A waitress staggered back from the bar yelping, manically running her hands through her hair, and dashed from the room. It was as though she had was suffering a seizure or some dire medical emergency – but it turned out that a ‘giant’ spider had landed on her head, and I use the inverted commas because according to reliable third party accounts, this was actually some tiny creature that must have been far more scared than she was.
This moment of high drama came at the end of an evening of quality drinking and dining at this out-of-the-way inn which consistently features on lists of the best pubs in the county. Only last year it was a runner-up in the Observer Food Monthly’s Best Sunday Lunch award. And though it isn’t topped by the extravagant thatched roof suggested by its curious dialect name, it certainly looks the part, an imposing stone building beyond a beautifully kept beer garden. The name of the pub is painted into the stonework above the door.
Stepping inside, you arrive beside a central bar which is crowned with a trio of Yorkshire ales, Black Sheep from Masham, Silver King from Ossett and Guzzler from York. To your right are a couple of intimate drinking areas, to your left a pair of dining rooms, one slightly raised, and scattered with an array of furniture – here a long banquette, there a couple of comfortable armchair, over there a Welsh dresser.
Across the walls, mirrors and sepia prints of ancient agricultural scenes of weary farmhands and primitive machinery, jostle for space with blackboards chalked up with the latest specials from the kitchen. In places the plaster has been stripped back to reveal some sturdy Yorkshire stone.
Having had a rather chastening experience with Guzzler at Mr Foley’s recently, I opt instead for the pale and citric Silver King that proves an adept foil for my starter – a chunky wedge of wholemeal toast which has been topped with juicy king prawns in a tangy sauce of tomato, chilli and garlic (£6.50). My partner made equally appreciative noises about her smoked salmon starter (£5.50) from the specials board.
One really nice touch here is that the menu suggests drinks pairings for each of the dishes. Though the majority of the suggestions are wines from the Queen’s comprehensive list, someone here is sufficiently enlightened to understand that beer is every bit as good as a match for food. So it’s good to know that they chef considers Black Sheep the ideal accompaniment for his ploughman’s, and potent, bigtasting Innis and Gunn a good choice for washing down the house burger.
A fancy Malbec was recommended to sit alongside my partner’s half pound steak (£13.50) and all the trimmings, but keeping a solicitous eye on the YEP expenses, I went for the house red instead. Me? Having pushed my way towards the legal limit with my quick pint, rather than opt for the Chardonnay, I had to settle for a glass of water alongside my two plaice fillets, which were imaginatively offset by the sweet piquancy of pickled mussels (£14). I’d also managed to upsell myself a bowl of marfona potatoes in garlic butter, just to be on the safe side.
After the waitress had recovered from her arachnid ordeal and served us some reviving coffees, we rather reluctantly headed into the car park, and home.
The Queen O’ T’Owd Thatch
Address: 101 High St, Leeds, South Milford LS25 5AQ
Name: The Queen O’ T’Owd Thatch
Type: Quality pub and restaurant
Opening hours: Noon-11pm Mon-Thurs, noon-midnight Fri-Sat, noon-10pm Sun
Beers: Current real ales are Ossett Silver King, York Guzzler and Black Sheep (3.60) plus Stella Artois (£3.80), Estrella (£4.40), Thatcher’s Cider (£3.80) and Guinness (£4)
Wines: Excellent wine list with choices from £2.50-glass and £14.50-bottle
Food: Quality pub dishes served noon-3pm and 5-8.45pm Mon-Thurs, noon-9.45pm Fri-Sat, noon-7pm Sun
Entertainment: Occasional special events including Classic French Wine Club (Sept 21) and Gin tasting (Oct 19)
Disabled: Straightfoward access, but some split-level areas inside
Beer garden: Large grassed area to the front
Parking: Area to the side and rear
Telephone: 01977 685096
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