Sometimes you find yourself out in the sticks with a hankering for a decent pub to round off the perfect day.
The Oliver brand now extends far beyond the borders of Leeds, thanks to the ‘rural’ category introduced a few years ago. This seeks to celebrate stand-out pubs and restaurants which have cemented their reputation as drive-to destinations for those of us who live in the city but are equally well patronised by locals.
So it was that a few weeks back, we were on the way back from Cannon Hall Farm, having run the little ones ragged in a bid to tire them out. We had already heard of The Old Post Office’s reputation and it was there we headed. Upon arrival, however, we found it packed to the gunwales and unable to take any bookings. Co-incidentally, that pub/restaurant was reviewed in these pages a few weeks ago and received a rousing write-up.
They were kind enough to inform us of another destination pub nearby and so we set out for that, hoping for silver linings. A couple of roads and two roundabouts later, we arrived at The Royal, a substantial traditional looking former 19th Century coaching inn which just so happens to be on one of the busiest roads in Barugh Green. Word of advice: if you decide to try their car park, you might want to reverse in, because trying to reverse out is nigh on impossible around 6pm.
Still, we managed it eventually, parked up and ventured inside, to be greeted by a really rather lovely pub-cum-restaurant, alive with conversation and well staffed. Warm smiles greeted us and we were lead to a table straight away. There are a number of seating areas, including one right opposite the bar and a more secluded space just to the left but we were taken into a the main dining area to the right, decked out with two long rows of tables, each capable of seating 20 with ease.
The decor was a mix of modern and traditional, with a huge watercolour canvas on the far wall depicting Sterling Moss-era Formula 1 cars, while above us hung two large chandeliers made of upturned wine glasses. Novel and pleasantly surprising.
When the menus came, we got another surprise because while we were expecting the usual traditional pub fayre, what we go was tapas.
When olde worlde looking pubs in Barnsley start dabbling in Spain’s most recognisable food export, the question arises: have we reached peak tapas?
Turns out not.
This was tapas with a distinct Yorkshire twist and that’s something worth celebrating. Of course, all the names are in Spanish, which seems like a missed opportunity, because why not go the whole hog and rebrand this European food and make it our own? Especially when so many of the dishes remind you of comfort foods we know and love.
There was a giant sausage roll (Rollo De Chistorra, £4.50) which I was tempted to call ‘the foot long’ but in any case, it was wondrous thing - pastry light and flaky, the meat inside slightly spicy and so well seasoned.
My favourite dish, though, had to be Carrillada De Cerdo Con Pure (still with me?) De Manzana Y Morcilla (£6), which offered up some of the most tender Iberico pork cheeks I’ve ever tasted with apple puree and - get this - black pudding. It was a shame to only order one, which is why we ordered two. It had echoes of Christmas dinner, with deep, rich, sumptuous flavours, the black pudding an absolute joy, working so well with the sauce, never mind the meat.
Beyond that were patatas bravas (£3) but even these put one in mind of the kind of roasties you’d get with a Sunday lunch, except just a little bit more spicy. And square.
There was also grilled prawns with sea salt (£6.50), meatballs in tomato sauce (£5), pork, chicken and chorizo paella (£5), chicken skewers with garlic paprika and thyme, the heat of the paprika tempered beautifully by the thyme.
But there was more… Spanish potato and onion omelette (£5), some house marinated olives (£3.50), bread and butter (£2.50) and fried Iberico pork scratchings (£2), the only thing I thought needed more seasoning.
The total bill, not including drinks, came to £90.50 - add an extra £11.25 for drinks, most of which consisted of diet cokes (because we were driving) but I did manage to sample a half Inedit Damm, a malt and wheat beer brewed with spices, which I could take or leave. That said, there’s plenty of choice at the bar, with Estrella, Black Sheep, Black Sheep Golden Sheep, Black Sheep Riggwelter, Tim Taylor’s Landlord, Acorn Barnsley Bitter, plus some ciders.
Despite its penchant for dainty dishes, The Royal does a mean Sunday dinner and according to staff, it’s a big draw. All in all, we found our silver lining and we’ve already made a mental note to a) never ever forget that black pudding dish, b) return possibly in the summer to check out their beer garden.
Address: Barnsley Rd, Darton, Barugh Green, Barnsley, S75 1LS
Opening hours: Bar: Tues-Fri 5pm until late, Sa & Sun, noon until late; Mon (bank holidays only). Tapas served daily
Tues-Thurs 5pm-9pm, Fri & Sat 5pm-10pm, Sunday 5pm-8pm, Sunday Lunch 12.30pm-2.30pm
Tel: 01226 382363