Let me get this out of the way. The Hope and Anchor at South Ferriby is, according to owner Colin McGurran, a pub. Colin (for those who don’t know) is chef-patron of the illustrious Winteringham Fields in Winteringham. He is a three-time finalist on BBC’s Great British Menu and frankly, one of the most talented chefs I know. He is not however cooking at the Hope, he has a head chef in place.
The Hope and Anchor PR machine was running for some time before the opening, declaring the new pub to be a casual, informal place, for locals and visitors alike. There was the talk of the half million pounds spend on the renovation and the focus and direction of the pub food offer. Is it any wonder then that with the announcement of the opening date it was immediately on my visit list?
It takes a real commitment for me to drive 90 minutes to the other side of the Humber Bridge for a pub meal. However, the location of the pub is pretty spectacular facing straight on to the water with lovely views of the Bridge and estuary. There is no doubt why Colin chose this spot.
Despite the pub only being open a few weeks, getting a reservation here is hard, and at weekends nigh on impossible, but I am not surprised. So there we were, sitting at the bar at a very-early-for-dinner time of 6.30pm on a Tuesday night. Over a drink, we noted how easy it was to see where the money for the renovation had gone. The décor is a very clever mix of shipping and sea-themed bespoke vintage pieces, driftwood cladding and dark panelling.
There are eating areas in the bar, a lovely cosy dining room or the bustling, busy conservatory. The latter two face the estuary but in the conservatory, depending on where you sit, not everyone gets the view. I turned down the first table offered at the back and by the open door but happily accepted one to the side, even though, disappointingly, my view then became an industrial plant across the road. If I ever come back, I will certainly ask for the dining room off the conservatory. The views are the same but in a much cosier space.
With the sea all but lapping at my feet, it was to be a fish fest for me. Over the table, it had not passed him by that in the kitchen is a Josper oven – the ultimate of chef’s toys, with an eye-watering price tag. The Josper is an indoor barbecue-oven, reaching temperatures of 400C. We have eaten Josper-cooked food several times and always loved it. Colin also boasts a state of the art Italian meat ageing fridge, the first in the UK. No surprise then that steak was ordered.
Disappointingly, when I ordered East Coast moules frites, I was told they had run out – at 6.45pm? Fifteen minutes later when our waitress finally returned, I somewhat reluctantly ordered the beetroot and goat’s cheese salad. The dish turned out to be a good, fresh light choice; though I was surprised they were not using a Yorkshire cheese. A special of a pig’s head croquette got a similar thumbs up, even if the portion was a little on the small side for a pub dish.
The steak came, along with its thrice cooked chips and salad. The £2.50 supplement pepper sauce came and was snappily returned to see if someone could find the pepper it was so obviously missing. The steak was good, not amazing, but more than acceptable. The Josper had worked its magic on the distinct caramelisation of the meat’s surface which adds depth to the flavours. There was discussion as to whether it was worthy of the £24.95 price tag (that is without the pepper sauce). The jury is still out.
No jury needed for the baby plaice special main laid before me. It was not good. Something had gone wrong with this otherwise forgiving fish. The mushy texture of the meat was not right and there was a distinct off-aroma. I ate as much as I dare put in my mouth and the rest remained untouched. The stale potatoes on the plate didn’t fill me with joy either. Despite voicing my concerns to the waitress when she cleared away and her promise to speak to the chef, this was the last I heard on the subject. The next time I encountered any mention of the fish was the £14.95 I paid for it on the final bill.
A stunningly good treacle tart won the dish of the day and the heart of my husband. My cheese board may have fared better had I known what was on there. Plonking the plate down, the server had then beaten a hasty retreat, leaving no time to ask.
As the sun set, creating a stunning backdrop for those fortunate to be facing the estuary, the Hope and Anchor was heaving. There was a good atmosphere among the diners but my heart went out to the young, inexperienced staff that seemed stretched to their limits. As I handed over the just shy of £100 for our bill – hardly pub prices – attention was well and truly off those already fed and watered. We left feeling very disappointed.
The question I have to ask though, is the Hope and Anchor a pub or not? You decide. The bill is certainly telling me which it is.
• The Hope and Anchor, South Ferriby, Barton-upon-Humber, North Lincolnshire DN18 6JQ. Tel: 01652 635334. Food served: Tuesday to Sunday lunch and dinner. Three courses, three glasses of wine and a beer, £97.25.