IT’S been a long time coming but, after a five-year gap, we’ve come across a dining out experience that we’ve rated top-notch, a can’t-be-beaten full Monty of four tens.

We’ve had to go a long way to find it mind. The village of Ferrensby is the other side of Boroughbridge and, in truth, nearer to Knaresborough. But as the first-named town is in the circulation area of the D&S and latter isn’t, we are saying it is near Boroughbridge, just five minutes’ drive from that town’s A1 junction. That sort of thing keeps the Editor happy.

Now I wouldn’t want you to read too much into the ratings we use below these reviews. They can’t be scientific although some readers rather think they should be. Like the friend who recently took me to task for describing the service at Bettys in Northallerton as excellent then only giving it a rating of nine.

He argued the use of that description meant it should have been 10. I counter-argued that it was possible to have degrees of excellence. We agreed to differ.

So what made the General Tarleton, a roadside pub/restaurant with rooms which looks remarkably ordinary from the outside, so outstanding? Well, everything really - the food, the service, the surroundings and value for money. It was also a Sunday. And I was in a good mood. That undoubtedly helps.

Sometimes you cross the threshold and you just know a place is going to measure up. It must have been ten years or more since we last called there but we remember it looked the part then and it certainly does today.

Getting the balance between the traditional pub vibe and the contemporary dining ambience we expect these days isn’t easy and although the Tarleton is definitely aligned towards the latter it feels absolutely right. The combination of low beamed ceilings, exposed brick, modern fabrics and carpets and subtle lighting certainly ticked the box for us.

Service was seamlessly smooth. A combination of youngsters and older hands were impeccably drilled and efficient, as well as appropriately formal and friendly when required.

In relation to the food, I fear my stock of polished if well-worn superlatives may be insufficient to cover the all-round gorgeousness of what we ate.

So I’ll start with the one thing that nearly nudged the food quality rating down to a nine. The roast suckling pig leg was billed as being served with “crisp crackling”. What came was slightly leathery skin.

That was disappointing for someone who loves proper, teeth-testing, dentists’ income-enhancing crackling. It has been known for your reviewer to strip all the crackling off a leg of pork and eat it as a starter – the equivalent of consuming four packets of pork scratchings in one sitting. Don’t try that at home, kids.

But everything else about the hind quarter of that little pig was completely spot on so I’ll let it pass. As I said, good mood and all that.

Our starters certainly helped, especially some popcorn king prawns with a sriracha and tomato mayonnaise (£9.75). We raved about the popcorn batter. Never have we previously encountered a fried coating so crisp and so light it was see-through. The prawns were spectacularly plump and juicy too.

A Wensleydale cheese souffle (£7.95) had a mild, fluffy cheesey-ness that was perfectly complemented by the peppery, crunchy, roast hazelnut, fennel, apple and rocket salad.

Sylvia’s roast chicken supreme (£16.95) was fat, juicy with great depth of flavour and served with pigs in blankets and bread sauce – Christmas revisited.

But what really made our main courses stand out was the quality of the accompaniments. The Yorkshire puddings were just right – not ridiculously big but with crispy tops and doughy, almost soggy, bottoms (and that’s a good thing in a Yorkshire pudding in my book) to soak up an excellent gravy.

The roast potatoes were top drawer. The chantenay carrots cooked Vichy-style and beautifully glazed came with crunchy green beans and mange tout. A separate bowl of cauliflower cheese was just epic.

The prospect of pud was daunting but, fearful we miss out on something special, we went for trio of rhubarb (£7.50) and a brandy snap basket (£5.95) – and we not disappointed.

To be fair a brandy snap basket is not the culinary equivalent of rocket science but the vanilla ice cream which filled the crisp basket was the very best.

The rhubarb (crumble, brûlée and compote) with more of that lovely ice cream was special – and substantial. The hard-topped brûlée made up for the lack of pork crackling experience earlier, the crumble was sweet and gooey and the compote the perfectly-tart antidote.

Finally, can a Sunday lunch be good value at £84 including a booze/soft drinks bill of £19 and merit a 10/10 rating? Can five king prawns be worth a couple of pennies short of £2 a piece? The answer is yes and yes.


The General Tarleton, Harrogate Road, Ferrensby, HG5 0PZ

Tel: 01423 340284 Web:

Open for Sunday lunch: noon-3pm (last orders 2.45)

Disabled access. Special diets catered for.

Ratings (out of 10): Food quality 10, Service 10, Surroundings 10, Value 10