The first thing that strikes you about the Calverley Arms on the border of Pudsey and Calverley is its location - it’s absolutely stunning.
What could be better on a sunny afternoon than sitting outside and watching the trees blow in the breeze with a pint of your favourite tipple and the prospect of some good pub grub to follow?
This is a former Victorian manor house with its own extensive grounds and it uses them. Outside the main entrance of the pub is an extended raised enclosure with a dozen or so large dining tables. Beyond that there’s a garden any country house would be more than happy with room enough to swing a bat or even kick a ball come to that.
And just this week fresh landscaping has been almost completed, transforming part of the lawned area into a series of interlinked features, which judging by the lights attached to them, will look fantastic at night. But we haven’t come here to look at the garden, we’ve come for the food.
The Calverley Arms is one of those places whose reputation goes before it. It’s a drive-to pub and given its surroundings and the weather - which happened to be blistering sunshine when we arrived - it the kind of place you could quite easily lose a day. The bar has a decent selection of beers, including some nice bitters, like Leeds Pale Ale and Proper Job.
The menu is laid out simply on a large double-sided card and the kids menu offers a good half-dozen popular dishes like fish n’ chips and bangers and mash.
To start I ordered beer battered mushrooms (£3.99), while my partner went for baker brie (£4.45). The brie was the better of the two, the melted slightly salty cheese proving the perfect accompaniment to the onion marmalade.
The mushrooms were nice although the batter proved a little on the hard side but in terms of value, you can’t go wrong at under £4.
For mains I went for the ricotta tart (£8.95), a sumptuous combination of ricotta, spinach and tomato in a pastry dish and garnished with delicate breadcrumb. I’m not usually one to go for a vegetarian dish but this proved to be as good as any meat dish, the flavours that were in that dish were phenomenal. It was warming, wholesome, nourishing feel-good food packed with flavour. It was served on a bed of mixed warm vegetables, including olives and again, they were a nice accompaniment.
My dining companion went for the chicken, ham and leek pie (again, not at all bad at £8.50). This was another succulent, moorish dish, one of those things you could see yourself eating on a cold winter night. There was lots of chicken and ham in there and the leek sauce just brought it all together.
The only downside to the dish was the chips but during our visit, we were told at the outset there were no country-style gourmet chips available and having had them before I can vouch for them, so that part was a bit of a shame but the reasons for it were understood.
I also ordered a side of seasonal vegetables - peas, cabbage and baby carrots, served in a ramekin and a side (£2.95) of chips (£2.50).
So, while all the food thus far consumed was above average pub fayre, there were one or two issues surrounding service. On previous visits to the Calverley Arms, I have seen full waiter service both inside and out but on this occasion, it was a case of ‘order at the bar’.
While it has to be said our starters came very quickly indeed, there was a bit of a delay in our mains arriving and when they did arrive, our waitress failed to notice we had no cutlery and promptly disappeared, leaving us to poke chips at our food.
When she returned it was with a tray full of about eight sauces and other accompaniments, which we had to dole out there and then. I’ve seen this before at other restaurants and I’ve never understood it because it severely limits your dining options. If you are going to order pub grub - burgers and pies and the like - and you are offered sauce, then you should have it for the meal. What happens if, half way through your meal, you suddenly want more sauce? Do you wait to catch the waiter’s eye? Do you get up and go look for them, or wait behind people ordering drinks at the bar, just so you can have a bit more sauce please? And if they bring you more sauce and you’re just about to finish your last mouthful and you suddenly think, I want more sauce, what then? All this went through my head and then I happened to glance over at the next table and noticed they had a bottle of Heinz ketchup on the table, so what’s that all about?
To finish off, my dining mate ordered the chocolate brownie (£4.25) which came with ice-cream and looked and tasted divine - it was everything you shouldn’t eat and although there was plenty, it was one of those things you could eat again and again.
I went for the oversized chocolate eclair (£4.95), which I have to say proved to be a bit of a disappointment in that the pastry was a little brittle. It looked and tasted as though it had been made a couple of days before and bunged in the fridge and it wasn’t what I’d imagined.
All told the bill came in at £58.64 - not bad really considering the surroundings, the overall level of food, which is well above average and the range of drinks on offer.
The Calverley Arms is somewhere I’ll return again and again, especially on sunny afternoons and despite a few niggles, it’s a great pub doing great food. It offers a Sunday lunch menu and one thing I was particularly interested in sampling from the main menu was the hog burger (a good excuse to go back).
If you do want to sit inside, it’s got that eclectic country-house feel about it, with mis-matched high chairs, log burning fires and plush carpeted dining area with original oak beams.
Great place, great menu, superb surroundings and not bad at all on value.
Address: Calverley Lane, Calverley, Pudsey, LS28 5QQ
Tel: 0113 255 7771
Ppening times: noon-11pm (10.30pm on Sundays).