It might be off the beaten track, but Dave Lee discovers the Blue Bell in Weaverthorpe is worth going the extra mile for.
It’s impossible to write about the Blue Bell without using the word nestled. The Wolds village of Weaverthorpe is nestled in a quiet dale halfway between Malton and Brid, the pub itself is nestled in the middle of the village and, once you get nestled in the ultra-comfy bar with a pint and some grub and the fire going full belt, you’ll find it very difficult to un-nestle yourself again.
People had been telling me for years that I should go to the Blue Bell but, to be honest, Weaverthorpe is one of those villages that is just far enough off the A roads to ensure you’re never in the precise neighbourhood. I finally determined to make a point of checking it out and I’m so glad I did, the pub is a marvel.
There’s been a Blue Bell pub in the village for at least 150 years, but the current building dates from the turn of the century and looks – unusually for the area – like a high-gabled merchant’s house. The exterior is entirely unrepresentative of the interior, however. As soon as you step inside you find a wonderfully warm, intimate, comfortable bar – the kind you want to live in. Or maybe that’s just me.
Owners of the pub for the past 14 years have been husband-and-wife Jarrod and Leanne Fisher (he runs the bar, she runs the kitchen) and when they arrived there was just the bar and a dining room in an extension built at the rear. To this they added a swanky, modern private dining room and accommodation in the houses next door. Best of all, they slung out the pool table and converted the snug into a fabulous, old-fashioned private dining room with a round table seating up to 12. It has ornaments and antiques everywhere and is the kind of room that’s perfect for a boisterous family meal or for the merry revelling of a group of friends. Nailed to the roof are menus from some of the finest restaurants in the country – The Fat Duck, The Ivy and so on – which have been personally stolen by Jarrod and Leanne on their trips out for culinary inspiration.
Jarrod has, in his own words, been in the restaurant game his entire life but Leanne describes herself as an untrained home cook, and this is what you should expect – very good home cooking. You may think that sounds uncharitable but if you turn up looking for fine dining, I would be mis-selling the pub. The food is solid, delicious, generous home cooking made with more flair, care and imagination than is strictly warranted. And there’s nothing at all wrong with that.
Take, for instance, the starters we enjoyed – Fishers fishcake was a large haddock and leek fishcake sat in a little lake of curry flavoured sauce, topped with a perfectly cooked poached egg and a pile of fried leeks. It was the right side of hearty and just unusual enough to make it stand above many similar dishes. And then there was Fishers shots – four shot glasses filled with different fishy treats. There was a mini version of the fishcake starter, a prawn cocktail, smoked salmon with dill dressing and potted crab – four layers of the ocean represented in one serving. Plenty here to satisfy those who like their pub food classic, but done with style.
My main of pan-fried lamb rump with minted mushy peas and rosemary gravy was a belter. A big, pink-centred, peppercorn-rolled rump of perfectly cooked lamb on a bed of amazing smelling peas. You could order veg to go with it but I don’t see how anything else on the plate could make the dish any more satisfying.
On the opposite side of the table was confit of free range belly pork, mustard seed mash, Chinese cabbage and a pork jus. Every half-decent gastropub in the country has a belly pork dish on its menu, but the subtle Chinese touches set this one apart. I’m told on good authority that the steaks on offer are also marvellous.
Desserts are very traditional and very well done. There is a sticky toffee pudding, a steamed sponge and so on and all looked as good as another. We plumped for the crème brülée (made with Baileys) and the chocolate cheesecake with white chocolate ice cream. They were delicious, of course they were.
The whole bill – including a brace of pints each – came to a few bob over £70, a decent price for a more-than-decent meal. The service was impeccable and the entire escapade had been a joy from tip to toe. Are there any negatives with the Blue Bell? Well, I’d like to see a few more local ingredients used; meat comes from nearby butchers and is identified on the menu where possible but there are plenty of producers of cheese, veg and everything else the pub uses in the immediate vicinity, and the adventurous gastronauts the pub would like to attract will expect these on the menu. It’s a minor quibble, however, and the next time I’m nestled in the corner of the bar tucking into that lamb and mushy peas dish I won’t care if the ingredients come from Mars.
You may have to go out of your way to get there, but I delayed going to the Blue Bell for far too long and it’s a mistake I urge you not to duplicate. Jarrod and Leanne have built themselves a wonderful little kingdom out in Weaverthorpe and long may they reign.
The Blue Bell Inn, Main Street, Weaverthorpe, North Yorkshire, YO17 8EX. 01944 738204, www.bluebellweaverthorpe.com. Open: Tuesday to Saturday, 6.30pm-11pm and for lunch Wednesday to Saturday, 12-2pm and Sunday, 12-2.30pm.