There was a time when Rastrick was as well known for its pub crawl as its brass band. Does anyone other than stag groups still do them? Regardless, the “Rastrick Run” is shorter than it was on account of unstoppable pub closures.
The Clough House has survived the cull but it’s not immediately inviting. You might have spotted it from the M62, but not been inclined to take the exit and drop in, which would be understandable but not necessarily the right decision.
However you approach it, it’s not particularly pretty. Dual carriageways, power lines, pylons, that sort of thing. On a balmy summer evening you might be tempted to sit outside for a drink but the roar of traffic is constant and overhead cables buzz. So far, so slightly off-putting rambling roadside pub. But once you’ve resigned yourself to not having that al fresco pre-prandial and step inside, it all gets a lot better. It’s kind of pubby, the heart hasn’t been ripped out but you know you’re in a dining pub. I don’t mean that in a disparaging way but it looks and feels like any number of suburban eateries dotted around the county. Wood floors. Tick. Exposed stone walls. Tick. Feature wallpaper. Tick.
It’s easy to assume the menu will be as ubiquitous as the upholstery, but you’ll be wrong. Notwithstanding pub classics (steak and ale pie, The Clough House Grill, “back by popular demand”, fishcakes, burger) there are dishes that raise eyebrows.
Deep fried crispy pig’s head fritter, anyone? Who’s for prawn and lobster linguine, tomato and tarragon? Alongside fish and chips is pan fried fillet of hake, chorizo and chickpea stew, sautéed tiger prawns, and my pork tenderloin, pancetta and slow roast belly pork with black pudding, creamed white beans and caramelised apples. It could have been a bit of a mess – dishes like this often are in joints like this – but a subtle, well-conceived, perfectly judged plate came out of the kitchen and stopped me in my (smug) tracks. Someone in the kitchen knows what they’re doing, this isn’t some over-confident chef reaching further than their grasp, it’s the real deal.
This shouldn’t have been a surprise because my starter, white wine and cardamom poached pear, deep fried Yorkshire Blue and toasted walnut salad worked well, despite the spice not punching through quite enough. Crispy chicken croquettes with tomato fondue dressing is made from scratch (as is everything else, from chutneys to bread – the only bought-in is Yummy Yorkshire ice cream) a pinch of salt the only thing preventing it from being a complete success. Note to kitchen; we can take seasoning, be bolder.
Pan fried plaice, leeks, shallots, creamed peas and lemon on the specials board wasn’t chosen by either of us but I watched it come through and yearned. Given the distance to either coast, it’s slightly surprising that they specialise in seafood, but it’s delivered daily by Sailbrand and they seem to know what to do with it.
Locally sourced ingredients is pretty much a given these days, and rightly so, but it’s worth mentioning that the meat comes from Bolster Moor Farm Shop in Golcar (“dry-aged for a minimum of 28 days for huggins of flavour”), herbs from a garden down the road and soft fruit from “enthusiastic customers”. Some of it is in evidence in a delicious egg custard with poached rhubarb, and elsewhere, apple crumble.
Owner Martin Cockram took the reins in 2010 with his wife Lauren; he was originally head chef so he knows how to please crowds. It’s a family affair; brother-in-law Declan is front of house, and he’s put the time in, and it shows. The skill is to be almost invisible until you’re needed, and he keeps a watchful eye on newly trained staff in a calm, smiley manner. In fact, the entire evening was shot through with relaxed, cheery friendliness.
A wallet-saving two courses for a tenner might include Tongue and Cheek (slow braised sticky pigs’ cheeks with apple sauce and deep fried ox tongue fritter) followed by smoked bacon chop with cabbage and apple braised in cider. If this feels a bit pig-centric, it’s true the menu is light on vegetarian choices, although leek and Yorkshire Blue cheese tart with thyme potatoes caught my eye.
Children are well-catered for; a menu just for them called “the next generation” looks a bit naff (fish fingers, chicken nuggets etc) but it’s all home made the Jamie Oliver way.
A quick scout through the rest of the building revealed drinking rooms, or at least areas without tables – good to know it’s a proper pub too. Beer on tap includes Black Sheep, Wainwrights and Fugelestou Ales from the Fulstow Common Brewery in Lincolnshire. Wine comes from local merchant Hoults in Huddersfield and the list is short but workable, with a cracking Chilean Sauvignon at a reasonable £12.50.
The Clough House is the kind of reliable, comforting pub you know you can call into safe in the knowledge you’ll get value for money, with a menu interesting enough if you want to go off piste but with standards on it, so not scary. The welcome is warm, the staff knowledgeable and if it was just down the road from me I’d be taking junction 24 each week.
The Clough House, 129 Clough Lane, Rastrick, Huddersfield HD6 3QL. 01484 512120, www.thecloughhouse.co.uk