Hull has a debatable reputation as being “end of the line”. Let us, for the sake of argument, concede that it is. Roos, then, must be in the back of beyond past the end of the line. It’s a small but relatively well-off village a few miles north of Withernsea on the Holderness coast.
It’s remote. To give you an idea, it took us almost an hour to drive to it from just west of Hull. Admittedly this was partly because of a couple of misleading road signs and partly because of my life-long refusal to invest in a satnav, but we could have comfortably travelled to Leeds or York in that time. Instead we were (theoretically) just a few miles from home. There are people that live out that way, but not many.
It’s an odd place, then, to find a gastropub as excellent as the Roos Arms. In the hope of tempting a customer base additional to the few residents of Holderness, a small but determined team of owners, front of house and kitchen staff – mostly local – have come together to try and elevate it into the same league as East Yorkshire’s other renowned gastropubs – the Pipe and Glass and Star at Sancton.
They’ve been working for the past couple of years to create tempting, locally-sourced dishes served in a luxurious atmosphere and, while they are still a way off their ultimate goal, I wouldn’t bet against them eventually elbowing their way into the good pub guides or winning the odd award. A distant coastal idyll Roos may be, but there are sharp and cultured minds at work here.
Arriving at the Roos Arms, it feels a little like a work in progress. The large, local-friendly back bar is tidy but unexceptional, while the three dining rooms to the front are much more intimate and manicured.
Their à la carte offerings – five starters, eight mains, six desserts – are simple and wear local provenances proudly, and despite most dishes appearing relatively standard (such as pan-roast cod), they have enough little twists (in this case beetroot glazed salsify) to elicit intrigued “mmms” and “oooohs”.
I ordered off the brunch menu for my prosciutto and goat’s cheese bruschetta (£3.95) and was rewarded with a marvellously colourful, skilfully-balanced plateful. All the bread is baked in-house and is a treat. The other starter was the ubiquitous scallop/ black pudding/ puree combination that seems to be mandatory on menus these days. This one, though, featured squash instead of the usual pea puree and so added a refreshing new flavour to what is becoming a hackneyed, albeit a delicious £6.95 dish.
The chef, Dane Cutsforth, is the son of a local butcher and learned at his father’s apron. His meat skills become apparent with the arrival of the mains. One was confit chicken, home cured bacon and mushroom suet pudding, “Denney mature cheddar” and creamed leeks (£11.95). This unwieldy title was, sadly, matched by an equally unwieldy dish. It was the only non-excellent one we had so I’ll not dwell beyond saying that it was a little bit confused and lot too cheesy.
Far superior – superb, in fact – was gammon steak, deep fried duck’s egg, hand cut chips and piccalilli meat juices. If you’re used to your gammon served salty, tough and with chewy fat you will find the steaks here a revelation. Mine was a beautifully selected and cooked cut of perfectly tender gammon. It was bordered with a line of succulent fat that melted in the mouth rather like the legendary lardo you find in Italy. The chips were chunky and while the duck’s egg was basically a meat-free scotch egg, it was a witty addition. For me, what worked best of all was the piccalilli meat juices. I had assumed that there was a comma missing on the menu and piccalilli would come alongside the gravy, but they were combined to wonderful effect. Essentially posh gammon, egg and chips it may be, but it’s a belter of a dish and one which (at a fair £10.95) will no doubt prove popular.
For afters we went for Yorkshire curd tart and clotted cream, which was as traditional and tasty as you’d want it to be, and Seville orange “Queen of puddings” with mint choc ice cream. Shaped like a crown in a little saucepan, it tasted as good as it looked and I was delighted to hear that the ice cream was made in-house. Both desserts were a very reasonable £4.95 and went the bill arrived we found that to be an equally fair £60. This included three large glasses of wine and two pints.
The wine list is thorough and detailed but a manageable size. They only currently offer one hand-pulled ale but the selection is rotated regularly so it should be a new option every time you visit.
If they carry on as they are the only problem the Roos Arms will have is drawing custom all the way to the edge of nowhere. If you’ve ever driven through America you’ll have seen the road sign signs saying things like “only decent food for 100 miles” or “last place to eat before Albuquerque”. If the same tradition ever reaches the UK and you’re travelling east through Yorkshire, you might reasonably expect to see such a sign outside the Roos Arms saying “the last decent place to eat before Holland”.
Open: Food served 12-3 & 5-9 Tues to Sat. 12-3 only on Sunday. Closed Monday.
Roos Arms, Main Street, Roos, Nr.Hull, HU12 0HB. Tel: 01964 670353.