When we decided to pull in at the sprawling Wellington Inn on the way back from a day out at Brimham Rocks, I thought it was going to be a case of count the Range Rovers.
As it turned out, however, there were only two (and two expensive looking Mercs), while the rest were what Jeremy Clarkson might call ‘reasonably priced cars’, my own included.
It’s a beautiful stone-built pile, just the way a country pub should look, offering stunning views over the Dales. With its restaurant, two bars, a snug and 12 recently refurbished (so says the website) guest rooms, it pretty much ticks every box as far as being ‘idyllic’ goes. This sense of the picturesque, as cliched as it might be, continues inside too, where beamed ceilings speak of long ages past and a vast, arched stone fireplace puts one in mind of a castle or some other such abode. If we’re ever plunged into a long winter and you happened to be nearby, the Wellington Inn looks like the kind of well provisioned place you wouldn’t mind being stuck in for a few days (or weeks), or perhaps longer.
Right from the moment you pull up in the car park, you get the sense that time itself actually slows down in a place like this. There’s an unhurried calm about it that immediately sets you at ease. It’s the kind of place you want to linger, although that’s not to say the staff were lacking in any sense of promptness.
Just outside the front door is a strip of grass with a few tables scattered along its length and a few patrons enjoying the break in the weather.
When we walked in, it was smiled all round. We actually arrived about 40 minutes before they started serving food but it was no matter, it was a pleasure to take a drink in the bar area, which is what we did.
Ordering time came around soon enough, by which time we’d worked up quite an appetite, having already perused the specials board, which listed dishes including sweet potato, spinach and blue cheese tart with salad garnish (£5.95), selection of air cured meats with sherry vinegar, olive oil and dipping bread (£6.25) and whole grilled lemon plaice with prawn and garlic butter (£13.95), which is what I ended up having for my main, which I will come onto in a moment.
We ordered a sharing platter of bread and olives (£2.95) to kick things off, which was ok and kept the kids occupied.
Starters-wise, my partner went for soup of the day (leek and potato, £5.10), while I ordered the mushroom tartlet (£5.95). The soup she said was underseasoned but came alive with a dash of salt and pepper, while the tartlet was possible one of the tastiest dishes I’ve had in a long time. Served in a delicate pastry basket and garnished with a goat’s cheese crumb, it was creamy, slightly salty and packed with wonderful aromas and I just wanted more of it (which is not a criticism by the way, the portion size was perfect - it was just a very very nice thing to eat).
Mains included lamb shoulder (£16.50), served with creamed mashed potatoes, rosemary jus and seasonal vegetables: the lamb tender as you like, falling of the bone, the rosemary jus providing a wonderful lift to the flavours and the mash soft and creamy. It was a hearty, nourishing dish.
The plaice I felt was a touch overdone and the lemon element was lost amid the garlic and prawns but overall it wasn’t a bad dish. It came with a side of new potatoes and side salad.
Desserts deserve a special mention here, if only for the dessert menu, which comes on a great big chalk board which is hoisted up in front of you (actually, they left ours at the table and after we’d finished ogling the oversized menu, we propped it up on a chair next to the table.
I went for Eton Mess, while my partner went for sticky toffee pudding (£5.25 each). The mess came in a glass tumbler and every mouthful was a winner, while the sticky toffee was also ticking boxes. It came served with ice-cream.
We had our children in tow, so they ate kids burger for £5.70 and a selection of ices (£5.25), both of which kept them quiet, so must have been good. We took our food in the bar area (they also have a large dedicated restaurant area with jaw-dropping views) and toward the end it did become a little stuffy, although it was one of the hottest days of the year.
Together with drinks, the final bill came to £78.75. I was off the sauce as I was driving but they have a good range of handpulled beers here, including First Dawn (easy-going at 3.7 per cent), Tetley, Black Sheep, Filthy Chucker from Wadworth brewery (a nice summer drink at 3.8 per cent) and Timothy Taylor’s Boltmaker, there’s also Amstel and Moretti if you prefer lager. In short, the Wellington is one of life’s pleasures.
FACTFILE - THE WELLINGTON INN, DARLEY
Address: The Wellington Inn, Darley: Main St, Harrogate, HG3 2QQ
Opening times: noon-11pm seven days (food served noon-2pm, 6pm-9pm)
Telephone: 01423 780362