Coxwold is the picture-perfect North Yorkshire village.

On the edge of the North York Moors and the Howardian Hills, its honeyed stone houses tumble down the main street interrupted only by the perfectly-proportioned village church and the pub, possibly not so perfectly proportioned but still the handsomest of buildings with its forecourt cobbles and pantile roof.

The Fauconberg Arms absolutely oozes history and tradition. If a film or TV executive was looking for the quintessential Yorkshire country inn location this would be it. The stone-flagged floors, low, heavy-beamed ceilings, the Mousey Thompson furniture in the bar bear the wear of time and customers so comfortably. It has a patina of cosyness and warmth (up to a point, more of which later).

The ambience on an early spring evening was much enhanced by liberal use of fairy lights inside and out. I know that’s not exactly traditional but it works. Sylvia says everywhere looks better with fairy lights. Which is why it is Christmas all year round at the Warnes.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Eating Out at The Fauconberg Arms in Coxwold, North Yorkshire

We ate in the bar. There is a slightly more formal restaurant but the bar is the place to be for max pub pleasure. The only drawback on this particular evening was it was not particularly cosy.

As the maitre’d chatted to an adjacent table we heard her say it would probably have been best to have lit the woodburner in the gigantic stone hearth. She was dead right.

While some folk were clearly very happy in T-shirts, others, like Sylvia, felt the chill. We noticed one female customer gradually put on more layers as the evening wore on.

We had arrived slightly early for our booked table. It looked as if it had only recently been vacated and there was a pool of liquid on the floor – probably a spilt drink. Generally speaking we are not fans of being ushered to the bar before sitting at table – always an opportunity to bump up bar takings – but on this occasion if might not have been a bad idea so that the table and floor could have been tidied up.

Menus and drinks orders arrived swiftly. With the exception of a spring onion, pea and spinach risotto and a cheese and chive souffle, the standard a la carte menu failed to excite us. Pub classics would perhaps the best description of a rather pedestrian line-up.

But the specials menu was that rare thing – something actually rather special.

We both chose main courses that you rarely see anywhere these days – lamb chops for Sylvia and a whole roasted plaice for me.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Eating Out at The Fauconberg Arms in Coxwold, North Yorkshire

And before that a special starter of gigantic Argentinian prawns with garlic butter and crusty ciabatta (£12.50). That promised to be something really special.

Sadly it wasn’t. They appeared spectacular – six inches long with the heads and tails on. They looked delicious. Trouble was, by the time the extremities had been removed what was left in the form of edible flesh was underwhelming – the rather flabby morsels tasting of garlic and little else.

Thankfully the olives (£5.25) we had also ordered as a starter came with more ciabatta which we used to siphon up all the garlic butter.

The lamb chops (£24) were far better – oven roasted and served with crushed new potatoes, a rosemary and red wine sauce, broccoli and carrots. The chops were richly glazed by the sauce, still a bit pink and lip-smackingly lamby.

My plaice looked equally gorgeous, swimming in a cracking lemon and butter sauce and served with new potatoes and the same veg.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Eating Out at The Fauconberg Arms in Coxwold, North Yorkshire

It was nearly perfect. Plaice of course is a flat fish requiring careful cooking - especially so early in the season when they can be particularly thin, like this one. The delicate flesh came off the bone just a little too easily.

It was a smidge overcooked perhaps which was a shame because in every other respect this was an excellent dish and a reminder of why plaice was once one of the nation’s favourites and overfished. Happily stocks are recovering and hopefully we will see it on more specials boards and menus.

We shared an apple crumble (£7.50), presented in an iron skillet/ramekin, with lots of custard served on the side. No complaints here. A decent crumble topping and a deep layer of fruit with the sweet/sharp balance pretty much bang on.

The bill, with drinks (£30 on a classy Voignier and some soft drinks), topped £100 which sounds like a lot but in 2024 is probably the going rate for an weekend evening meal in a what undoubtedly considers itself a posh pub.

Elements of our experience justified that description and bill. Other bits less so.

The Fauconberg Arms,

Coxwold, York, YO61 4AD

Tel: 01347 868214


Open for food: Monday- Saturday noon-2.30pm and 5.30-9pm; Sunday noon-3pm and 4.30-7.30pm.

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 8 Service 7 Surroundings 9 Value 6