Friday, 9 September 2016

The George and Dragon, West Haddlesey

There must be hundreds of villages in the north of England which have fabulous pubs that no-one outside of the village has ever heard of. A friend of mine found one in West Haddlesey. The village lies to the north of the M62 and to the west of the A19 in the Vale of York near Selby and when we visited the grain harvest in the surrounding fields was in full swing.

The entrance is on the east side and as we went in we were confronted by a little man holding a chalkboard advising us of the Tripadvisor ratings for the pub. Next to him was a full suit of armour with a board advising  that it was bookings only tonight if you wanted to eat.

Bookings only on a Thursday night? Well it was Tenner Thursday! All food at half price or better! Fortunately my friend knew this and had pre-booked so our trip was not wasted. My first impression was that the ceilings were very low which immediately made you feel that you have stepped back in time.
The next thing I look for in any pub that I visit is the selection of beers available. After all the prime function of a pub is to sell intoxicating beverages! There are 3 handpumps on the bar. Two of them had beers on that were new to me.

On the left is White Dragon from the very local Brown Cow Brewery at Brayton which has been in operation since 1997. The beer, described by it's makers as "pale, aromatic and bitter with a hint of citrus" is 4% abv and looked the same colour as the grain in the surrounding fields. An East decision then - Dragons all round! I am sure that George would have approved.

The White Dragon received unanimous approval so it was only natural that our thoughts turned to food.. The walls of the pub are covered with menus and there is food to suite all tastes and pockets. However  it was "Tenner Thursday" so we checked out that menu.

When I am trying a pub's food for the first time I usually go for a pie - traditional fayre and easy to compare with pie from other pubs. However the crab fishcake caught my eye so the pie would have to wait.

Now that is a substantial starter and the chilli & lime sauce certainly complemented the crab. With my appetite more than just whetted we proceeded to the main event the steak pie!

Now that is what I call a pie! Crisp brown pastry brimming with steak - a veritable meatfest! it was delicious. My wife chose the cheese and onion pie which was equally magnificent!

After such a substantial pie it was only right that we should have more beer. The ladies stuck with the White Dragon but I had noticed that the middle wicket on the bar was pulling a "Pirate brew" from Bolton, Lancashire. Probably not a coincidence but the landlord and landlady of the  George & Dragon are both from Bolton. A dark bitter, Captain Jackman, 4.3% abv is brewed by Bank Top brewery which is housed in a former tennis pavillion and very nice it is too.

Meanwhile there had been considerable debate with the landlady about puddings, mainly centering on what different cheesecakes were available. The outcome of this was a very nice chocolatey one which my mate demolished.

So a splendid evening was had in the George and Dragon which is a little gem. Hard to find but worth the effort if you like good beer and traditional pub food in atmospheric surroundings. We will be returning on Bonfire Night if not before. In the meantime make the effort and take a trip to West Haddlesey . You will not be disappointed. 

Footnote: The pub is having a beer festival on the weekend 21/22nd October. Check out the website for details.

Monday, 15 February 2016

The Old Harkers Arms, Chester, Cheshire

Chester is an ancient city full of history and character. We went for a recent weekend break and discovered that it is also full of cracking pubs. This left us with quite a dilemma as we wanted to sample as many hostelries as we could whilst remembering what inns we had visited and what beers we had drunk. So much to drink, so little time. Whilst much of the weekend disappeared in an alcoholic blur our visit to the Old Harkers Arms on the Sunday afternoon was particularly memorable.

As well as being an historic place Chester also has an industrial past, much of it close to the Shropshire Union Canal which passes through the city on it's way to Ellesmere Port.

At its  closest point to the railway station an enterprising company, Brunning & Price, have converted the ground floor of an old industrial building into a pub, the Old Harkers Arms. Indeed when you walk in you are greeted by an old punch clock on one of the columns holding the building up.
Behind this column is the L-shaped bar with a fine array of handpumps. My first selection was a pint of 80-\- bitter from Conwy brewery. I can only describe this as a mighty fine pint of beer with a lovely smooth  malty flavour. In contrast Maggie started with a drop of blonde beer called Cheshire Cat. Both these beers were in fine form and set the tone for our all too brief session.
I should add at this point that plenty of people around us were ordering food and that it looked very nice and indeed tempting. However we felt that with so many beers to explore the food might interfere with the job in hand so we concentrated on liquid refreshment. My second pint, which was again memorable for its wonderful smooth flavour, was as I recall Slaters premium bitter from Stafford. Maggie also changed and tried a glass of Eastgate bitter.
We were sat  on bench seating next to a bookcase at the west end of the pub which was not really in keeping with the industrial setting but nevertheless had some interesting tomes in it. From here we could relax and watch the comings and goings of the happy drinkers. The atmosphere was certainly very relaxed compared with other establishments we had visited and the staff behind the bar were friendly and helpful which, for me, always adds to the experience. 
After imbibing such a majestic bitter as the Slaters I decided to follow it with a glass of stout Drystone stout from the excellent Hawkshead brewery was the order of the day and it was so very tasty!
I could have stayed in the Harkers all day. It is nice to see new pubs doing well and it would appear that the Old Harkers Arms has already built up a good reputation in a city full of good pubs. We enjoyed our stay in Chester and will return in the future. When we do we will certainly be calling in at the Old Harkers Arms. Try it for yourself!


Sunday, 22 November 2015

The Lord Raglan, Nangreaves, Bury

Set high up on the hills to the north of Manchester is one of the nicest pub-breweries you could ever wish to visit. The Lord Raglan in the hamlet of Nangreaves is also the home of the Leyden Brewery. A visit to the pub can be quite an adventure as it is "off the beaten track" and the last mile ascends a bone shaking cobbled lane. Once you get to the pub the view is spectacular. We arrived on a crisp clear Sunday lunchtime - 15 miles to the south the towers of Manchester glinted in the sun. Fiddlers Ferry power station can be seen to the southwest and to the north and west are the glorious Lancashire moors.

The pub is on the old pack horse route from Manchester to Burnley. It has been in the same family for 60 years and takes it's name from the commander of the British forces in the Crimean war.
We visit the pub every year - the beers brewed on site include: Raglan's Sleeve, a lovely, well balanced bitter and Crowning Glory, a strong smooth winter brew. On our visit they had had a cultural exchange and there were several local guest beers on offer. I started with a pint of Mistral, brewed on the premises - a light refreshing ale at 4% alcohol. My second pint was a sweet stout from the Deeply Vale brewery in Bury called DV8 which, despite the name, is an interesting and very drinkable ale.
Food at the Rag is traditional  pub food with locally sources ingredients. I had a black pudding tower with Bury black pudding ( where else!) - delicious. This was followed by brewers pie - long cooked beef in the pubs own beer. After that there was a decision to be made - pudding or more beer? I went for a pint of Gold from the Dunscar Bridge brewery in Bolton - another really nice pint. I had forgotten that Lancastrians are such good brewers.
There may well be dozens of brew pubs like the Lord Raglan dotted around the north of England. I am certainly looking forward to finding them and sampling their hospitality. If you are ever in Bury or passing through the area make a point of finding the Lord Raglan and trying what it has to offer. you will not be disappointed.