IT is only a little under two years since this column dined at the Blue Bell Inn at Ingleby Cross, perched on the edge of the North York Moors between Northallerton and Stokesley.

In normal times, we would prefer to leave longer gaps between return visits, but clearly, these are not normal times. A combination of heavy snow, and rigid adherence to the "stay home, stay local" message meant the Blue Bell was the only feasible choice for a takeaway meal, it being my actual local.

Last summer, the pub operated a takeaway operation involving paying at the main entrance and collecting your meal from an open kitchen window round the back, but now in chillier temperatures, the transaction takes place at the bar.

As I waited to pick up our Sunday lunch in the half-darkness of the cold, empty room, I couldn't help but reflect on the previous review in the halcyon days of early 2019, in which Malcolm Warne described the "bibulous crowd of locals" who were congregated around the pub's blazing fire.

Hopefully, as the Covid vaccine roll-out gathers pace, we can imagine a day in the not too distant future when our pubs can emerge from the shadows and crowds of customers, local or not, bibulous or otherwise, can once again gather to eat, drink and be merry.

Flight of fancy over, I collected our food, securely wrapped in a combination of paper bag (Yorkshire puddings), cardboard box (meat, mash and roasted veg) and plastic containers (steamed veg and gravy) and slithered home on the icy roads.

It is difficult to artfully arrange takeaway meals sufficiently well to do them justice in a photograph, and as evidenced by my attempt, I did not spend too long on the camerawork, being more concerned with tucking in before the food went cold.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Roast pork with all the trimmingsRoast pork with all the trimmings

The Blue Bell's Sunday lunch options are roast beef or pork, with gluten free versions also available.

Both my sister and I went for pork, and for our £9 per portion, we received three thick slices of meat, crackling, mashed potato, mashed swede, roasted carrots, parsnips and potatoes, steamed carrots, broccoli and cauliflower, an excellent amount of tasty gravy, and four gargantuan Yorkshire puddings. Value indeed.

The steamed veg was done just right with still a little crunch and was piping hot when it landed on our plates, while the mashed potato was nicely creamy. The meat could have been slightly more moist, and if I'm feeling harsh, the Yorkshires were a tad overdone. Both issues were easily solved though with a liberal application of gravy, and we agreed that the triumph of the meal was the roast potatoes – well seasoned and slightly herby, they were as crispy on the outside as they were fluffy on the inside. Three each was a generous enough portion – I could happily have eaten at least five.

The amount of veg for the price was immense and we had to retire defeated in the end (good job there were 'just' the six roasties between us after all), glad that we had been out for our designated period of exercise in the morning, with a snooze, instead of a pudding, the best option to round things off.

Although we would have much rather been at a table in the Blue Bell's bar, with the fire roaring and the happy, burbling background noise of a busy pub, in these locked down January days, it still felt like a huge treat to be enjoying a slap-up meal cooked by someone else. We remain grateful that our local has found a way to make this possible.

The bill was £18, the service efficient and friendly.

Blue Bell Inn

Ingleby Cross,


01609 882272

Ratings (out of ten):

Food quality 8

Covid security 8

Value for money 10