A YEAR since the first national lockdown, and we are still reviewing takeaway meals in this, our "Eating Out" slot. In the last 12 months we've been through the full range of hospitality experiences that varying levels of Covid restrictions have allowed.

From fish and chip vans in village laybys, to roadside gourmet stop-offs, to takeaway afternoon teas, to the brief period last summer when we were actually permitted inside venues, we've just about covered it all – and hope we've done our bit to highlight the ingenuity and dedication of publicans and restaurateurs to keep meal offerings going in these most testing of times.

The last fortnight has – quite rightly – involved much reflection on the events of early Spring 2020, when the ever-darkening headlines contrasted so starkly with a glorious, prolonged period of sunshine.

It was a Saturday evening to match those sun-soaked days when I headed out to collect another takeaway – hopefully it is now just a matter of days, rather than weeks before we can at least eat outside our venues of choice, rather than rushing the lovingly-prepared food home while it sloshes around the car footwell in a random collection of plastic and cardboard.

I was making the ten-minute journey up the A19 to the Dog & Gun at Knayton, a popular family haunt during more sociable times and just about close enough that the food would not need reheating on its return. Its lockdown offerings were recommended by my mam, who thoroughly enjoyed a Christmas takeaway from there in December, and so I found myself approaching its familiar doorstep, as the chill of the evening took over from the setting sun.

We'd ordered for 6.45pm via Facebook Messenger from the varied menu on the Dog & Gun website, which includes pub classics such as fish and chips, scampi, and lasagne, a good selection of meat-free and vegan dishes, and options to "build your own burger".

I was a couple of minutes early, and aside from the lights at the back of the bar I could see from peering through the windows, there was no sign of life, with the front door locked and no answer when I knocked. Slightly puzzled, I loitered with intent and after a short wait, the front door was unbolted and my takeaway emerged in the arms of a cheery staff member and was placed on the designated collection table. I handed over the cash and scooted off home content with the Covid-secure transaction and the smell of our tea.

I'd ordered steak and ale pie with chips (why change the habit of a lifetime) and seasonal veg and my sister chose scampi and chips with mushy peas and tartar sauce.

Unwrapping the food is half the fun – equal in excitement to that first glimpse of the pitch when you walk up the steps at a sports ground – and this was no different. My initial reaction to the sight of my pie (and I do love a pie) was "WOW, it's massive", followed by an immediate sadness that came with the realisation there was no additional gravy.

The gravy-filled steak pie from the Dog & Gun at Knayton

The gravy-filled steak pie from the Dog & Gun at Knayton

I've always been taught never to judge a book by its cover, and now I know not to judge a gravy portion without prior research. It turned out the pie was not self contained in its own pastry as I had first thought when removing it from its plastic carton, but was actually a pastry lid covering a foil dish. Inside was a hearty portion of filling, and, glory be, masses of piping hot, tasty gravy – much better than faffing around with extra receptacles and gravy jugs.

I was fully prepared for the gravy to be the highlight, but that was before I tasted the pastry. Buttery, light and so plentiful that while tucking in, I was already mentally calculating how many miles I would need to run the following morning to make up for it. The answer was probably 20, but I settled for a hilly seven.

The meat inside was tender, the chips were what I would describe as "proper chips", and the veg – sprouts, green beans and red cabbage – added plenty of interest.

I was too busy being in gravy and pastry heaven to elicit much useful feedback about the scampi and chips, other than it was all fresh, light and extremely tasty, with the mushy peas and chips rating highly amongst other recent takeaways.

Scampi, chips, mushy peas and tartar sauce

Scampi, chips, mushy peas and tartar sauce

It was just as well we didn't locate any dessert options as we were both full-up thanks to the hearty portion size, and for £23, it was good value. Few of the packaging items were recyclable, which was a shame, but hopefully, as restrictions ease, we will soon be back to purely reviewing food quality, service and value, with details about wrappers, reheating and travel times consigned to the past.

The Dog & Gun

Knayton, Thirsk YO7 4AZ

Currently serving takeaways from 5pm-9pm Fridays and Saturdays and roasts from 12pm-5pm on Sundays..



Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 8 Covid security 9 Value 8 Gravy 10