THE hotel bar can be something of a wasteland for drinkers, a soulless licensed waiting room servicing the establishment’s itinerant population of sales reps and conference delegates, the cheating lovers and the dispossessed.
The Stables isn’t quite the Weetwood Hotel bar – the two establishments are quite separate – but the fact that they share the same premises, and the pub has no real frontage to the road, have perhaps combined to hold back its popularity. Who wants to drink in a hotel bar, anyway?
Which is a real shame, because the Stables serves a great range of food, wine and beer, and shows just how good hotel bars really could be, with a little effort – well, actually probably quite a bit of effort, though the easy, friendly service here seems effortless compared to the slightly detached, lazy feel to some hotel bars, where your custom is taken for granted, rather than earned. This place must prove a welcome find for those staying at Weetwood or attending functions and conferences there.
Unlike most hotel bars, this is the sort of place you’d choose to drink in, and not just because you happen to be staying the night, a two-minute walk away.
Its three drinking spaces manage to stay distinct from each other. The first, closest to the door, is a relaxed family-friendly area, tables divided by partitions and banquettes.
The second, the narrow area beside the bar, is very much the drinkers’
area. What few tables there are, are high and drinkers perch on tall stools. Blackboards list the prices of the wines and the real ales, of which there are plenty.
A doorway leads from here into a third room, larger and dominated by a giant plasma TV screen, which was showing the Ireland-France Six Nations contest when I called in for a swift pint on Sunday afternoon.
The pub’s name gives a clue to the building’s original function; it once housed the horses which served the Weetwood estate. With parts of the building dating back as far as the 16th century, Weetwood boasts an interesting history – private house, sanatorium and military hospital – and was once the home of the Oates family, whose most famous son, Laurence, walked bravely to his death in the Antarctic wastes 99 years ago next month. It was bought by the University of Leeds in the 1920s as a hall of residents for female students. Still owned by the Uni, it was developed as a four-star conference centre and hotel in the 1990s and sits alongside their main outdoor sports facilities which straddle the outer ring road. It’s a perfect after-match watering hole for competitors and supporters alike.
Even in the much-restored Stables Bar, there are echoes of the past.
Its chunky sandstone walls, some original, some the product of a comprehensive refurbishment, offer clues to its genuine antiquity, clues which are confirmed by huge rustic and rough-hewn beams. High above the central bar area, the beams have been removed to reveal a dramatic, vertiginous roof, the weather-worn brickwork still punctuated by dovecotes.
Stepping outside into the hotel’s central cobbled courtyard one can almost picture the horses being led out, saddled up and ready for the master of the old hall to ride. Now the space makes for a really great beer garden perfect for summer drinking.
It had been about three years since my previous visit, but the beers hadn’t changed at all. Two are from the splendid Copper Dragon brewery at Skipton, the light and easy-going, slightly citric Golden Pippin and the richer, more full-bodied Challenger IPA. There’s also Timothy Taylor Landlord and Black Sheep, completing a trio of great Yorkshire breweries represented. The current guest beer is Hobgoblin, as it also was on my previous visit, if memory serves.
Food is served from noon to 9pm every day and chef Jon Coxon is proud that his menu boasts plenty of items sourced from across the Yorkshire and Humber region. These include a rump steak from the Dales (£10.50), Dales sausages with Yorkshire pudding (£7.95), and a beefburger with smoked Ribblesdale cheese (£7.95). A Northallerton bakery supplies the Stables’ fine range of pies (£6.95) which come with chips, peas and gravy. Sandwiches are £4.50, and kids’ meals £3.95.