A COUPLE who had booked for lunch – and failed to show up – were given a gentle dressing down by the Fox and Hounds, who called to leave a message that they were almost an hour late and that this was unacceptable.
Perhaps making this phone call in easy earshot of those customers who had honoured their bookings, was a salutary reminder that such conduct could not be overlooked. Whether they heard the message or ignored it – or whether there was some compelling reason excusing their absence – never became clear. They certainly didn’t show up, as they might have done, spilling their apologies and excuses as they dashed into the bar.
It amused me later to see the pub’s email address begins “basil@..” but I assume this refers to the famous foxy puppet, rather than a similarly named Torquay restaurateur, whose phone manner might have been a whole lot less polite.
The Fox and Hounds sits at the heart of this well-kept commuter belt village close to the A1, and for the past decade has been run by Alan, Gareth and Pam Lamb, who recently added the nearby Bay Horse at Kirk Deighton to their stable.
From the side entrance you enter a small dining room which seems to be an extension, perhaps not as old as the far end of the pub, where exposed stonework and hefty flag flooring give the suggestion of great age. Retaining the woodchip and textured wallpapers reveal a fierce connection to how things used to be, while no doubt hiding a multitude of sins.
There are displays of champagne bottles and vintage malt whiskies, while traditional prints and paintings, many on an appropriate hunting, horsey theme lend to the feel of this being an unspoiled Yorkshire country inn, as much a home for the locals to enjoy a pint as it is for those visiting from a little further afield.
We are quickly shown to a table and served with drinks, a sizeable glass of house red for my partner and a pint of Timothy Taylor Landlord – what else? – for me. Black Sheep is the other beer on the bar counter; it’s a respectable choice, but Landlord wins most of these little arguments, in my mind at least.
The Sunday lunch menu offers great value at two courses for £15 or three for £19, and I’m soon slurping my way through a hearty bowl of tomato and basil soup, which has a marked tang to it and a little darkness of colour, as though it has been dashed with a liberal splash of Worcestershire sauce. My partner allows me to try a slither of her creamy, smooth chicken liver pate, which uses up the last of the crusty bread which was delivered to the table along with our drinks.
Main courses soon follow. For my partner, Sunday lunch out always involves a roast and on this occasion she had gone for the beef, which came with the time-honoured trimmings – roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, green beans, carrots and gravy – and at least one non-traditional extra, a mound of moist red cabbage.
While she made inroads into that, I attacked a hearty pie so well stuffed with lean pork and chunks of black pudding that it left little room for any gravy, leaving the whole dish a little on the dry side. There was a small construction of six giant chips and a bowl of mushy peas, but a jug of rich, hearty gravy would have been a worthwhile addition to the experience.
FACTFILE - FOX & HOUNDS, WALTON, NEAR WETHERBY
Host: Alan, Gareth and Pam Lamb
Type: Traditional village inn
Opening hours: Closed Mondays, open lunchtimes and evenings Tues-Sat and all-day Sun.
Beers: Hand-pulled Black Sheep and Timothy Taylor Landlord plus Moretti and Amstel lagers
Wine: Good selection
Food: Good quality traditional pub grub served lunchtimes and evenings daily
Functions: Areas are available for private hire.
Disabled: Straightforward access
Parking: Large area to the rear
Telephone: 01937 842192