The address is Mirfield, but the pub is some distance south from the Heavy Woollen town, across the Calder Valley and high on the moorland between Dewsbury and Huddersfield.
It’s a wild winter evening when we arrive, following a winding road up into the hillside before dashing through an untimely squall in the car park. I’m told that the beer garden here affords wonderful views across the surrounding countryside, but we didn’t really have the time or inclination to admire it. The giant Emley mast is close by.
From the front door, the pub is divided along familiar lines. The well-stocked bar is dead ahead, crowned with an alluring row of three real ale hand pumps. Black Sheep is the regular real ale here and there are two guests, both from Yorkshire on this occasion. To the right is a flag-floored drinking area with comfy leather sofas, and an old sailors’ trunk re-used as an interesting table. It’s reassuring to find such a space in a pub so obviously dedicated to dining. This area, and the good choice of beers confirms that it remains a drinking house too.
But this time we are dining too, and we head to the left and a restaurant where the mismatch of tables, big stone walls and wooden panels suggests that someone here was trying to achieve some kind of farmhouse theme, as though sepia photographs, monochrome prints and a tartan-style carpet in shades of brown and beige could create the “rural charm and rustic character” which is claimed on the website.
I’m not convinced. Someone must think that farmhouses are really like this, as though, even when he swaps his shapeless smock for his painter’s overall, Old Macdonald’s palette of colours extends no broader than the mud-brown of his new-ploughed field and the deep tans of his Jersey cattle. Surely Mrs Macdonald would brighten it up with some colourful family photographs, a vase of fresh-cut flowers or a portrait of her favourite sheep. It’s all just a bit too drab.
Mind you, it might well have changed by the time you read this. The Hare and Hounds has been “done out” three times in the past eight years, so another re-fit could be just around the corner.
I decide to selflessly do my bit for National Pie Week by doing battle with a sizeable chicken, pulled ham and leek pie (£8.50), big chunks of meat in a full-flavoured sauce of white wine and cheese, with chips and peas for good measure. The menu describes this as a James Martin pie, but I have only a vague idea who this Mr Martin is.
I team this with a pint of handpulled Top of the Hops from the Great Yorkshire Brewery in North Yorkshire, formerly known as Cropton Brewery. This is a beer famous for blending a ridiculous number of hops in the brew. The initial 2012 version, which launched this beer, featured 2,012 varieties of Kent hops – and only missed out on a place in the Guinness Book of Records because there was no appropriate category in the book. And while I’m not sure that subsequent brews have been so ambitious, it remains a full-on aromatic, bitter, deep tasting ale and cut through the serious flavours of the pie
Across the table, the cod loin, chips and mushy peas (£10.95) and the Sunday roast beef and Yorkshire pudding (£10.25) maintain these high standards; fixed price and children’s menus create still better value for money. Staff in smart black livery flit among the tables, ensuring brisk and attentive service.
“There are only a handful of houses near here,” assistant manager Rebecca Price tells me when she ambles over for a chat over coffees and a simple cheeseboard of mature cheddar, brie, blue and Bath Olivers. “So although we do have quite a lot of regulars, they come from the villages all around here.”
In summer this is great walking country too. Not tonight, mind.
Name: The Hare and Hounds
Host: Michelle Dickinson
Type: Real ale dining house
Opening Hours: 11.30am-11pm Mon-Sat, 11.30am-10.30pm Sun
Beers: Black Sheep (£3.05) plus changing choice of two other real ales plus John Smith Smooth (£2.70), Carling (£3.05), Becks Vier (£3.15), Stella Artois (£3.50), Peroni (£4.10) and Guinness (£3.50)
Wine: Good choice
Food: From opening until one hour before closing daily
Children: Welcomed – kids’ portions and high chairs available, baby changing area.
Disabled: Easy ramp access and disabled toilets
Beer Garden: Large area with great views
Parking: Large car park
Telephone: 01924 493814