Friday, 26 July 2013

The Narrowboat, Skipton

As the name suggests the Narrowboat is close to the canal basin in the centre of this market town. It is, however, quite difficult to find as it is tucked away up a narrow cobbled street. Make the effort to find it as it is a little gem!

Part of the MarketTown Taverns group the Narrowboat has long been the best provider of cask-conditioned beer in Skipton as well as providing a menu of simple but tasty pub food. They always support local ales so that Black Sheep, Timothy Taylors and Copper Dragon are available from the wickets as well as an interesting selection of guest ales.

We called in one Friday evening when there were 3 guests from Plassey Brewery in Conwy, North Wales. Clearly the trip east had suited the beer as the bitter was superb. My wife always drinks TT's Landlord here as it is always good.

As ever when we go to the Narrowboat it is full of like-minded people so we ended up in the gallery upstairs. We had a Burger with chips and Steak &Ale pie (with chips!) followed by Apple & Sultana Sponge (with custard). Simple food, cooked well and served with a smile.

Latterly we have enjoyed ale from Saltaire and Ilkley breweries ( Mary Jane is my favourite blonde)

The Narrowboat is our favourite pub in Skipton - we have been coming here for at least 10 years - it was the first non-smoking pub in Skipton. Consistently good and the best pub in the excellent Markettowntaverns group (which is now owned, I believe, by Okells brewery on the IOM.)

Take the time and trouble to seek out the Narrowboat. It will not disappoint!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

The Stubbing Wharf, Hebden Bridge

Hebden Bridge is famous for all sorts of things. Until now I did not consider it to be a mecca for good beer. That changed one Tuesday lunchtime when I walked into the Stubbing Wharf. The place was full!

As usual I headed for the bar to see what ales were on. There was a good selection from local breweries: Tod's Blonde from Little Valley, Arizona from Phoenix and Sandstone from Bridestones were three that caught the eye.
Once I had tried the Sandstone I realised that it was a very nice session ale with a lovely flavour and never got any further. Others in our group latched onto the stronger Tod's Blonde which also went down well.
The food available looked delicious and there is a comprehensive specials board. As the pub was so busy we booked for the following evening when we could do it justice ( we were not disappointed) - game stew was very popular and there was a good selection of vegetarian items for those who wanted it.
Did I mention that the pub backs on to the towpath of the Rochdale Canal? We literally sailed up to the door, tied up our narrowboat and stepped into this excellent pub. This can only add to the attraction of  a pub which is already popular with locals and visitors alike.
If you are in the Calder Valley go to Hebden Bridge and sample the delights of the Stubbing Wharf. We will certainly be going back!

Friday, 12 April 2013

The Puzzle Hall, Sowerby Bridge

The Puzzle Hall  is tucked away down a lane 200 yards from the A58 which runs through the middle of Sowerby Bridge. The town, which nestles in the Calder valley has lots of good pubs but it is worth making the effort to find the Puzzle as it is a little gem.

 When I first visited, some 30 years ago it was a Wards tied house. Nowadays the pub sells a range of local beers. I started the evening on Stokers from Bridgehouse before things got a little hazy. Absolution from Abbeydale was popular with the younger members of our party but I ended up drinking Spotland Gold from Phoenix which was very morish.
I started with a pint of Stokers...........
The Puzzle is a two roomed pub. We were 14 in our party which half filled the "concert room"
The Puzzle advertises Thai food in the second half of the week. We were feeling peckish but the menu did not look very appetising. How misleading that was! Calamari, spicy fishcakes and corn fritters with hot dips whetted our appetites. I had a green curry for main  which was fabulous. When the chef came out to see if everything was OK our group broke out into spontaneous applause.
The Puzzle also has it's own website where you can find details of forthcoming events. We visited the Puzzle Hall at the end of a week on the Rochdale Canal. I recommend that you take time to seek out and enjoy the delights of this local institution.

Monday, 1 April 2013

The Scarborough Hotel, Leeds

Known to Loiners as the "Scarborough Taps" this pub was, for many years, the nearest pub to Leeds City Station and hence was popular with thirsty travellers. In recent years two pubs have appeared within the station itself and the Leeds Taps is on the approach road. I have been going into the Scarborough for many years under various management and have mixed memories. Lately it has been a civilised watering hole when the city centre is getting a bit lively. When I heard that it was now being managed by Nicholsons (of Victoria Hotel fame) I thought that I had better re-visit this famous old pub.

My first impression was: A good selection of ales on the bar, big drinking space, lots of seats and tables. After perusing the pumps I elected to try a pint of bitter from Dent brewery:
A good choice as you can see, a golden beer with a fine head. Mmm - second pint same as the first!
It was a Sunday lunchtime when I called in and although I was not partaking there was a steady stream of plates piled high with pub grub emanating from the kitchen. Prices start at around £7.50 which is good for a city centre pub and there were at least 2 veggie options. The Sunday drinking crowd were in good humour which made for a nice atmosphere, helped by the dark wood panelling and soft lighting. If I had had more time I could easily have been seduced into a long happy session.
Nicholsons seem to have got it right with the Taps, decent ale in a convivial atmosphere. A good pub to visit if you are travelling from/to Leeds and if you are a discerning quaffer.

Long may it continue to thrive!

Sunday, 31 March 2013

The Blacksmith's Arms, Broughton Mills

Walks on the Lakeland fells tend to make you crave open fires, low beams, piping hot food and tankards of ale.

The Blacksmith's Arms at Broughton Mills brings these elements together in just the way your imagination pictured them when you were out there doing battle with horizontal sleet and chaffing cagoules on nearby hills around Coniston Water.

The sign over the door as you enter reads 1748, and records show the building was listed as an inn around this date, but the building dates back as far as 1577 and used to be a farmhouse.

Tread the locally quarried slate floors along the oak panelled corridor to the bar, and you can have your posterior nicely warmed by the open fire while you peruse ales from Dent, Hawkshead and Ambleside. Lager drinkers can also enjoy a change from the usual, with an excellent Penine Pilsner from Cumbria's own Tirril Brewery on offer at the Blacksmiths.

On our visit, in snowy late-March, we called ahead to check that the winding lane from the A593 down to the pub was open, and they suggested we book a table. We were thankful of this as we enjoyed prime seats by the Yorkshire range as the pub began to fill up with Saturday lunchtime walkers and their very welcome dogs.

The food was hot and hearty, with the warming sweet potato and ginger soup and mammoth beer-battered hake and chips both recommended. There was no choosing between the lime and ginger creme brulee and the hot chocolate brownie in the dessert stakes - so we had a good helping of both!

The Hairy Bikers are said to have dubbed the Blacksmiths fayre "Gourmet food at pub prices" on their recent visit. While gourmet might be going a bit far, you are guaranteed excellent value for money, and the staff at the Blacksmiths are wonderfully welcoming, helpful, chatty and personable.

Not an easy pub to pick fault with, but we did have to snuggle up close to the roaring range as the cold air from outside whipped into the snug every time a new customer arrived.

But battling the elements is what trips to the Lake District in March are all about and we couldn't have wished for a better pub to stop at.