WE’D like to apologise to Teesside because we are guilty of ignoring it in recent months – and, of course, there’s nothing worse than being ignored.

It’s absolutely yonks since we did Middlesbrough’s Persian Cottage (cheap as chips and authentically rudimentary) and The Curing House (hipster-ish charcuterie joint in the Boro’s Bedford Street foodie quarter).

And it’s even longer since we last ventured as far as Guisborough which is very remiss as this underrated little town has a lot of eating places to sample.

So apologies, unreserved, all round.

Cookfella’s was recommended to us a long time ago, not long after it opened, by the D&S Guisborough correspondent Brian Gleeson. I say a long time ago but was slightly shocked to discover that it did in fact open in Church Street back in 2012. At least any teething problems should have been ironed out by now.

Based on our recent visit they certainly have. It’s right up there with the best of 2017.

I confess I’m a sucker for a classy building and Cookfella’s is housed in a beaut, constructed of that distinctive dark sandstone which is hallmark of so many older vernacular buildings in this neck of the woods.

It’s also in the best part of town, opposite the parish church and the priory, with plenty of handy parking round about. After dark, with the dressed stone subtly illuminated it looks very inviting.

Once inside, the promise of the exterior is largely fulfilled although you might be forgiven for momentarily thinking that you have wandered into a children’s nursery. The colour scheme is bright and primary – reds and yellows predominantly – but the low-level lighting tones it down.

The broadly Mediterranean feel is reflected in the menu which has strong Spanish and Greek influences with the odd Thai, Mexican and classic French dish thrown into the mix. When you learn that owners Wayne and Helen Leonard have worked in hospitality around the world before coming home to establish Cookfella’s it makes some sense.

They have bolted on to this international flavour a strong emphasis on local sourcing, with meat from Yorkshire Dales at Patrick Brompton, black pudding from Haigh’s at Thirsk, sausages from Anna’s Happy Trotters down in East Yorkshire, Stamfrey Farm clotted cream from Northallerton and Himalayan salt aged beef from Country Valley at Hurworth.

With a tapas selection as well, it makes for an exotic collection of dishes but the choice is sufficient to satisfy both dedicated foodies (me) and those with more conservative tastes (Sylvia).

Although not from the tapas selection, indecision meant we opted to share, tapas-style, two starters – a ham hock terrine and croquettas (both £6.50).

The terrine was exceptionally chunky, well-seasoned, pork, and held together rather cleverly by a jacket of Doreen’s estimable black pudding. Sylvia’s was a bit puzzled by the garnish of cold green beans and onion but the little pieces of bruschetta were rather more welcome.

The croquettas were an unqualified success. Minced ham combined with Manchego cheese and béchamel sauce wrapped in crisp panko crumb, they went down very nicely with the spicy chilli jam which Sylvia, while mixing and matching, discovered worked rather well with the terrine.

Her main course was a massive Kleftiko-style lamb shank (£14.95). Lean leg meat fell from the bone into a light tomato gravy populated with potatoes, assorted vegetables, chunks of feta cheese, lemon and lots of herbs and spices. Rich and filling, Sylvia struggled manfully but failed to finish it.

My mejillas de cerdo estofado (£14.50) was the very essence of pig, the chunky cheeks being packed with flavour having been braised with almonds in sherry and chicken stock. The cooking juices were finished with cream, grain mustard and parsley to make a beautiful sauce.

They were served on some green beans and accompanied by crispy, Spanish-style fried potatoes.

And I still had room for dessert. Well almost. The New York-style baked cookie dough cheesecake (£5.95) was a wodge of creamy-cheese sweetness served with a chocolate-chip cookie, dark chocolate sauce, chocolate shaving and, just in case there wasn’t quite enough more-ish richness, some crème anglaise.

Drinks were reasonably priced, provided you accept that £2 is the minimum for a soft drink these days. Two diet Cokes were £4.20 and medium sized glass of the Pino Grigio £4.50. The total bill was £57.10.

Service was friendly and efficient. Two waitresses worked smoothly in tandem with the chefs who could be seen in action in the open-plan kitchen.

Cookfella’s was definitely worth the trip.


Cookfella’s, 63 Church Street, Guisborough, TS14 6HG

Tel: 01287 631100

Web: cookfellas.co.uk

Open: Monday to Saturday noon-11pm (last table bookings for food 9pm). Closed Sundays.

Disabled access.

Vegetarian, gluten and dairy-free options available.

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 9, Service 9, Surroundings 8, Value 9