OF course it’s not new at all. The change of name distances this wayside inn from its time as the Bracken Fox, a popular enough wayside watering hole which had become a little tired and dated over the years.
The refit nudges the business sharply up-market, returning it to its original name, and at the same time tackling some of its inherent design faults. And while – as is usually the case – some diehard regulars have bemoaned a few of the changes, most have embraced its lurch towards genuine gastropub territory.
It’s certainly a move which is quite in keeping with its well-to-do locale, and one which emphasises its distinction from the pile ’em high, sell ’em cheap approach adopted just along the A58 at the Wellington.
“The old look just wasn’t working,” said manager Paul Lacey, who has been in the pub for the past year. “It was very tired.”
The £160,000 refit, largely carried out during the night to keep the pub’s closure period to a minimal five days, has created a new restaurant space to the left of the main entrance, making it easier for diners to find space to eat, while avoiding the occasional discomfiture which occurs when drinkers are surrounded by diners and vice versa.
The design makes good use of bare brick, stone and beams, and adopts a neutral colour scheme of pale greens and creams. The floor is part tiles, part flagged, part carpeted. The main dining area is warmed by the roaring flames of the central brick fireplace, while gentle jazz pop trips from the stereo system.
A new menu has been introduced, plus full waitress service to replace the old dining-by-numbers system where customers had to continually return to the bar to order food and drink. Our waitress is Debs Todd, filling in time and earning some money before enrolling on a media-related course at Newcastle. And though her long-term aim is journalism, she showed particular dedication to her temporary career of waitressing, making sure that this particular writer was well looked after all evening.
She started, of course, by bringing drinks: some house red for my partner and a fine refreshing pint of hand-pulled Timothy Taylor’s Golden Best (£2.95) for me. The Keighley ale is one of two permanent Yorkshire draught beers on offer here, the other being Black Sheep, while the guest beer on this visit was the darker, more robust Midnight Bell from Leeds Brewery. Interestingly in these times of alleged financial re-evaluation, one of the pub’s biggest selling beers is its most expensive, the £3.70-a-pint Peroni lager from Italy. “It’s the thing to be seen drinking these days,” said Paul.
Our starter soon arrived, a sizeable ‘tasting platter’ (£10.95) of battered mushrooms, onion rings, big pieces of chicken, a soft grainy pate and a baked camambert with lots of crusty bread for dipping purposes. Midway through Deb asked if we would like extra bread, which was a welcome extra personal touch, and one you don’t usually associate with big-brand dining. For despite the refurbishment the New Inn remains part of Mitchell’s and Butler’s giant empire, and still a Vintage Inn, though now it is an appreciable step up from one or two others which I have visited recently.
The additional quality was confirmed by two rather fine main courses.
My partner opted for the chunky home-made beefburger (£8.75), topped with lettuce, bacon and smoky cheddar cheese in a sesame seed bun and served with a sizeable bowl of chips. In the meantime I was tackling the excellent fish pie (£9.75), where king prawns and chunks of cod and haddock were wrapped in a herby, cheesy, smoked salmon sauce, beneath a lid of crushed potatoes. The only downside to the meal was the overcooked broccoli and cabbage which came as an accompaniment, so I raided my partner’s chip bowl when she wasn’t looking.
Debs persuaded us to have dessert – a whole pie of moist Bramley apples in a crusty pastry for me (£4.75), and some outsize profiteroles
(£3.95) for my partner.
The menu offers plenty more, with steaks from £9.45, and unusual pub dining choices such as roast guinea fowl (£12.95), shetland salmon with samphire (£10.95), wild venison steak (£16.45) and vegetarian Jamaican stew (£7.95). A fixed price menu offering three courses for £10, plus a lunchtime sandwich menu add yet further to the choices on offer.
As for Paul, he’s really pleased with how it’s going at his re-born pub. “People used to talk about the New Inn, and how good it was originally. We’ve taken it back to how it was then. I don’t really know why they changed it in the first place.
“The Bracken Fox was not a comfortable place to be any more. It didn’t fit the business and it didn’t fit me.”
Name: The New Inn
Type: Quality pub and restaurant
Hosts: Paul Lacey
Open: 11am-11pm Mon-Sat, 11am-10.30 pm Sun
Beers: Black Sheep (£2.95) and Timothy Taylor Golden Best (£2.95), plus one guest real ale (£3.25). Carling (£2.75), Becks Vier (£2.90), Stella Artois (£3.15), Heineken (£3.20), Peroni (£3.70), Guinness (3.15)
Wine: Quality selection
Food: Great range of meals available from noon-10pm Mon-Sat and noon-9.30pm Sun. Steak night on Wednesday, plus special Sunday roast menu.
Disabled: Easy access but some split-level areas inside. Disabled toilets.
Entertainment: Quiz Tues, fruit machine, piped music Beer Garden: Yes
Parking: Large area
Telephone: 0113 289 2748
Beer of the week
After a long day rambling across the marshy wastes of Blubberhouses Moor, this bottled beer practically threw itself at me when I was browsing the shelves of my local off licence.
It’s named in honour of the great Alfred Wainwright, author of the famous walking guidebooks, and the label features a sketch of him resting beside a cairn, smoking his pipe.
Brewed by Lancashire’s Thwaites brewery, this beer would make a perfect refresher after completing a leg of Wainwright’s Pennine Way, or after a day navigating Hellvellyn’s perilous Striding Edge.
It looks gorgeous, light and golden of colour with a big creamy head that gives off a malty, almost whiskyish aroma. These soft, soothing elements continue into the taste of a beer which develops in intensity on the palate, even offering a suggestion of sparkle before its bitterness comes to the fore in the aftertaste.
Whether you’re a rambler or not, you should check this one out. You’ll find it Tesco, Morrison’s and plenty other places besides.
AFTERTASTE ............... ****
***** EXCELLENT **** VERY GOOD *** GOOD ** AVERAGE * POOR