There's a lot to like about Osmotherley. It has a peach of a location perched on a shoulder of the North York Moors. It has a wealth of honey coloured houses, red pantiled roofs and narrow ginnels hiding pretty cottage gardens. Its village green has a market cross and a stone table where John Wesley reputedly preached. Even its public toilets have picked up a raft of Loo of the Year awards.
The downside are the parked cars, ours included, clogging up the verges every day of the week but they are a clue to the popularity of this National Park village. Walkers gravitate here for long-distance footpaths like the Cleveland Way, the Coast to Coast or the Lyke Wake Walk and their appetites help to sustain little Osmotherley's three fine pubs, the Queen Catherine, the Golden Lion and the Three Tuns, all defiantly facing each other across the village green.
Down the years, the Golden Lion won me over with its simple virtues and easy to like menu of retro dishes such as beef strogonoff and real chicken Kiev. By contrast, the Three Tuns always looked a bit prissier, a bit posher. So pushing through the narrow doorway in a row of traditional old cottages it was a pleasant surprise to find that it wasn't prissy at all but informal and welcoming with a small bar, chunky wooden tables and a fire in the grate.
Beyond, ending at two French doors and a pretty courtyard garden, is the long, low dining room. This is where you discover the dominant motif of the Three Tuns is, courtesy of previous occupants, the art nouveau of Glasgow's Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It's in the oak panelling, the iron work and the serried rows of high backed chairs and walnut tables. There are iconic rose carvings on the mirror, embossed metal plates in the panelling. It's on the menu logo and the loo doors. Not the real thing, of course, but a pretty expensive tribute and a pretty expensive job to rip out if you ever tired of it all.
The menu brought us smartly back to rural Yorkshire with half a dozen sturdy, predominantly British dishes usually with a bit of a twist: a dish of pork loin and pork fillet is flavoured with star anise; halibut comes with a clam and mussel broth; cottage pie is made with root vegetables and topped with a potato and Wensleydale crust. My eyewitness report on the lunchtime chunky sandwiches and crisp, blonde battered fish and chips is that both looked excellent. I liked the look, too, of a menu and a blackboard where mains settled closer to 15 than 20.
We began with a gratin of smoked haddock and queenie scallops in a cream and white wine sauce topped with crisp breadcrumbs. It was well executed but the combination of smoked fish and sweet scallop had a slightly medicinal flavour. Another starter was a beautifully dressed watercress salad, scattered with toasted hazelnuts, some thin slices of Comice pear and cubes of Judy Bell's Fine Fettle cheese – Yorkshire's answer to Greek Feta – made nearby by Shepherd's Purse. It was an agreeably light, fresh dish with a terrific olive oil and honey dressing, a good preamble to the richer dishes to come.
Cue slow braised lamb shoulder with tartiflette potatoes and curly kale, a rib-sticking dish of fall-apart lamb in a deep gravy, slow cooked to a gorgeous stickiness. The potatoes, thinly sliced, sluiced in cream and slow cooked were, pretty divine, too. Some seasonal curly kale provided the perfect steely foil for this thumper of a plateful. The superfluous side dish of carrots, beans and broccoli went back to the kitchen, wastefully untouched.
More riches flowed from a chicken breast drenched in the new-mown herby flavours of tarragon and doused in a sauce of white wine with a splash of cream. No one needs full-on buttery mash with such a dish but their herb mash was light on herbs and a touch pallid. A forest-floor of wild mushrooms compensated with a mass of chunky, chewy mushrooms full of earthy flavours.
Having struggled to name them all, we asked the kitchen. Back came our waitress with a scribbled list: grey oyster, shitake, enoki, Paris brown and the mysterious Osmotherley Bomber.
Not quite at a standstill, we managed to share an intensely chocolatey chocolate torte with some precision sliced oranges and late summer raspberries. Had the staff been pushier we might have been sold a dessert wine or another pint of guest ale but everything was agreeably laid back, as was Osmotherley when we stepped out into the late afternoon sunshine.
The Three Tuns, 9 South End, Osmotherley DL6 3BD. 01609 883301. email: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.threetunsrestaurant.co.uk Open: Mon-Sat Noon-2.30pm and 5.30pm-9.30pm Sun Noon-6pm. Price: Dinner for two with wine, coffee and service about 80.
YP MAG 11/12/10