IT’s funny how the word spreads about good places to eat.

For years, we had dismissed the White Bear Hotel at Masham as probably an excellent pub given that it serves as the tap for the nearby Theakstons brewery but not necessarily a destination for a fine meal.

But people – lots of them - have kept mentioning the White Bear as a place to eat and it’s been on the ‘to-do’ list for quite a while. Last Sunday, we finally made it and all we can say to all those who pressed us to try it is thanks.

Not only is it an excellent pub serving the full range of Theakstons’ beers in tip-top condition (as one should expect of course), it also does a mean Sunday lunch.

But first let’s talk about beer because as you enter the White Bear that’s what you are faced with – five beer pumps all in a row selling the main Theakstons range – Best, Old Peculier, XB, Black Bull and Lightfoot.

A half pint of Lightfoot, a honeyed golden blonde beer, was as fresh and lively as a light beer should be – and I’m not really a beer connoisseur.

It was something to savour as we took our places at a small table in the dining room with views over the sunlit outside terrace.

There was more beer in the bread we were served as we waited for our first courses. Normally, I steer well clear of bread in restaurants for fear of filling up and not really enjoying the feast to come but I would defy anyone to resist the yeasty, doughy, cake-like beer bread they make with left over ale at the White Bear.

As our waitress said, they can’t stomach the idea of wasting beer at Theakstons so some of it goes into the more-ish bread.

I assume that beer battered haddock and chips that is one of the Sunday lunch main courses is also made with one of Theakstons’ lighter brews but strangely it doesn’t say so.

In all other respects the White Bear Sunday lunch offering is in the classical mode with a complete range of roasts plus some bar classics like lasagne, steak pie (in Theakston ale, of course), gammon, a vegetarian cous cous dish and a fish pie (intriguingly made with spinach and smoked paparika Wensleydale cheese).

Sylvia started her meal after manfully holding back on the beer bread with a traditional chicken liver pate served with melba toast and chutney (£5.95). There were some logistical plate-to-mouth problems (very crumbly pate and very crisp Melba toast make for a bit of a mess) but once these were overcome the pate was nicely liverish with a decent shot of alcohol (brandy or sherry) to pep it up a bit.

My asparagus wrapped in pastrami and served with a hollandaise sauce (£6.50) was Spring on a plate. Lovely fresh, new season dark green-stemmed and purple-tipped beauties were cloaked in a perfect hollandaise. The pastrami seemed unnecessary really.

On to the mains and it was really refreshing to be offered two variations of roast beef, the menu listing slow-roast silverside (£11.95) and rare sirloin (£16.95). That hefty price differential seemed but steep but my choice, the sirloin, justified every penny. The two thick slices were crackingly good, tenderly pink in the middle with that “taste of the fire” exterior you only get with a really big joint of meat.

Sylvia’s roast chicken breast was plump, moist and juicy, came with a proper gravy made from meat juices and there’s not a lot more you can ask for.

The accompanying vegetables – carrots, turnip, green beans and mange tout - served with the roasts were rather under-seasoned but otherwise perfectly cooked.

Sylvia reckoned the roast potatoes could have been crisper – there was also decent mash by the way - and I thought the Yorkshire puddings were serviceable rather than top-drawer light and fluffy.

But overall, these were excellent roast dinners and we both thought we probably had had our fill until the blackboard dessert menu was strategically placed near our table.

Sylvia succumbed to the temptation of some raspberry ripple ice cream served in a brandy basket (£1.95) and I put my faith in the promise of an espresso pannacotta (£5.95) which was amply repaid. Beautifully presented, it was just the right milky-jellified wibble-wobble texture and the bitter coffee flavour was nicely offset by kumquat, strawberry, whipped cream and a chunk of almond brittle.

Service was generally good, even occasionally brilliant, after an initial hiccup when we took our place at the booked slightly tucked-away table and were forgotten about for 15 minutes.

We liked the décor which somehow managed to morph seamlessly from spit and sawdust tap room to country house dining room.

The bill, with small glasses of house white and red wine, was just a smidge over £60.


The White Bear Hotel Wellgarth, Masham, HG4 4EN

Tel: 01765 689319
Open: Sunday lunch menu served from noon to 8pm.
Diet: Vegetarian and gluten-free options

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 8 Service 7 Surroundings 8 Value 7