THE light has appeared at the end of the tunnel but we have got a few more weeks yet before pubs and restaurants can take those first tentative steps to serving customers on the premises – even if we have to stretch the definition of premises to include the beer garden or terrace.

This week’s local excursion in search of a takeaway meal took us to Appleton Wiske, a village at the centre of the Darlington/Stockton/Northallerton triangle.

It’s about ten minutes from home – or would have been if it hadn’t been for the collection of half a dozen vehicles seemingly parked at random, lights blazing at various angles on the back round into the village from Deighton.

Was it a lampers’ convention or had someone broken down and called out every member of the family to help?

Picking my way through the traffic, I didn’t stop to ask, which I realise wasn’t very public spirited of me but I reasoned that if someone was in real difficulty and needed help there were enough folk around without me adding to the collection of randomly-strewn cars and pick-ups.

And besides I knew there was a bundle of takeaway food sitting on the bar of the Lord Nelson Inn for us and was I late for my allotted collection time by about five minutes.

I had also realised on my journey that I had not picked up a mask when I left home and would need one to cross the threshold of the pub; would I be able to find one tucked away somewhere in the car?

Thankfully I did, in the back of the glove compartment which made me think we are probably going to find masks in strange places for years to come when this is all over – little poignant reminders of what we’ve all been through over the last year.

I got the impression that the preparation and collection operation at the Lord Nelson proceeds like clockwork – and certainly they’ve had enough opportunity to perfect it over the last few months.

Our meal was certainly ready, along with the bill (£33). There was just time to pay (contactless), grab a picture of the bar, for old times’ sake just in case you need a reminder of what the inside of a pub looks like, and then hot-foot it back to the car for the dash home (observing all relevant speed limits of course, officer).

Inside the Lord Nelson, Appleton Wiske

Inside the Lord Nelson, Appleton Wiske

As you can see the Lord Nelson looks rather nice and I have to confess I’d never called in before – which is a bit remiss given I’ve been contributing to this column for the thick end of 20 years.

I suspect it’s always been the locals’ pub and off-comedens tended to go to the Shorthorn on the village outskirts. But that closed two years ago with the site to be redeveloped for houses so it means the Lord Nelson is the only pub in the village.

Before the pandemic, the Lord Nelson had run theme nights with menus influenced by a particular cuisine and it is something they have persisted with though the takeaway only period. So there have been Greek, Tex-Mex, Italian, Scottish and oriental-flavoured menus in recent months but also leavened with a few British pub classics for those not thrilled by whichever international cuisine which has its moment in the spotlight.

The Saturday we sampled the Lord Nelson, the theme was French and we liked the way some real thought had gone into the menu. It wasn’t the case of simply re-labelling standard dishes like beef stew beouf bourguignon or turning chips into pommes frites.

Our two starters were a case in point. The pheasant and pistachio terrine was two generous slices of densely-packed pheasant, nut and a little pork wrapped in pancetta, a little on the dry side but the pot of piccalilli that came with itsupplied the required moisture and a piquant zip.

Our starters - a small tomato tart and the pheasant and pistachio terrine

Our starters - a small tomato tart and the pheasant and pistachio terrine

A small tomato tart – puff pastry base with sliced tomato on top – was light and delicate and which, in retrospect, might have benefited from a gentlest of warm-throughs in the oven to bring it back to life a bit.

Our mains were two French classics – a rich, big and bold beouf bourguignon made with a great deal of red wine, chunky lardons of bacon and mushrooms, and in total contrast a subtle and aromatic chicken in white wine, mushroom and tarragon sauce.

Both were very good in their different ways. They were accompanied by garlic mash which could have a rather more buttery and creamier, some pommes frites which were a little flaccid after their 15 minute journey home, and some petit pois a la francaise which lacked seasoning and flavour despite having all the things (onion and bacon) which should have given it some oomph.

The rich, big and bold beouf bourguignon

The rich, big and bold beouf bourguignon

Two desserts – tarte tatin and bread and butter pudding (an example of the menu offering something for those who want to stick traditional English fare) – were excellent.

While not everything was perfect, you have to applaud the chef’s ambition to produce a menu like this. We look forward to a return visit to sample everything straight from the Lord Nelson’s kitchen. Roll on May 17.

The Lord Nelson Inn

Front Street, Appleton Wiske, Northallerton DL6 2AD

Tel: 01609 881351 Web: E-mail:

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 7, Value 9, Covid security 10