IT’S NOT usually as quiet as this,” says the barmaid, leaving her post behind the pumps to bring menus across to our table in the corner of the main bar at the White Hart.
Quiet it may be, but it’s not as though she doesn’t have people to attend to. In the rooms which spread out from either side of here, there are parties of diners enjoying the quality food and genuine hospitality which befits a pub at the gateway to the Dales. In any case, this is early on a Monday evening, so you would hardly expect a crush.
This long sandstone ribbon of a pub sits at the heart of Pool, a village proud enough of its connection to the rolling hills of the county to have retained “in Wharfedale” as part of its title. It may be just five miles beyond Leeds ring road, and three from the airport, but it retains a rural feel with pretty stone cottages and fields which amble down to the banks of the Wharfe. You could easily be 20 miles north of here, in the pretty villages of the National Park.
From the car park, you enter the pub through a vast oak pergola wrapped in ivy, which is the centrepiece of an attractive flagged beer garden. The bar is to your right, and its central bank of handpulls offers two Yorkshire favourites – Leeds Pale and Timothy Taylor Landlord – alongside the easy-going fruity Doom Bar, much derided by CAMRA diehards, perhaps because it’s the biggest-selling cask ale in Britain. You’d think they’d be proud of it.
It’s a cold day in hell when I can turn down a pint of Landlord, so having handed-over an eye-watering £4.65 for the privilege, I take this back to our table to consider our next move. The menu offers some quality pub food choices, which again are a little on the pricy side, but at least the White Hart seems to have ditched some of the “up itself” character which was the very hallmark of this place perhaps ten years ago.
I choose the pie (£14.50), piping hot and packed with lean chunks of chicken and leek in a creamy sauce and self-contained in a firm crusty casing and with the unusual addition of some ham hock crumb to add extra crunch. It’s served with a little pan of gravy and a heap of mash topped with green beans and spiked with asparagus.
My partner goes for the chunky house burger, draped in melted cheese with an extra topping of mushrooms. It’s served in a bun with slithers of gherkin and a bowl of skinny fries, while a bowl of barbecue-style salsa adds further smoky interest. It is greeted with some appreciative murmurings from her corner of the table, but all the same seems a little overpriced at £12.50.
Mind you, a visit here is to eat and drink in some remarkable surroundings. I’m guessing the building has been extended several times from its original stone structure; the huge fireplaces at either end of the bar suggest its ancient boundaries. Here heaps of logs lie ready for the onrushing winter.
Shades of purple fringe the bar, the colour changing to a grey-green in the room beyond, where glass cabinets shimmer with colourful displays of wines and spirits like in a high end duty free store.
A bulbous glass jar on the bar is filled with champagne corks, doubtless the echoes of celebrations past. It feels emblematic of a restaurant which skirts dangerously with pretentiousness, yet through the quality of the fare and the welcome somehow just manages to remain a Yorkshire village inn.
Main Street, Pool in Wharfedale
Type: Comfortable dining pub
Opening Hours: 11am-11pm Mon-Thur, 11am-midnight Fri-Sat, 11am-10.30pm Sun
Beers: Timothy Taylor Landlord, Leeds Pale and Doom Bar cask ales plus Corona, Asahi, Peroni, Guinness, Cornish Orchard cider
Wine: Good selection
Food: Wide-ranging menu of quality pub and restaurant meals served noon-9pm Sun-Thurs, noon-10pm Fri-Sat
Children: Welcomed; kids’ meals available
Disabled: Easy access plus disabled toilet facilities
Beer Garden: Attractive paved courtyard area to the side
Parking: Large car park to the rear
Telephone: 0113 2037862