ANY self-respecting Yorkshireman will tell you that the finest fish is caught off God’s Own County’s coast. There’s nothing to beat the catch from Whitby, Scarborough, Filey and Bridlington.

But they might have to swallow their pride, thanks to the arrival in the Broad Acres of the Seafood Pub Company from, dare I say it, Lancashire.

After developing a successful chain of gastropubs on the wrong side of the Pennines, company founder Jocelyn Neve has had the temerity to buy two famous Yorkshire hostelries, spend a handsome sum doing them up and serve up fish sourced from her father’s seafood supply business in Fleetwood. Fish is clearly in the blood – her grandfather was a trawlerman.

The two pubs are the Fleece at Addingham, near Ilkley, and closer to home, what was The Red Lion at South Stainley, just south of Ripon on the road to Harrogate

The Red Lion used to be famous for its Sunday lunches but that was a long time ago. In more recent years it became a “family-friendly” pubco formula hostelry complete with a play barn called the Wacky Warehouse. Unless you had kids under the age of ten you wouldn’t have darkened its doors.

The new owners have spent £1.5m on the refurb and the Wacky Warehouse has gone. It is no longer The Red Lion but simply The Inn at South Stainley.

While the exterior is not unfamiliar the inside has had the full high-end works - warm and welcoming in the way a traditional country pub should be but with a hint of contemporary chic. Upstairs, 12 bedrooms have been given the boutique hotel treatment.

On arrival we were “clocked” almost immediately. The manager is Ian Pilcher who opened up the Black Bull at Moulton for Provenance Inns a couple of years ago. He remembered us and our cover was blown.

So you need to factor that in to our assessment. All reviews in the D&S are normally carried out on a “mystery shopper” basis – ie the establishment doesn’t know it is being reviewed. In all the years we have doing these reviews, we have been recognised on only a handful of occasions but we have always declared the fact in the published review.

Perhaps not surprisingly then, we were exceptionally and personally looked after by Ian. But to be fair everyone else around us seem to getting very similar service so I can’t unequivocally say we were especially pampered because of who we were or what we were doing.

So the food is all about fish – and fish from Lancashire at that. Well, actually, the extensive standard menu also includes six pizzas, a range of steaks, burgers, and curries and a list of daily specials included a game suet pudding.

And Sylvia, perverse as ever, decided she didn’t want to eat fish, opting for carrot and coriander soup (£4.95) which she rated highly for its deeply aromatic herbiness and the fresh bread which accompanied it. Marks were lost as she had to ask for butter to spread (thickly) on it.

Her main course of roast chicken, ham hock and leek pot pie (£14.50) from the pub classics menu was flavour-packed even though there didn’t appear to contain significant amounts of chicken, ham hock or leek. The sauce was excellent if tiny bit on the salty side. The pie came with buttered green beans and “proper” chips which were top notch although we did wonder what improper chips might be.

For my starter, The Inn’s take on calamari (£7.50) with sesame and lime and a rose petal harissa mayo was novel and successful. The squid ringlets had a little bite to them but were far from rubbery. The batter was crisp and light and the mayo was really very good indeed with a delicate hint of chilli.

My main course poached turbot (£24.50) came from the specials board and served with roast salsify, mushrooms, pearl barley and a red wine sauce. Lancastrian it may have been but as a piece of firm-fleshed, glistening, crispy-skinned fish it could not be faulted. Again, the sauce was just a tad over seasoned.

I often moan about the predictability of pub dessert menus so it was good to see a couple of favourites from yesteryear, including a syrup sponge and a superb baked Alaska (£7.50) with rum pineapple, mango and mint.

I’d have let the blow torch linger a little longer on the Alaska’s pretty meringue peaks but in every other respects it was a perfect version of a classic dish.

Sylvia enjoyed some salted caramel and raspberry Amaretto truffles (£3.95) with her large latte (£2.65).

The bill, with a bottle of Prosecco (£26.75) topped £90 which we thought was a little steep with most dishes being about a pound or two more expensive than you might find elsewhere.

But the “new” Inn is nevertheless an impressive newcomer and may herald something of a Red Rose invasion. The company is said to be set on further expansion in Yorkshire.


The Inn at South Stainley, Ripon Road, South Stainley, Harrogate, HG3 3ND

Tel: 01423-779069


Open for food: Monday to Thursday: noon-9pm; Friday and Saturday: noon-10pm; Sunday: 11am-8.30pm.

Disabled access. Gluten and dairy free options.

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 8 Service 10 Surroundings 9 Value 8