Calling it ‘The Curse of Holderness’ may be a bit over-the-top, but there certainly seems to be an ongoing issue with making going concerns of food pubs in the farming lowlands between the Wolds and the North Sea. Few pubs manage to strike the right balance between offering food and atmosphere worthy of a destination pub and keeping their regulars happy.
There are plenty of well-off farming types to cater for, but pubs out this way still need both local and incoming money to keep afloat. Incomers understandably want a gastropub at the end of their long drive, while the locals want a local, without the fancy-pants menu. The pub wants (and needs) it both ways. It’s a tightrope that both the Roos Arms and the Falcon at Withernwick have both walked and fallen from in recent years. The Nancy at Burton Pidsea appears to be keeping its balance, though, despite a major wobble not too long back.
Dee Soper lives in the village and bought the failing Nancy Inn about five years ago. It’s a small-ish former blacksmith’s workshop (it retains one of the fires) next to the village church and it has one cosy lounge and and even cosier bar. Dee renovated it and eventually brought in Simon Rogers to run the kitchen.
Simon was probably best known as the man behind the hugely popular Boars Nest restaurant in Hull, which served excellent modern English cuisine until it abruptly closed in 2011 and reappeared to lesser acclaim in a Wolds hotel. Simon arrived at the Nancy in 2014 and designed a robust, semi-traditional menu which saw the pub swiftly gain both clientele and reputation. Tragically, though, Simon passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in early 2016 due to a severe case of pneumonia.
Dee brought in interim help and then offered the chef’s job full-time to Simon’s protégée Karl Raper, who has stayed close to the Nancy’s established vision while developing it gradually with every monthly updated menu. Most of the dishes are pub classics with a twist and all are very well made from locally-sourced ingredients. Certainly enough to appease the locals, but is it adventurous enough to tempt gastronauts out into the hinterlands of East Yorkshire?
We ordered starters (£5-£7.50) of Lowna goats cheese with marinated beetroot, apple, orange and rapeseed oil – which was light and very well balanced but could have done with more dressing – and pulled pork croquettes with slaw and BBQ dressing.
The croquettes were an interesting take on the ubiquitous meat treat but felt a little like they’d been designed purely to get the words ‘pulled’ and ‘pork’ into the frame. That seems to be how the menu works; get lots of recognisable words on there so no-one complains about it being faffy. Personally, I like a bit of faff. I’d be tempted to train the locals on favoring faffier food rather than let them dictate too much.
Mains were great. My fillet of beef Wellington (£20) was delicious. A single portion (rather than being cut from a larger piece) with a lattice top, served with reverse-season asparagus, new potatoes and béarnaise sauce. The Wellington’s filling had a boozy umami-ness which worked fabulously with the fragrant hit of the tarragon in the béarnaise, and the generous fillet of beef was perfectly moist and pink.
Across the table, grilled Withernsea lobster thermidor (£16 for half) was being noisily devoured. I didn’t even know lobster was landed at Withernsea but apparently there is still one small operator keeping up the trade and delivering ultra-fresh to local concerns. Served with English mustard cream, baby leaf salad and chips, it proved a popular plateful. I’m having that next time.
We had a brace of tarts for pud. One dark chocolate and orange affair was oozy and deep and marvellous, but my treacle one won the day. Made really chewy and texturally challenging by a mixture of oats, panko breadcrumbs and treacle, it was given an extra flavour boost by a drizzling of fragrant honey. Both are made in the kitchen, came with local ice cream and cost a fiver.
I have already apologised to Dee for not having tried the Nancy until now. It’s one of those pubs that is never on your way to anywhere. Now I’ve sought it out I’m glad I have, though, and I hope plenty of others will too.
Is it adventurous enough to tempt incomers? I hope so. It’s certainly good enough. I wish they’d make the food a little more fancy as the chef and the ingredients are capable of greater intricacy, but this has to be done without off-putting the locals. I wish the Nancy good luck and hope that the tightrope they walk gets wider and less wobbly all the time.
• The Nancy, Church Street, Burton Pidsea, East Yorkshire, HU12 9AU. 01964 671117, nancyinn.co.uk. Food served: Monday to Thursday and Sunday, 12-11pm; Friday and Saturday, 12-11.30pm.
DRINKS SELECTION 3/5