An ancient beech tree dominates the heart of Husthwaite, its branches spread out to shelter a triangle of village green beyond the 12th century churchyard.
From here, the roads depart in divergent ribbons, the houses a miscellany of architecture from the faded red brick and sash windows so fitting this bucolic scene to prosaic cement render and double glazing. Those north of the main street have views towards Kilburn’s white horse.
Just down from the church is the village pub. In the past it has been the Blacksmiths, the Orchard and the Balmoral, but in its latest incarnation has been beautifully extended and sumptuously fitted to become the Plum and Partridge, with fine dining and beautiful bedrooms to match.
The name combines fruit trees in the garden with a local passion for shooting; each bedroom has a gun cabinet. Its opening is timed nicely for the glorious twelfth.
From the red-brick storm porch you emerge into a long, open-plan space with drinking spaces to either side, a long attractive bar to your right, and a superb dining area dead ahead – the twinkle of wine glasses, the glint of highly-polished cutlery, the linen napkins a shock of geometric white. The floor is expensively tiled, giving a passable impression of traditional Yorkshire stone flags, while the hunting theme is maintained with displays of antlers and horned skulls.
There are three real ale handpulls on the bar. The choice of beer changes, though Timothy Taylor Landlord seems to be a popular fixture here. After a first drink in the bar, we are shown through to an intimate table in the corner of the dining room and treated to a three-course meal whose wonderful consistent quality is matched only by the kind and attentive service.
I start with chunky discs of black pudding (£7) topped with a runny poached egg and a brittle slither of crispy ham. My partner’s garlic mushrooms (£8) are dramatically presented atop a long raft of toasted ciabatta adrift on a small sea of creamy sauce.
Our glasses of a rather splendid Rioja are replenished before main courses arrive, for my partner a sturdy ribeye steak with all the trimmings (£23), for me a moist fillet of sea bream, potatoes imaginatively set against a generous sprinkling of crunchy samphire (£16).
A shared cheeseboard and some devilish oily espressos round off an evening of truly excellent pub dining. The fact we are staying in one of the prefectly re-fitted bedrooms upstairs has enabled us to fully indulge; there’s certainly no wine wasted. And after a great night’s sleep, we are back at the same table for a hearty full English breakfast, only partly walked off during a brisk morning ramble around this pretty village.
And yet, lovely as this all was, I do sense that the Plum and Partridge has missed a significant opportunity. A village pub should be the beating heart of the community, the place where folk come for a pint after work, to meet their friends, to chat, to socialise, and – if you’ll forgive the word – to enjoy some banter at the bar.
And I’m sure all these things are allowed, but the Plum and Partridge is not set up to accommodate them. There’s really nowhere to sit without feeling you’re in the dining room, or where your conversation would not intrude. Just one change, and this could be an absolute winner.
Low Street, Husthwaite
Host: Jacek Sliwinski
Type: Village inn and restaurant
Opening hours: Noon-11pm Mon-Sat, 11am-11.30pm Thurs, 11am-midnight Fri-Sat
Beers: Changing selection of three hand-pulled real ales plus Moretti, Sagres, Amstel and Strongbow
Food: Restaurant standard dining available from noon-9pm Mon-Sat and noon-8pm Sun
Wine: High-end wine list ideal for food-matching
Functions: Private dining area available for hire
Accommodation: Quality B&B accommodation
Children: Welcomed but no special facilities
Disabled: Ramp access to rear and disabled toilets
Beer Garden: Tables to the front
Parking: Large area to rear
Telephone: 01347 868642