The Royal Oak – Staveley, Yorkshire

“They keep pulling them out these Yorkshire folk. Another great country pub with food”

Whilst attending our annual, anniversary, celebration weekend in the fare town of Harrogate, we agreed to meet up with some chums from Leeds. After a very pleasant walk round Knaresborough (highly recommended) we were then wisked off to the hamlet of Staveley. There in lay the quaint frontage of The Royal Oak. Surrouded by trees and other foliage, even shrouded in cloud, it cut a heady dash.

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We bounced in for our two thirty appointment. Low beams accompanied the standard trappings of an old, country pub. The gentlemen part of the binge headed for a Sweetheart IPA, the ladies kept down the soft drink track. We settled into a well set table for four. The place was half full. A merry ambiance was in play. A simple, single sided Sunday menu was presented by our young waitress. £21.50 for three courses. A fine offer. The waitress announced that the soup of the day was ‘Pea, watercress and mint’, though I did enquire whether she meant Pea water, cress and mint’, a subtle difference, I think you’ll agree? My little jokette appreciated by all. I was on a roll (get on with it – Ed).

Fine simple menu
Fine simple menu

Time to chose. Two went for the pea water soup. Considered fine by the imbibers. The Flame would have liked hers hotter but otherwise all was well. The good Yorkshire lady and myself went for the intriguing ‘Whitby Crab Pot Noodle’. Forgive me if I wax on a bit here. A giant ‘humbug’ jar filled with grass along with a jug of hot brown stock duly arrived. We peered in, sniffing and viewing as we went. Gingerly we poured in the broth. The contents came alive and we tucked in. After the initial disappointment of not getting a big chunk of crab to knaw on, we both agreed that it was all rather tasty. The crab broth melted the noodles, greenery and the rest to create a fragrant and very tasty soup.

Sweetheart and pea water soup
Sweetheart and pea water soup
The Whitby crab pot noodle
The Whitby crab pot noodle

For mains we mainly went for the ox cheek and mushroom pie. A proper pie too, sides and a bottom. It came with a wodge of hot, buttery mash, a beef dripping carrot and a slew of deep, rich jus. We all agreed this was seriously good. Plenty of shredded cheek in a super rich gravy. It was a delight. It was accompanied by a big dish of greens, heritage carrots and a big dish of chips. All hot and ready. Great feed.

Ox cheek and mushroom pie
Ox cheek and mushroom pie

As ever, not to let you down The Cooktwit plumbed for a dessert. The ‘nearly famous’ lemon posset. Once again the giant humbug jar came into play. The advantage here is that it is a deceptibly large vessel and so the portion was generous to say the least. And given the quality was up there too, lemony, meringue and fruity I can safely say the afters was a minor triumph. The Flame ventured into the fray with a standard but nonetheless highly creditable bramley apple crumble. Our Yorkshire contingent settled on a chocolate truffle, banana, honeycomb and chocolate sorbet. Well presented on a huge glass plate, the good lady loved it. Sadly I didn’t much of a look in!

Lemon posset, chocolate dessert, apple crumble
Lemon posset, chocolate dessert, apple crumble

In conclusion we all enjoyed a thoroughly splendid Sunday luncheon. The Royal Oak Staveley goes on to the list as somewhere to go to again if ever we’re in the area. Recommended.
The Royal Oak,
Main Street,
Staveley,
Knaresborough,
North Yorkshire HG5 9LD.
01423 340267
info@royaloakstaveley.co.uk

http://www.theroyaloakstaveley.co.uk

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Drum and Monkey – Harrogate, Yorkshire

“A classy, long-established seafood restaurant in an elegant part of Harrogate”

A special occasion had the Cooktwit wooing the Flame with a top-notch weekend away. Yorkshire seemed as good a place as any. Harrogate even more so. Betty’s, baths and boutiques, what’s not to like? As ever the first thing to sort, where to eat? Twitter threw up a few options. I finally settled on ‘Drum and Monkey’. A seafood restaurant in the rather elegant Montpellier area of the town.

Classy, elegant
Classy, elegant

Its set in a corner bay, a smart moniker depicts the title whilst a monkey playing a drum (natch) adds colour and further signage. Owing to a flurry of patronage (standard on a Saturday night) we opted for an early 6.15 slot. We peered through the window to an empty room. It didn’t seem too inviting. That said we were whisked upwards to the next floor where several tables were already in full flow. This was much better. It’s a dark, elegant, red room. Crimson flock coverings allied to dark wood create a pleasant and rather intimate atmosphere. The Flame was impressed, (always a good sign). Sadly the darkness rather impaired my photography!

Exquisite, uniformed waiters soon had us settled. The typed, easily negotiated menu on white with blue logo along with a smaller ‘specials’ card gave us plenty to think about. It changes daily depending on seasonality and availability.

Smoked starter and soup
Smoked starter and soup

The flame selected a trio of smoked seafood (crab, salmon and prawns) to start at £12.50 it was a tad on the steep side (given we paid £9.50 at The Easy Fish Co) but it was very good. I went a little off beam and had the Drum Fish Soup (£6.50). Wouldn’t normally go for this but was intrigued. It arrived in a pot terrine with a drizzle of oil. It had the bisque like consistency and colour with croutons soaking away nicely. It proved a little rich and filling for me so I left a bit. I devoured the fish lurking in the depths first!

Nidderdale Trout, spiced monkfish
Nidderdale Trout, spiced monkfish

For mains I had the spiced monkfish with roasted squash linguine off the special menu (£16.50). I really enjoyed this, lightly spiced solid chunks of tail in a luscious, golden jus. The flame won by a mile though. Whole Nidderdale trout with almonds, capers and a brown butter sauce (£15.50) with a house salad. What a dish this was. Huge lumps of tender trout were easily teased from the bone. Even when the top section had been devoured it kept on giving. Beneath the bone yielded another meal. Given the copious volume of flesh, even I was able to get on the act, definitely dish of the night.

Treacle Tart, Apple crumble
Treacle Tart, Apple crumble

Desserts were good too. I had a hearty treacle tart with wonderful ice cream whilst the flame opted for a Braeburn apple crumble, again with the ice cream. Both were £5.95.

For the privilege we disbursed a goodish £82. By the time we ventured downstairs the main area which includes the bar was absolutely rammed. Clearly this is one of the places to go on a Saturday night. As it was only 8.30 we nipped over to the oldest pub in town The Hales Bar. How apt…

Drum and Monkey
5 Montpellier Gardens,
Town Centre,
Harrogate,
North Yorkshire, HG1 2TF
Tel: 01423 502650
Email: bookings@drumandmonkey.co.uk

Bircher Muesli – Anna Jones and Jamie Oliver

I quite like a cereal type, healthy breakfast. Porridge is good, muesli, bran flakes all get an airing. I also have a go at the 5:2 diet (see here). I then look for a good low calorie, filling breakfast. This is where this Bircher muesli recipe comes into play. It’s basically porridge oats prepared the night before and soaked overnight in a suitable liquid (in this case milk, but I’ve come across apple juice) with some extras. Half this recipe provides a good, long lasting feed and comes in at about 400 calories.

Weighing up the night before.
Weighing up the night before.

This recipe adds chia seeds because they give a rich creaminess – if you don’t want to add chia, just don’t add as much milk. Chia seeds are little seeds that boost the nutritional value of the breakfast tenfold. They look a bit like poppy seeds and come in a variety of colours: black, white and grey. I use the white ones here. You’ll find them in health food shops and in big supermarkets beside the nuts and seeds. Chia seeds were the food of choice of Aztec and Mayan warriors, and a single tablespoon would keep them going for 24 hours. They are high in protein, so they’re perfect for breakfast time. You can use them in smoothies and in baking.

The night before, put the oats, chia seeds and pumpkin seeds into a bowl or container, pour over the milk, and add the maple syrup (or honey), vanilla and lemon juice. Mix well, then cover and pop into the fridge overnight. I won’t lie at this point it looks like the slurry you get when you unblock the sink! But next morning it all comes together as the seeds and oats soak up the milk. It then takes on a gloopier and altogether more appealing look.

The finished results
The finished results

In the morning, chop the pears into little chunks, sprinkle over the cinnamon and add the sour cherries. You can vary this bit really, grated apple works or a bit of banana. This recipe does two pretty big portions or could divide into three.

Ingredients

100g oats
2 tablespoons white chia seeds
1tablespoon pumpkin seeds
350ml milk (400ml for a sloppier mix) of your choice (I use almond or coconut)
1 tablespoon maple syrup (I use honey)
a dash of vanilla extract
a squeeze of lemon juice
2 ripe pears
1 pinch of ground cinnamon
a small handful of dried sour cherries, or cranberries

Recipe from ‘A modern way to eat’ by Anna Jones and then taken on by Jamie Oliver www.jamieoliver.com

The Easy Fish Company – Heaton Moor, Manchester

“Never had fish prepared and presented better!”

Some young relatives had just birthed their first offspring, a trip to Heaton Moor to see the ruddy cheeked ‘Rocco’ was called for. The Flame and I ventured forth using the great steel highway. A modest carriage pulled in to Heaton Chapel on a cold, fog bound afternoon. A luncheon at The Easy Fish Company had been on the list for sometime. As luck would have it, it too along with said relatives is housed in leafy Heaton Moor.

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We trotted along. Some fifteen minutes later the blue fronted fish shop ventured into view. A little non plussed we scuttled in. On first impressions it is indeed a fishmongers, complete with large low counter packed with ice and a super array of fish and seafood. We surveyed the scene for a time before heading towards the rear. A cheery, young chap with a beard (called Adam) greeted us warmly and confirmed that we had a table and could pretty much chose where we wanted to sit. We snuck round a corner and settled on a smart table for two. A large, white, house ‘grillo’ was soon poured.

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It’s a fairly stark but contemporary room. Light oak tables and chairs, combined with blue hues and sea faring images dotted about the walls. It’s pleasant enough. The afore mentioned Adam, soon had the plain black on white menu in our grasp and reeled off the specials. It’s a spectacular list of seafood and fish. An obligatory steak is offered as an alternative.

The Flame picked the potted fish board (£9.25) to start. Salmon, shrimps and prawns with soda bread and dressings. It was a substantial and tasty offer. I had to help out. Three good pots of seafood and a good few slices of warm bread. Super stuff. I went for crab claws (£5.25) which I have to say was a bargain. Appropriate tooling was supplied which enabled a good deal of fresh crab meat to be extracted. They were set on a crouton and came with a warm, butter dressing and a garlic mayonnaise. As crab would be my ‘heaven’ on Saturday Kitchen I was suitably raptured. Great start.

The potted board
The potted board
Crab claws with tools
Crab claws with tools

Mains up next. I went for the special. A bit pricey at £24.50 but boy what a dish. Pan seared plaice, with langoustine, clams and mussels served over new potatoes, sautéed greens, roast garlic with a chicken, lemon and thyme broth. Stunningly presented, It was faultless. Every mouthful was a delight. The broth sparingly supplied adding a tinge of flavoured moisture just when required.

Plaice with all the trimmings
Plaice with all the trimmings

The flame, equally pleased with her grilled hake, Thai sweet potato and lobster Spring roll with coriander creme fraiche (£16.25). A hefty traunch of soft white, meaty flesh allied to a tangy roll. As with mine it was beautifully presented. We both cleared our plates.

Hake
Hake

I had a lavender and honey creme brûlée to finish. Again superb. We rounded off with a decent Lilly coffee.

Lavender creme brulee
Lavender creme brulee

Speaking to Adam, he mentioned The Easy Fish company is barely a year old and supplies a number of other restaurants with fish. Steve Green (head chef) is the man who works the pass. I can honestly say having dined at Rick Stein’s and Nathan Outlaw’s, both renowned fish specialists, I have not had fish prepared and presented any better than this. It was a revelation. Around £80 for lunch with a couple of big glasses of wine may be a tad luxuriant but the menu is the same at night. Lovers of seafood should get down here quick. We noticed Damson next store, another local triumph we hear. A further pint on our way back completed the afternoon. Heaton Moor has a market on the odd Sunday. It would seem it has a good bit of foodie highlights on offer. it’s definitely worth the trip.

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The Easy Fish Company
117 Heaton Moor Rd, Stockport SK4 4HY
0161 442 0823
http://www.theeasyfishco.com

Bull’s Head – Mobberley, Cheshire

“Great food and quality ales on tap. It’s another for the list!”

After landing from a week away golfing with some chums, The Cooktwit needed to be in top form to placate The Flame. Country walks with a decent feed tends to do the trick. In stepped The Bulls Head in Mobberley. Mobberley is a quaint village set in Cheshire between Knutsford and Wilmslow. It tends to be one of the places the big North West football clubs use to house prospective foreign talent. I would suggest The Bulls Head lies at the centrepiece of the offer. It’s a perfect facsimile of the quintessential country pub. Set down a leafy lane it makes a fine sight, particularly when washed in the fine autumn sunshine that greeted us. The large outdoor garden (no doubt a former bowling green?) is lined with outdoor bench sets. Despite being only twelve thirty they are almost full of eager punters. Many no doubt slipped out from nearby offices.

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I slip inside to survey the set up. Six real ales line up the bar. A ‘White Bull’ light ale by Wincle Beers is ordered up. As The Flame had already taken up residence outside it was the briefest of internal tours to determine the fittings. Solid tables with solid ‘seatage’ sets the tone. It’s exactly as you would imagine. I’m sure winter will bring plenty of roaring fires. It’s terrifically traditional, low beams, stone floors, jaunty signage, it’s great stuff, very comforting. I took out a couple of clipboards, each clipping a sheath of cream card. The menu is extensive and features British pub grub favourites. Sandwich of the day was crab. I was severely tempted but decided to test out the special ‘Pie week’ menu. I love a good pie.

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We both went straight for mains. The flame went for her standard fish pie (£12.95) with a portion of chips. It arrived on its plank with some spinach and peas. She expressed a small initial disappointment when presented with the small rectangular tin, but it was short lived. It was packed with smoked fish, mainly salmon along with haddock and trout. She proclaimed it to be one of the best and a very close run thing to her all time favourite from The Church Green (see here).

The laden fish pie
The laden fish pie

I ordered up from the pie week menu. Smoked pork belly, Yorkshire chorizo and spiced apple cider with a mustard grain mash (£14.50). I prefer a full pie and was mildly disappointed to receive a cast pot with a puff pastry top. However, after forking a couple of luscious globules of pork belly and some cuboids of spicy chorizo, washed in a sweet creamy sauce I was back on track. I finally mopped up with the mustard mash. It was all rather good. The chips were decent enough, but we have been treated to the Freemasons at Wiswell versions lately and it tends to slightly taint anyone’s else’s.

Pork belly and chorizo pie
Pork belly and chorizo pie

I rounded off with a ‘Famous Mobberley Mess’ (£5.25). I’m not sure why it was famous but it was rather good if you like that sort of thing (and I do!). A decent green tea and black coffee rounded off.

The Mobberley mess
The Mobberley mess

We then took off round their three and a half mile pub walk. A natty little flyer is on hand to lead the way. As it was a glorious October day it was perfectly get ’roundable’ in trainers. I dare say wellies would have been needed back in August! A further ginger ale was imbibed on our return as recommended by the genial host. A couple of Manchester United players had settled next to us by this time. We enjoyed a truly wonderful few hours. Service was friendly and engaging. This is another one for the regular list for us. Fully recommended.

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The Bulls Head

Mill Lane
Mobberley
Knutsford
Cheshire
WA16 7HX

t: 01565 873395
e: info@thebullsheadpub.co.uk