Not good enough for the King

Darlington and Stockton Times: BRIGHT IF CHILLY: Pratt’s dining room at the King’s Arms, Askrigg BRIGHT IF CHILLY: Pratt’s dining room at the King’s Arms, Askrigg

ASKED to name our favourite dining pubs, two will regularly appear in the top ten – the CB Inn and the Punch Bowl, in Arkengarthdale and Swaledale respectively.

Owned by Charles and Stacy Cody for a number of years, these two pubs have helped set the standard for revived country pubs in the Yorkshire Dales providing top quality grub while not forgetting the importance of ale.

So when we heard the Cody empire had extended further, with the taking over of the running of the King’s Arms at Askrigg, we looked forward to checking it out.

The King’s Arms is a historic pub. Back in the 18th century it was the base for horse racing trainer John Pratt, who secured the 1782 St Leger with Imperatrix. Clues to that period lie in the hooks in the ceiling of what is now the main bar, used back then for hanging reins and saddles.

The equestrian connection continued with its later function as a coaching inn and much more recently there was TV fame through its use as The Drovers in the All Creatures Great and Small series adaptation of the James Herriot stories.

Since that time, the pub and the extensive stable buildings to the rear were purchased and redeveloped by a holiday property company.

The largely untouched pub part provides on-site dining facilities for the holiday apartments but is also open to non-residents.

We were a party of six – Howard and Carrol, Philip and Karin, yours truly and Sylvia – and gathered in the bar with its massive inglenook fireplace and roaring fire which was particularly welcome on a raw winter Sunday lunchtime, and which made the fireless Pratt’s dining room seem a little cold in comparison when we were ushered through by our waitress.

We were handed conventional menus but I couldn’t but help notice a Cody trademark – the specials menu written on a wall mirror and the strange double vision effect it generates.

But the printed Sunday lunch menu was, thankfully, crystal clear – three starters, four mains including two roasts and three desserts (one of which was cheese). The advantage of a large party is that every dish on the menu bar the vegetarian wild mushroom risotto was sampled and all three starters more or less got the thumbs up. Howard enjoyed the “very oniony”

caramelised red onion soup, Carrol and I thought the mackerel fillets served on a small anchovy-dominated Caesar salad (£4.50) fishy fantastic and Philip, Karin and Sylvia swiftly despatched a herby chicken ballontine (£5.75). Sylvia was, however, a little perturbed by the two small bones she found in hers.

Matters fell apart somewhat with the main courses (all £8.95). Those who chose the topside of roast beef (Philip and me) were happy with their lot, but those who picked roast pork loin (Karin, Howard and Sylvia) were generally mutinous at what was put before them.

Loin is a lean cut but this was anything but lean.

It was far too fatty. While Howard settled for what he was given, Karin’s pork, in particular, looked like it was 50:50 fat to lean. She asked to have beef instead and Sylvia sent hers back as well. What replaced it was only marginally better. The saltiness suggested it was from a bacon joint rather than loin.

Although the Yorkshire puddings were nicely light and fluffy, the bowl of vegetables and the roast potatoes were only passable. Horseradish had to be asked for. Everybody said the food was on the lukewarm side, a situation not helped by being served on almost stone cold plates.

On the plus side, Carrol thought her roasted fillet of salmon, served on a bed of creamy prawn risotto very good.

Despite this, the party was going well and we pressed on with desserts. Howard and Philip thought the sticky stout pudding (£4.95) excellent, even though it was served with custard rather than the strangely unavailable butterscotch sauce.

Karin enjoyed her Eton Mess (also £4.95) and my cheese board (£7.25) was handsome indeed, comprising three Wensleydales – cranberry, bue and traditional – grapes and tomato chutney. Sylvia and Carrol’s ice cream (£2.95) was barely so-so – the vanilla was certainly freezer-bound.

Notwithstanding the business over the horseradish, service from our smiling happy waitress was very good – and we got the feeling there were not many hands at the pump that day.

The bill for six, including £18 worth of drinks, was £134.15.

It was disappointing performance for the Codys’ latest baby. They have set themselves a high standard elsewhere.

Ratings: 

Food Quality: 7/10

Service: 8/10

Surroundings: 8/10

Value: 7/10

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