Pub review: The Shoulder of Mutton, Kirkby Overblow

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THE Jenkins family’s collective puerile sense of humour was given a little exercise over a rather splendid family Sunday lunch in this pretty village inn between Leeds and Harrogate.

Two of us had ordered the shoulder of lamb, so it should have come as no surprise when the waiter approached the table, carrying them carefully and announcing: “I’ve got two shoulders.”

When my daughter, comfortably the silliest of all of us, caught my eye, it was all I could to stop myself spraying the table with a mouthful of Timothy Taylor Landlord, which would have been both embarrassing and a waste of good beer. Luckily we managed to prevent our repressed giggles from becoming full-on laughter until he was safely back in the kitchen. Mind you, my wife didn’t help by remarking on our good fortune in having not ordered two large breasts of chicken.

And while I would like to take this opportunity to apologise publicly to the waiter, I should add that these moments of hilarity only enhanced an excellent afternoon’s dining. We had kicked off with a couple of shared starters – six juicy battered prawns with a tangy sweet chilli dip, and a generous moist slab of chicken liver pate, served with almost enough toast. There’s never quite enough toast or bread with pate, in my experience, perhaps a cleverer person than I could explain this curious dining phenomenon

The lamb proved a good choice though, served in a tangy mint and redcurrant gravy, with some lovely Dauphinoise potatoes and a colourful side dish of crunchy broccoli and a swamp of mashed carrots. Not untypically, I’d gone for the pie, chunks of steak in a rich onion gravy, beneath a proper pie crust and served with a mound of chips.

All this represented hearty Yorkshire dining, with few of the pretensions which can become associated with the word “gastropub”. An early bird menu offering two courses for £13.95 and three for £16.95 further underlines the Shoulder of Mutton’s reputation for sensibly-priced, sturdy pub food.

At a time when many village inns have struggled, and some have closed, Kirkby Overblow is remarkable in that it continues to sustain two – the other is the Star and Garter – and both do quality food and drink. Without the benefit of much passing trade, it is their quality and reputation which continue to attract a clientele from a wide area, whose custom is surely crucial to their survival.

The stone-built Shoulder of Mutton was built in 1880 and retains much of its Victorian charm and beauty. For the past decade, the job of nurturing that trade has fallen to licensee Kate Deacon – and on this showing, she’s doing a fine job.

The Shoulder of Mutton looks every inch the traditional Yorkshire inn. Deep green ivy clings to the stone frontage, where gold letters pick out the name of the pub above it ancient leaded sash windows.

Stepping inside, you arrive at a bar dominated by those two local icons, Timothy Taylor and Black Sheep, beneath a ceiling crossed by oak beams. The hulking logs on the giant stone fireplace add light and warmth to a room which is home to a remarkable flock of ovine ornaments.

The well-kept ale proves a perfect accompaniment to the food; our fellow diners were mostly couples and families with young children, each taking advantage of this perfect Yorkshire dining experience. And as we left, the pub was gradually filling up for the monthly Sunday evening quiz.

FACTFILE

Type: Village inn

Host: Kate Deacon

Opening Hours: Closed Mon; 11.30am-3pm and 6-11pm Tue-Fri; 11.30am-11pm Sat and noon-10.30pm Sun

Beers: Two real ales, currently Black Sheep and Timothy Taylor Landlord, plus John Smith Smooth, Shipyard, Strongbow and Moretti

Wine: Good choice

Food: Quality pub food is served noon-2pm and 6-9pm Tues-Fri, noon-9pm Sat and noon-7pm Sun

Children: Welcomed

Disabled: Straightforward access

Entertainment: Quiz on second Sunday of the month

Beer Garden: Yes

Parking: Large area to rear

Telephone: 01423 871205

Website: www.shoulderofmuttonharrogate.co.uk

Reviewer: Simon Jenkins

PIC: Simon Hulme

Bar review: 166 Bar and Bistro, Horsforth, Leeds