Restaurant Review: The Wheatsheaf Inn, Little Gomersal

I think it was George Orwell who said 'all tables are equal, but some tables are more equal than others'.

Okay, he didn't exactly say that, but if he had dined at The Wheatsheaf Inn in Little Gomersal, it's a phrase which may well have sprung to mind.

Now, let me preface this by saying that this particular food reviewer isn't necessarily one to moan when restaurateurs request their tables back for a second sitting.

It must be pretty annoying to watch diners nursing a glass of wine all afternoon or evening while you have to turn away paying customers.

But having your table taken away BEFORE you've even finished eating, now that is rather hard to swallow.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then let me begin to explain...

We'd arrived at The Wheatsheaf as a party of four on a busy Sunday lunchtime.

When booking on the telephone, I was asked if I would be happy to give our table back after two or two-and-a-half hours as there was a large party coming in later.

I happily agreed and even offered to move our booking to an earlier slot to give them more leeway if so desired.

There was no need, I was told, as food 'comes out quickly' and there would be 'plenty of time'.

As it turned out, however, it was less than an hour and 20 minutes before the table-grab was launched.

It seems managers had booked a party of 10 in and needed our table to make up the numbers. To ratchet up the guilt levels, it was stressed that the other table was an 80th birthday party. No matter that clearly one of our own party was also celebrating a birthday. Would we then, instead, mind eating our desserts in the bar – on the house even?

To be honest, we weren't thrilled at the prospect but we did ultimately acquiesce. Only to get to the bar to find that to be jam-packed, too.

What looked like a card table was being carried out and placed somewhere near the entrance vestibuile - presumably to accommodate us.

Frankly, we'd had enough and like many a newspaper person before us, we made our excuses and left.

The whole episode had left rather a bad taste in our mouths – not least the offer to knock ONE glass of wine off our bill to make up for our trouble.

It is no mean feat, I suppose, that a relatively fledgling business like The Wheatsheaf has the problem of being too popular.

But no restaurant can afford to treat their customers with the disdain we felt.

Far better not to try to squeeze in that extra booking than lose both sets of customers: we certainly shan't be returning and I'd wonder whether the other group - who had no doubt felt uncomfortable watching the entire scene unfold - would be willing to risk a similar embarrassment again.

If, after reading this, however, you are still thinking about a visit, I suppose I'd better tell you something about the venue and the food.

This quaint inn nestles in a pretty spot at the end of Gomersal Lane. It's finished to a high-standard with William Morris-style wallpaper, an open fire, plaid banquettes and deliberately mismatched chairs.

It has a homely, cosy feel and our initial welcome was good.

Unfortunately a no-show from their drinks delivery people meant that several items we asked for (sparkling mineral water, rum and then beer) were unavailable.

We did eventually settle on a round of drinks which came quickly enough. The chosen bottle of wine (a decent Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc at a reasonable 16.60) also arrived in good time but was somewhat unceremoniously plonked in its large ice bucket in the middle of the table and left.

There would, it seemed, be no tasting or pouring of the wine here.

The Wheatsheaf serves a special menu on a Sunday which is a step up from your usual roast or carvery.

For a very reasonable 12 you can enjoy two courses at this self-styled gastro-pub. You can, of course, have three courses, but we never got that far so I'm afraid I have no idea how much that is.

For starters, we chose: the melon with an elderflower foam; leek, smoked bacon and rosemary soup; the chicken liver pate and, from the specials board, the salmon fishcakes.

Unfortunately, we were initially told the fishcakes were not available on a Sunday. Which begs the question why the specials board is up.

But – and this is a huge positive – our waitress had a word with the kitchen and got the chef to rustle them up specially.

And they were pretty good. Packed with fresh salmon and with a crisp batter coating, they were nestled on a bed of creamy tomato sauce which was dotted with prawns.

The soup was decent, too, with a good shot of the smokey bacon flavour, but came strangely served with a side of what appeared to be shop-bought garlic bread.

The pate was far too smooth for my liking, really rather more like a mousse, and the melon was nowhere near ripe.

The promised elderflower foam was nowhere to be seen and instead there was a scoop of what might have been blackberry sorbet which really turned it into more of a pudding than a starter.

For mains, two of us opted for the roast rib of beef, one for the roast loin of pork and one for the lamb shank.

The beef was tender and plentiful and the accompanying Yorkshire puddings were well-risen and crisp. The pork was probably the star of the show, coming with that difficult-to-achieve moistness and adorned with a fine piece of crackling. The sage and apricot 'farci' – that's stuffing to you and me – I could have lived without. It was dense and heavy, with no discernible sign of the promised apricots. On the whole, though, I enjoyed it.

The lamb shank was fine, too, though it came with so much garlic-infused sauce that the mash on which it sat was washed away into a not very appetising pulpy mass.

We were brought side dishes to share. The roast potatoes, however, were cooked to within an inch of their life and there was barely enough to serve two.

The chef was also rather stingy on the veg, though there was a good selection.

We were quite looking forward to our sweets which included tropical fruit salad, sticky toffee pudding, cheesecake and home-made chocolate fudge cake.

Alas, as you will have already read, that was not meant to be.

In total, our meal for four, with the wine and a couple of drinks came to 69.75.

Clearly, that's not including desserts ... or for that matter, a tip.

FACTFILE

The Wheatsheaf Inn, Gomersal Lane, Little Gomersal, West Yorkshire, BD19 4JQ.

Tel: 01274 878638

Opening hours: weekdays 12pm to 12am; Saturdays 12pm to 1am; Sundays 12pm to 11pm.

Parking available on site

Disabled access is good

STAR RATING

FOOD.................................... **

VALUE............................... ***

ATMOSPHERE................. ***

SERVICE ................................. *

***** EXCELLENT **** VERY GOOD *** GOOD ** AVERAGE * POOR