IT’S pushing 8 o’clock on an October evening, and I’m sitting in shirt sleeves in the fast-darkening garden at the Windmill.
So are lots of other people. The spell of warm weather has drawn drinkers back to patios and beer gardens which they had largely given up for another year. I drove through Millennium Square last Friday afternoon and the paved spaces outside the Cuthbert Brodrick and All Bar One were absolutely heaving – helped no doubt by a timely powercut which knocked out the University’s electricity, and gave staff and students every excuse to take advantage of the blazing sunshine.
Saturday was the hottest October day on record, and the Windmill was doing a roaring trade. Their attractive lawned beer garden slopes away from a stepped patio of flags and Yorkshire stone. Every table is taken, as are those along the side of the pub which offer further al fresco space.
I’m drinking Theakston Lightfoot – a beer I’ve not come across before. It’s a bright golden ale, appropriately summery with its gentle peachy flavours, and named apparently after Lightfoot Brewery, a Masham concernacquired by the expanding Theakston empire after the First World War.
This is one of three guest ales on the bar, and I manage to work my way through all of them during a memorable evening out. The choice changes regularly, and the pub’s excellent website proudly lists the 17 which were featured on the bar during September. After this first one in the garden, we wander through to the restaurant for dinner.
The Windmill has a solid reputation for food, though it remains very much a popular local drinking house, with a strong regular trade.
Drinks account for considerably more than half the takings.
A short flight of steps beside the bar leads into a long dining room, where we’re shown to a table beside the open patio doors. “Feel free to close them if it gets too cold,” says the waitress. It never does.
The menu covers most of the major bases – steak, ribs, chicken and fish – with an apparent emphasis on traditional sturdy, reliable pub meals, without too much gastro-pretention. We start by sharing a deep bowl of mussels in a creamy sauce (£6.95), which pairs up nicely with a glass of richer, full-bodied Bombardier. This is followed by, for me, a chunky pie of fish and potato served with chips and peas
(£7.95) and for my partner a sizeable burger smothered in the unusual combination of both barbecue sauce and blue cheese, and served alongside chips, salad and onion rings (£10,.45). She had professed herself “ravenous” when we walked in, but this one utterly defeats her. Food is served every session here, except for Sunday evenings; and with two courses for £10 on weekdays, a steak and quiz night on Thursdays and traditional meat and veg on a Sunday, chef Laurence Tasker does plenty to keep his customers satisfied.
The pub has been serving the villagers of Linton for something like 300 years, though the building is a century and a half older than that. With its beamed ceilings, stone floors, open fires and thick ancient walls built to withstand the chill, the Windmill is the very model of a traditional Yorkshire Inn.
It looks out across beautiful rolling countryside, and the village boasts some of the most expensive real estate in the county, so it’s no surprise to see Beamers and Mercs in the car park or the occasional famous face at the bar. I remember coming here years ago and being told that local resident Lee Bowyer was a regular and Lucas Radebe an occasional visitor. I suspect that the current regime of pay and conditions at Elland Road precludes the current squad for moving their own families to Linton, Landlady Janet Rowley has been here for 12 years, assisted by daughter Laura. As well as concentrating on serving good beer and food they keep the Windmill at the heart of local life, with their Thursday quiz, their Sunday afternoon live music and with a programme of other events. Its beer festival earlier this year raised £3,000 for an epilepsy charity; next up are a coach trip to Theakstons and a Hallowe’en fancy dress disco.
Dinner and coffees over, we head back into the beer garden. It’s heading towards 10pm now, and the sky is clear and black, and the stars begin slowly to reveal themselves as our eyes adjust to the dark. It’s still warm enough to lounge out here for another half hour, and another half of bitter too, this time the fruity and refreshing Bountiful from Wychwood, whose risque pumpclip no doubt attracts a certain amount of attention on the bar.
If this place had bedrooms, we’d have been sorely tempted to order another round, book a room and feast on the Full English in the morning. But it doesn’t, so we headed off on the short drive back to Leeds.
Name: The Windmill
Host: Janet Rowley
Type: Archetypal Yorkshire village inn
Opening Hours: Noon-3pm and 5-11pm Mon-Thurs, 11am-11pm Fri-Sun
Beers: John Smith’s Cask (£2.86) plus changing range of guest real ales (£2.95-£3.05). Foster’s (£3.08), Kronenbourg (£3.40), Sagres (£3.40), Guinness (£3.40)
Wines: Good choice
Food: Great selection of quality pub meals served noon-2pm and 5-9pm Mon-Fri, noon-9pm Sat and noon-6pm Sun
Children: Welcomed. Kids’ meals and high chair available
Disabled: Ramp access and disabled toilets
Entertainment: Quiz and steak night on Thursday, live music on Sunday afternoons
Functions: Areas of the pub are available to hire for private parties Beer garden: Large patio area and garden to rear, further outdoor tables to the side
Parking: Large area
Telephone: 01937 582209
Beer of the week
It’s a curious one this. It looks like a stout and tastes a little like an India Pale Ale.
It comes from the St Austell Brewery in Cornwall whose blurb claims “whatever you thought you knew about beer, we’ve changed that.”
A little maybe. Certainly this is anything but pale, its colour determined by the dark roasted malts used in the brew. Yet to blind taste its fruity, hoppy, citric bitterness, you might almost convince yourself this is an IPA, one of the fastest-growing sectors in the ale market.
And yet, while the chocolate and coffee notes that roasted malt normally imparts to a stout are more understated in Proper Black, they are still there, giving a richness, almost a sweetness, that you wouldn’t normally associate with an IPA.
All the same, whether it’s a stout, a porter, an IPA, or some strange dark Cornwall hybrid, it’s an interesting beer – the perfect accompaniment for a rich sweet dessert, I’d say.