TRAINS still trundle through Arthington, on route from Leeds to Harrogate, but it’s touching fifty years since one stopped.
The lower reaches of Wharfedale are very much in the commuter belt, and it would certainly make sense to re-open the station – not least because it would give locals a viable alternative to driving into Leeds.
And given the popularity of Real Ale Rail Trails, its re-opening could deliver a fresh source of custom for the famous old pub, as well as others along the route - the Fox and Hounds at Horsforth, the Harwood at Pannal, the Mitre at Knaresborough and more.
The Wharfedale sits just beside the railway bridge and alongside Arthington Lane which winds lazily between two busy routes, from Harewood Bridge on the A61 in the east to the A650 at Pool in the west.
This has long been known as a dining pub, its front section which faces the road, popular with those who like their pub meals; a long room which runs at right angles to the bar is more firmly in restaurant territory. When we call in on Sunday evening, we find it staying true to that pattern, some ten years since we were last here.
And though the restaurant services finishes early on a Sunday, the bar meals are still available until late. Which is great, because we’re starving, after a long weekend of DIY.
At one end of the pub, a roaring open fire is throwing out a prodigious heat. We take our drinks to a table a discreet distance away and start working our way though a comprehensive menu which is augmented by a sizeable specials board.
You can easily forgive a pub for running a reduced menu on a Sunday evening, after lunch and afternoon diners have stripped them bare of roast meats and all the trimmings. Here though, most choices seem still available, and my wife is served with so generous a portion of roast leg of lamb (£10.50), complete with Yorkshire pudding, rich meaty gravy and potatoes that she offers to share her vegetables. Which doesn’t happen every day, believe me.
I’ve been tempted by the haddock (£10.95) which is a big, white smoky fillet, balanced on a huge mound of mashed potato devilishly dashed with mustard grains. Two poached eggs sit on top and once punctured ooze lovely runny yolk in dramatic fashion over the chef’s lovely creation.
This is great wholesome pub food with an extra notch of quality and the menu touches most of the significant bases - curry, fish, pie, steak, burgers, salads and sandwiches.
“Food is definitely a big part of what we do,” says barman Tom Noble when he wanders over for a chat. “On Sundays we do roast chicken, beef and lamb. It’s incredibly popular.”
The White Hart at Pool is its most obvious competitor, and though that pub has serious gastropub pretentions, dining at the Wharfedale seems to me like the more satisfying experience.
And that brings me neatly to the beers, which is where I have been hoping to get for the past 500 words.
Wonderful rich and earthy Timothy Taylor Landlord is the permanent real ale here, though there also two guest ales. On this visit they are the zesty Golden Pippin from the Copper Dragon brewery at Skipton and light and sessionable Cumbria Way, which is from Robinson’s Brewery in Stockport, though it carries the name Hartley’s, an outfit which Robinson’s liquidated some 30 years ago.
But the Landlord is well kept, so I stick with that. It provides a perfect foil for my smoked haddock anyhow.
Lovers of real ale pubs will be delighted at last week’s House of Commons victory for the The Fair Deal for Your Local Campaign, which is set to give thousands of publicans across the country a better chance of making ends meet. The issue of licensees being driven into the ground by high rents and exorbitant beer prices by major pub companies has been well rehearsed in this column and elsewhere. The Commons victory, spearheaded by Wharfedale’s own MP, That Very Nice Greg Mulholland, will end that exploitation and give tenants the right of an independent assessment of their rent - and the chance to compete on a level playing field with independent or managed houses in their neighbourhood.
For me, it’s one in the eye for Enterprise Inns, and frankly, they’ve had it coming.
Name: The Wharfedale
Host: David Gregory
Type: Destination dining
Opening Hours: 11am-11pm Mon-Sat, noon-10.30pm Sun
Beers: Timothy Taylor Landlord (£3.16) plus John Smith’s Smooth (£3.40) and two changing guest ales. Carlsberg (£3.70), San Miguel (£3.90), Stella Artois (£3.90), Guinness (£3.76), Dry Blackthorn cider (£3.66), Addlestone’s (£3.66).
Food: noon-10pm Mon-Sat, noon-9.30pm Sun
Entertainment: Dixieland jazz band this Sunday (Nov 30)
Telephone: 0113 284 2921