Surprises come in many different shapes, but a trip to a pub expected to be rather ordinary threw up a few.
First of all, beetroot cheesecake served as a starter with smoked salmon, an unexpected combination, both refreshing and quite delicious. Then the pudding, chocolate profiteroles shaped into swans, should almost have glided from the kitchen, but being carried on a plate was fine.
This is one of those rare village pubs that survives as just that, a pub for the village, but at the same time has developed a reputation for food. The front bar is backed up by a restaurant-dining room at the back. There is a good selection of real ales from some of the smaller breweries in the region. Daleside from Harrogate initially came as a visiting ale, but the regulars threatened acts of extreme grumpiness if it was replaced, so it has stayed to this day. It is joined by other beers from Consett – Red Dust, and the Carlisle State Bitter from the Derwent Brewery in Cumbria (Black Sheep was resting between engagements). Other notable local real ales from other small breweries come calling by regular invitation.
The Shoulder, which dates from the 18th century, used to be long and thin with a snug. Now the snug has been opened up by replacing the door with an arch. The village is at the top of a hill, close to the A66 across the Pennines, complete with a church, and an old grammar school which took in pupils until 1947. It now entertains holiday-makers as a Landmark Trust property. As an alternative, if going back to school is a bit harrowing, The Shoulder has four double, and one family rooms available as bed and breakfast accommodation.