Move over Jay Rayner, when it comes to proper decent Yorkshire gourmet grub there's only one restaurant critic worth listening to and that's my mum.
(All images are my own)
Put a beautifully presented, delicate plate of food in front of her resembling something that should be hung off the wall in the Tate Modern and she’ll turn her nose up. A gold leaf-covered sweetbread shrouded in a mist of dry ice and served with three pea shoots and an infinitesimal amount of something smeared across the side of a plate would certainly not impress her.
A perfectly cooked, steaming hot fish pie packed with meaty cod fish and succulent king prawns in a creamy parsley sauce and topped with a mash potato, cheese and herb crust is much more up my mum’s street. And that’s exactly what she ordered from the Seafood Classics section of the menu at The Fleece in Addingham, just a 10 minute drive north of the popular Yorkshire Dales town of Ilkley.
“There is absolutely nothing I can fault” were my mum’s words after she scraped the good-sized ramekin bowl of the final remnants of that delicious fish pie.
These incredibly rare-for-the occasion-words stopped everyone around the table in their tracks; the conversation halted. Our eating ceased.
We all turned our heads and looked at her in complete disbelief.
“Mazza – did you actually just say that there is nothing at all you can fault?” Asked my husband in his usual sickly sarcastic manor, wasted on the woman who worships the ground my bloody husband walks on.
She confirmed it was indeed the truth… We all sat for a few seconds in silenced shock.
Her verdict of the newly opened pub and restaurant took into account not just that scrummy fish pie, but the entire dining experience. A unanimous verdict by the four of us.
The Fleece in Addingham has been acquired by the Seafood Pub Company (SPC). The grade-two listed property – which suffered significant damage in a suspected arson attack in September 2015 – has undergone a £1.2million development programme and it reopened in shiny new doors last month.
My invite to review the place was extended to my mum and mother-in-law; two of the world’s harshest critics when it comes decent grub; they are certainly not impressed by over-priced nouvelle cuisine. The mother-in-law lives in France (thank the Lord) and seafood is something that she takes very seriously. And of course wine.
We pulled up to the Fleece on a glorious summer’s evening to a country roadside-front-of-building beer garden / alfresco dining area featuring large parasols and brand spanking new, good quality wooden garden furniture.
Lots of beautifully blooming hanging baskets hung from the building and a gaggle of middle-class Yorkshire country folk in designer sunglasses and polo shirts and pretty summer dresses sipped prosecco and very very good G&Ts. (I can vouch – I had two). It was all so very Yorkshire perfect.
As ever, we were running late so we went straight to our perfectly-positioned table right by one of the doors leading out to the garden; in an enviable spot with window seat and great people-watching views across the restaurant.
The clever people who have designed the new Fleece have shrewdly managed to create spaces for all seasons. with every attention to detail. Open fires, cosy window seats, secluded little alcoves perfect for a romantic candle-lit affair, and areas ideal for private dining and bigger parties. And of course the impressive alfresco area to the front of the building. It’s all so English country-life-perfect.
Tom, our waiter was a handsome cheeky chap with the gift of the gab and had our rather difficult mums hanging off his every word immediately. We ordered G&Ts whilst we browsed the menu.
The menu is divided into small plates, starters, grill, seafood classics and farm, and a blackboard features daily specials to include Lobster Thermidor and sea salt fries.
Meanwhile Tom appears with our Mason’s Gin and Fever Tree tonic, which he pours provocatively into a big round glass filled with ice and a big slice of orange.
We order a sharing plate of Seaside Snacks to start (£16.50) – crispy whitebait and tartar sauce, prawn cocktail crisps, crab and leek pasties with piccalilli, smoked haddock pate, picked cockles and scampi fritters with Bloody Mary ketchup.
Whilst we waited on our Fishy Snacks, I left my mum and mother-in-law nattering nonsense whilst I went for a nosey round the joint. The Fleece is a rabbit warren of rooms – all of which feature beautifully restored Yorkshire stone walls and warm wooden flooring, but all with their own individual character, detail and vibe.
I headed into what was once the storage barn; now beautifully transformed into a light (thanks to a double story barn-door-cum-window), modern semi-private dining area with mint green leather bar stools and a staircase leading to a private function area divided into two self-contained event/meeting spaces. The smaller of the two featuring board-room style furniture and a flat screen TV on one wall, and a much larger space, perfect for a country wedding, again with beautiful stone work.
Both rooms are accessed by a sophisticated bar area. It’s one of those spaces that makes you wish you could do the big day all over again…
Downstairs on the ground floor there are couple of bar areas featuring oversized fireplaces and beautifully restored bars; one of which spills out into the main restaurant area. It’s quite obvious that the new design and layout of the Fleece has taken every customer into consideration; from families with small children, to couples with dogs. There’s a corner for everyone here at the Fleece.
Back at the table and the mums where tucking into our sharing plate at a rate of knots. Poor Iain was hardly getting a look in at the beautifully presented plate of Fishy Snacks, all of which were cooked / served perfectly and tasted divine, especially the pickled cockles and crispy whitebait.
The Fishy Snacks sharing platter was more than enough to qualify as a starter for the four of us.
But I felt obliged to try something from every course so we opted for the salt and pepper squid with rice wine and ginger dip (£7.50). By heck the dip had a kick to it; the tender rings of peppery squid dipped liberally in the dip was a winning combination of flavours and textures.
I struggled with the main course options. My taste buds always migrate to the seafood section of any menu; especially when the joint I’m eating in has positioned itself as a seafood connoisseur. But the Nidderdale lamb curry with pilau rice, flatbread and toasted cumin yogurt (£14.50) was screaming at me to order it. I did. And I was not disappointed.
The curry, served in a beautifully authentic, silver and copper bowl alongside a separate white ramekin of fluffy pilau rice was nothing short of incredible. Packed with succulent pieces of slow-cooked, great quality local lamb, which had just enough fat on it to give it that wonderful lamby flavour that I adore. Coated in a thick, spicy, aromatic sauce and topped with chopped raw tomatoes and yogurt, it was quite simply a taste sensation and by far the best lamb curry I have ever, ever had the pleasure of devouring.
I did of course insist of testing everyone else’s chosen dishes, all of which were faultless, especially that fish pie of my mum’s, which was served with al-dente green beans.
The portions are more than adequate without being overbearing.
And after a sharing platter, a starter to share and a main course each, we were well and truly stuffed. But it would have been rude not to at least try something from the dessert menu.
It was a hard decision between steamed syrup sponge with proper custard, the Fleece sherry trifle and brulee of the week, just some of the delicious sounding, comforting desserts of the menu…
We ordered the strawberry and cream brulee and asked for four spoons. Just when we thought it couldn’t any better… oh it did!
I get extremely excited when I find somewhere that ticks every single box and The Fleece in Addingham has got me very excited. Better still it’s a short 20 minute drive from my house.
The Fleece – you are officially my new favourite pub in Yorkshire and my mum won’t bloody shut up about that fish pie!
In the words of Arnold – “I’ll be back!”
Do book – it gets busy. And ask for the big table in the restaurant with the window seat by the door. Or better still if it’s a beautiful day / evening, sit outside.
To find out more and to book CLICK HERE.