Restaurant review: Stew & Oyster, Otley

This is going to sound like a Peter Kay moment but bare with me. Here goes. Stew... and oyster? Stew and oyster? Together?

Friday, 25th May 2018, 9:13 am
Updated Friday, 25th May 2018, 9:16 am

The rustic-sounding Stew & Oyster brand is now firmly established, at least in Yorkshire. It now boasts five outlets, including four in Leeds and another in Sheffield. The Otley one opened in the summer of 2016. From the outside, however, you wouldn’t necessarily know it’s there. This has more to do with council planners’ restraint than anything else. Otley is rightly proud of its heritage. Partly, it’s what draws visitors. Let’s not forget, in April 2015, Otley became the first town in the UK to list all its 21 pubs as ‘community assets’ in a bid to keep them out of the hands of developers. When Stew & Oyster said they were moving into The Old Grammar School, the town council expressed concern over external signage and lighting (and seating), which explains their discreet deportment.

The other thing to note about Stew & Oyster is that, despite the name, it’s a bar first, with a healthy canon of craft ales. Ergo, you peruse the small but beautifully made menu, then order at the bar. As you’d expect from a place called Stew & Oyster, there’s stew and oysters but also something called ‘The Not Stew or Oyster Bit’, which includes things like ploughmans, Yorkshire sausages and sandwiches of topside beef, halloumi and honey glazed ham.

When it comes to dining, though, I’m definitely Roman, so I was always going to have stew and oysters. I ordered two of the latter: a naked one (£2.50), which came in a bucket of ice big enough to chill of bottle of cab sav (sadly, I was driving, otherwise...) and a Glenfiddich oyster (£2.70), which comes with the 18-year-old single malt “atomised” upon it (apparently, although I couldn’t taste it and in any case, doing anything other than drinking 18-year-old malts is surely a travesty). Oysters are like Marmite for many people but if you really enjoy the feeling of gulping down something with the texture of a dead slug, you can order them by the half dozen.

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Oyster ordeal over, we also ordered beef & peppercorn stew (£7.45) and honey ham stew (£7.45), both of which came presented in delightful, honest looking bowls. Oodles of flavour here but I had to chase the warmth around mine. In all honesty, I really ought to have sent it back but waiting staff were equally thin on the ground. So, I persevered with it. In its defence, however, it was one of the nicest stews I’ve had: thick and almost creamy with plenty of hearty chunks of ham and silky veg. Seasoned to perfection with a nice peppery kick. Still, the lack of heat was ultimately off-putting.

The decor is an eye-opener, with mismatched 60s/70s kitsch, such as a not very comfy angular harvest gold couch, a slightly more comfy (but only a bit) light brown leather number and an avocado green bucket chair. Service was lacklustre: a bit too casual for my liking but I do get the hipster vibe. Things felt a bit rushed at the bar and I just think more information on how the whole process works in general should be a bit more up-front.

The total bill, with drinks (large Verdejo Sauvignon, £6.25 and a lager shandy at £3.10) and two mini sausage and mash (£3.95 each) for the kids, came to a reasonable £38.95.

Overall, a decent place for a real ale/drinks with a very niche menu and some seriously garish chairs.

FACTS: Stew & Oyster, Otley, The Old Grammar School, Manor Square, Otley, LS21 3AY

Food 5/10

Value 7/10

Atmosphere 7/10

Service 4/10