There can be few stiffer tests of brotherly love than two ambitious young chefs buying and running a restaurant together. So before Chris and Richard Dunn agreed to be business partners and cook side by side at Mustard & Punch in the West Yorkshire village of Honley, near Huddersfield, they gave each other a three-month probation period.
"We both knew the extra pressures that working together could bring," explains Chris, who had been head chef at the 65-seat restaurant, a former Caterer Adopted Business, for five years when the opportunity to buy the restaurant arose last Christmas. And after stints at the Design House in Halifax, Harvey Nichols in Leeds, the Devonshire Arms at Bolton Abbey and Rascasse in Leeds, his brother Richard was ready to take on the role of joint chef-proprietor. Phil Metcalfe looks after front of house.
The first dilemma the brothers faced together was whether to play safe with the menu or try something different. Their decision to keep a few safe dishes but be bolder with the rest of the menu, taking traditional Yorkshire ingredients and putting them in unusual settings, has kept existing customers happy and won over many new ones. Average spend currently stands at £35 per head.
Typical of their reworking of Yorkshire country food is a starter of pot-braised pig cheek, served with potato and parsnip gnocchi, baby spinach, black olives and dressed in a chicken velouté (£5.95). Another pork dish with a big traditional background is pressed ham hock which, at Mustard & Punch, is served with a pea risotto and two frogs' legs (£5.95). Chris explains the thinking behind the unusual mix of items: "Ham and pea is a classic mix. We thought we'd get a lot of people asking for the dish without the frogs' legs, but we don't. It sells really well and we're convinced it's having the frogs' legs which is selling the dish."
The theme is also evident in a main-course dish of trio of lamb featuring a mini shepherd's pie, a noisette and lamb kidneys served with caramelised and puréed swede (£14.50). And cod from Whitby takes on a new slant with a side dressing of calamari, mint, coriander and a sherry vinegar dressing (£13.25).
Among the desserts rice pudding continues to tease Yorkshire memories, but the Dunns' version is flavoured with coconut and vanilla pods and served with a poached pear (£4.25) and has become so popular that it's now a permanent fixture on the otherwise monthly-changing menu.
New ideas being tried out include occasional gourmet evenings, which at £45 for seven courses might seem a bargain outside Yorkshire but tend to lift eyebrows within the White Rose county. Also in its infancy is a "trade night" on Mondays, aimed at off-duty chefs and restaurateurs.
Mustard & Punch, 6 Westgate, Honley, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. Tel: 01484 662066
A selection from the menu at Mustard & Punch
Beetroot-cured salmon with battered oyster, £6.95
Roast portobello mushroom soup with mozzarella, £3.45
Roast mackerel with fennel and star anise oil, £5.75
Roast monkfish with Serrano ham and minestrone, £13.25
Duck breast rillettes and foie gras with lentils, £15.50
Brill with a crab crust, asparagus, wild garlic and potato galette, £13.95
Maple-glazed pineapple tatin with rum-and-raisin ice-cream, £5.75
Passion fruit crème brûlée, mint sorbet and mandarin jelly, £4.75
Warm chocolate and raspberry brownie with almond ice-cream, £4.95
Published by: The Caterer