HOW do you like your beef? Rare? Bloody even? Still mooing? Very well done? Incinerated perhaps? Or something between those extremes?

Each to his own I say and, of course, it’s not an issue at home because we cook according to our preference. But eating out it can be trickier, and while a steak is no problem, the Sunday roast can be.

Roast beef always used to be served on the well done side, but people’s tastes are changing.

Many establishments now serve their beef on the pink side but also feel the need to place a "health warning" on the menu to alert traditionalists.

Or they take the approach favoured by The Herdsman at North Cowton which serves slow-roasted featherblade of beef and also pink rump.

It’s a cracking idea which while not totally original is still pretty rare (if that’s the right term to use in this context). We wish more places followed the Herd(sman) example.

Some of you might be puzzled by the description “The Herdsman at North Cowton”. Wasn’t North Cowton’s pub called the Blacksmith’s Arms?

You’re right. It was.

The name change came after a period when the Blacksmith’s went through a series of unsuccessful guises.

There was a laudable, but clearly unprofitable, period when it sold itself as a champion of local produce, then a spell as a place which seemed to only serve food which had been deep fried. Great for inducing coronaries but not much else.

Now it’s The Herdsman and run by people who know their onions – and clearly their beef.

Louise Walmsley used to be the face – and much more besides – of the Allerton Court Hotel in Northallerton and she has a team in the kitchen with solid experience evidenced by the excellent Sunday lunch we enjoyed there recently.

Herdsman, North Cowton

Herdsman, North Cowton

The interior has been refurbished since we last visited, which was probably in its Cajun/Tex-Mex/BBQ period when everything was deep red. Today it’s been toned down a good deal with a classic flagged floor, beamed ceiling, neutral wall tones and rustic feel to the fore.

With it being within a couple days of Halloween there was also lots of that pseudo-scary stuff (bats, cobwebs etc) hanging from every available lampshade and ledge.

There was nothing scary about our starters, even if a black pudding scotch egg does have a certain elemental, pagan, look about it – that golden egg eye peering out of a dark mass of blood and guts.

The Herdsman’s version may not reach the peerless heights of Tom and Nellie’s lauded in this space a few weeks ago, but it was not far behind.

Sylvia’s autumn vegetable soup was piping hot, deeply flavoured, well-seasoned and served with some very lovely olive and oregano bread. All very satisfactory.

Herdsman, North Cowton

Herdsman, North Cowton

With the main courses I was spoilt for choice with the beef. Featherblade is a great cut but I thought the pink rump would perhaps be the best test of The Herdsman’s sourcing and kitchen skills.

It didn’t disappoint. Three quite thick slices of soft, folding, pink all the way through beef were top notch and served with roast potatoes, mash and a very good light and crispy Yorkshire pudding.

Sylvia’s simply roasted, moist and tender chicken breast had been well basted with something very savoury and juicy so it had taken on a golden glazed sheen. It had all the same accompaniments as my beef.

The vegetables were plentiful and brilliant. Along with a large bowl of baton carrots, leeks, Savoy cabbage and broccoli there was a separate bowl of leeks and broccoli with a cheese sauce. I think it was probably meant to be cauliflower but it worked for us.

We sort of shared a pud in that I ordered it and Sylvia picked out a couple of bits she liked the look of. It was Namelaka Tart which may also have some of you puzzled as I was – and I’m meant to be a bit of a foodie.

Namelaka, when roughly translated, is Japanese for very creamy although a quick online search revealed it was ‘invented’ in France by the posh chocolatiers Valrhona by mixing milk, cream and gelatine.

It’s a cross between a custard and a crème pâtissiere and is very smooth, rich and, yes, creamy.

Here the tart had been ‘de-constructed’ so the three quenelles of namelaka sat atop a crumbled pastry base with mint leaves, chocolate honeycomb and strawberries as a garnish, with a berry compote on the side.

All very arty and a refreshing change from the standard pub dessert offerings.

Service was smiley, helpful and prompt. The bill for a two-course (£19) and a three-course lunch (£24), including half a pint of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord bitter, a small glass of Merlot and a soft drink, totalled just over £50.

The Herdsman

Myton Terrace, Holywell Lane, North Cowton, DL7 0ET

Tel: 01325 713111


Open: Wednesday to Saturday noon-11pm (food until 9pm); Sunday noon-8pm (food until 5pm)

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 8 Service 8 Surroundings 7 Value for money 8