Closed following an arson attack, Amanda Wragg finds the Fleece in Addingham has definitely risen from the ashes. Pictures by Simon Hulme.
The old Fleece in Addingham was something of a Wharfedale landmark, a magnet for folk all year round, but in the summer it was particularly fine – the patio out front was a top spot for a bit of al-fresco lunch and a glass or two of something chilled. Sunday lunchtimes were legendary. It was greatly missed when a disgruntled barman torched it, wreaking £750,000 worth of damage. He’s currently at Her Majesty’s leisure, and will be for some time – he got almost seven years for arson.
It lay empty for a while before the Lancashire-based Seafood Pub Company rescued it. The Fleece, their first Yorkshire-based venture, is the latest in a stable of 11 elegant country inns headed up by Joycelyn Neve; an extensive renovation ensued costing the thick end of a million quid, reopening on May 19 with no small amount of bells and whistles.
It’s a handsome Grade II-listed building and the ivy-clad, stone exterior hasn’t altered much at all, and still has huge kerbside appeal. You outdoorsy types will be glad to know that the front yard is bigger and better than ever. Yorkshire stone flagged, with posh cane furniture and sunbrellas, it’s still a great spot for seeing and being seen. On a sunny evening, smartly turned out drinkers are enjoying bottles of fizz and pints of Ilkley Mary Jane.
Inside, there’s a walker’s bar (“mucky boots & mutts”) with an open fire and chunky furniture. On the other side, a huge dining area (“high heels & posh frocks”) with padded leather banquette round the walls, beams, hunting prints, stuffed pheasants and mismatched chairs, stone floors and walls, and another open fire. It’s quite sophisticated, but relaxed and pubby. Head upstairs for a Gin and Champagne bar and a chichi private dining room.
The Neve family have form – they’re fishermen and have worked off Fleetwood for three generations; Joyceln’s father Chris established a supply business with his brother Gerrard, selling door to door to local households before supplying restaurants, so there’s no surprise that the menu is fish-centric. “Seaside snacks” include the likes of whitebait, crab and leek pasties and pickled cockles, and the specials always include a “market fish of the day” – on this occasion, roast cod with crushed spuds.
A devilled crab, salmon and brown shrimp starter arrives in a Kilner jar and it’s packed with fresh fishy flavour, the wafer-thin, crispy sea salt croutes perfect for scooping up. Salt & pepper squid has a punchy piquant kick, the rice wine and ginger dip a clever, bright accompaniment, whilst twice baked smoked haddock soufflé with Comté and chive sauce has the proper “comfort food” quotient without being dense and heavy; there’s nothing worse than a gloopy soufflé.
Creamed spinach accompanies a perfectly cooked peppered tuna steak from the Robata – if you’re a fan of grilled food you’re in luck. Robata is a Japanese way of cooking; it means “fireside”, and meat, vegetables and fish benefit from this method – the heat is intense and cooking time is short, so tuna is pretty much shown the flames and dinner’s done. Grass-fed beef, “slow grown and dry aged for a minimum of 28 days, the way it should be” comes from the grill too, though you’ll have to part with the thick end of £25 for an 8oz fillet.
From the “farm” section of the menu find the likes of slow roast pork belly with a pork, apple and Wensleydale pie, and Nidderdale lamb curry with pilau rice, flatbread and toasted cumin yoghurt; my chum chooses veal schnitzel which according to him needed “another smack with the meat hammer”. A warm potato and caper salad goes very nicely with it though – it’s a simple, tasty plate of food. My satay spiced hake is slightly underwhelming; the coconut and lime dressing could use a bit more spike.
You’re on steady ground with something from “seafood classics”; fish & chips (a large portion will set you back £15.50) and a good-looking fish pie comes to the next table and it’s a belter. Despite the proliferation of Vietnamese this and Persian that, they’re not beneath offering the likes of pie “sometimes in a pot, sometimes hand-raised” and steamed syrup sponge and custard and sherry trifle. The appetising lunch menu offers the likes of a fish butty and Timothy Taylor rarebit, and good old ham and eggs.
We’re stuffed (bring a big appetite, seriously) so three of us share praline profiteroles with salted caramel sauce. Thank heavens we did – three fabulous profiteroles the size of tennis balls floating in a sea of sticky, deeply satisfying sauce, a scoop of ice cream on top, with nut sprinkles for good measure. It’s a dish of decadent indulgence.
The new Fleece is comfortable and stylish, and service is exemplary – charming, friendly and efficient, and on a packed Monday night the vibe is jolly. It seems that the good people of Wharfedale are very glad to have their pub back.
The Fleece Inn, 152-154 Main Street, Addingham, Ilkley LS29 0LY. 01943 839397, seafoodpubcompany.com. Dinner for three with wine (£16) £112. Open: Monday to Wednesday, 10am-11pm; Thursday to Saturday, 10am-12am; Sunday, 12pm- 11.30pm.
Drinks selection 5/5