, David and Robyn Glenhill (chef and front-of-house, respectively) opportunity to develop all manner of wild and wonderful dishes for their guests. Incredibly, the food and drinks menus are rebooted monthly – an impressive task for a multi-staffed restaurant, let alone a place ran by a husband-and-wife team alone. Vegetarians are catered for, and the less greedy can opt for the five-course tasting menu rather than eight.
Incredibly, the food and drinks menus are rebooted monthly – impressive for a multi-staffed restaurant, let alone a husband-and-wife team
Attention to detail is everything here, and each course boasts an evocative title. Our opener is a ‘Velvet Onion’, a cute white teacup containing a silky white onion veloute. It comes with onion-dusted butter to be smeared across thick chunks of freshly-made bread that cry out to be dipped into the teacup. Remember dipping toast soldiers into a runny boiled egg? This is that, with bells on.
‘Spiced Pumpkin’ is a striking looking course, all deep yellows and tree bark browns. This is a kind of deconstructed pumpkin pie, featuring spiced oats, Caerphilly cheese and cinnamon bark cream. It’s pretty as a picture and almost a shame to polish off.
Each course combines wonderfully with the selected wine, you’re only getting half the story without it
A more simple but no less delicious dish is ‘Dig For Beets’ – a bowl packed full of salted cobnuts and beetroot infused potato puffs that comes across as a grown-up bowl of cereal. It goes without saying that the wine pairing is a must. Each course combines wonderfully with the selected wine, you’re only getting half the story without it.
Scallops are practically a mainstay of the modern tasting menu and it’s a delight to see White Rabbit try something different with their molluscs. It comes fresh and plump, steeped in a samphire-speckled Champagne mussel sauce, with a squid ink tuile concealing the lot. Each course brings with it a new sense of childlike wonder, and you’ll hear awestruck sounds come from surrounding tables.
‘Lamb In The Hedgerow’ is another out-there dish. It’s crushed lamb shoulder, baked into a crispy-coated fritter, resting on salt-baked celeriac and a thick dark blackberry glaze, plus a handful of leaves and a single fat blackberry. Each ingredient alone is superb, but together – particular when the blackberry bursts – it’s something very special indeed.
Sticking with meat, ‘Autumn Fillet’ is a surprising plate, at first glance. A perfect hunk beef, mahogany on the outside, pink in the middle, plus a long charred carrot and a circle of bright yellow sauce. The simply shapes and bold colours give it a real contrast to the delicate and complex nature of the previous dishes. And somehow it’s the best course of the evening. The great quality meat helps, and the carrot, despite looking as if its been burnt to within an inch of its life, is packed with sweetness. But it’s the Valois sauce that makes this dish, a twist on béarnaise, still buttery but with a thick, mouthwatering reduction of chicken stock. It’s probably the finest steak sauce you’ll ever taste – prepare to spend the next few months trying to emulate it.
Desserts are the ‘Very Cherry’, a laugh-out-loud brilliant combination of cherry cake, meringue and homemade Love Heart sweets, and the ‘Clockwork Orange Rabbit’, a near-regal final dish. The latter is a rich, dark orange chocolate, smooth like velvet, resting on crushed biscuit and surrounded by globs of orange sauce. It’s glorious as it is, but combined with the startling chocolate orange flavoured dessert wine, it takes its place in the list of greatest desserts ever.
However, as stated earlier, they change the menu every month so it may be some while before any of these appear again. Happily, it provides a good reason to attend regularly to check out what wizardry is on offer this month.
The White Rabbit is very unique, and very British. Fun and childlike excitement run through the entire menu and it’d take a heart of stone not to be charmed by owners Robyn and David. Every dish evokes a long-lost childhood memory, and each sip of the paired wine lifts it to new heights. If you’re a fan of Moor Hall, Forest Side and L’Enclume, but want to try something more intimate and just flat-out fun, head down the White Rabbit hole.