What a glorious day for some winter gardening

I didn't feel like getting up and cleaning the pub today, but once that chore was over and I got outside my heart and mood immediately lifted. Sunshine. Flowers. The combination is such a winner.

Outside the front door of the pub I've aimed to have welcoming colour all year round and I plan my pots and their rotation with as much precision as the unpredictable weather allows.

The cyclamen have given colour through winter with the hellebores coming to flower in January. Foliage is the back up for colour when I can't rely on flowers to provide it.

And now we have the early crocus colour and the promise of the scented hyacinths. I'm starting to get excited about Spring! 

I have tulips, daffodils and fritillaries waiting in the wings, and they'll be followed by lupins and cammassia, and so on… 

Snowdrops are, of course, the most romantic and gentle of February flowers and who doesn't love to see them poke their way out into the cold? They cheer me up no end. We have them dotted all over the place here: front, back, planted, naturalised. 

I try and provide potted and cut flowers inside too and for the past week we've had narcissus daffodils on the dining tables. The warmth of inside always means they go a bit leggy so today I've harvested the remaining good flowers for vases and will leave the leaves to die back and feed the bulbs, ready for next year. 

Other jobs for today, while it’s warm enough: mulch the front borders to keep the weeds down (I'll be using a mix of bought and home made compost), turn the heaps, harvest some spinach that's successfully over wintered (for the new Black Bream dish) and check the worms are happy. 



The QoTT in the Yorkshire Evening Post

Now Oliver loves a good tongue twister. Even so, it took a few attempts to get one’s teeth around this name: The Queen o’ t’ Owd Thatch.

Since the South Milford venue turned into a modern dining pub, it has been steadily making a name for itself.

A month or so after our September visit, it was named a runner up in the Observer Food Monthly Awards 2015, in the category of Best Sunday Lunch, for the second year running.

Not that we went on a Sunday though; my dining partner and I were lured to this particular pub for the two-for-one cocktails offered on a Thursday evening. A quite extensive list, I might add, which took the edge off the disappointment when I realised that the roof of this establishment wasn’t actually thatched. Inside, and the sense of a rustic pub has been retained along with the addition of modern touches, such as the bare brickwork alongside glass and chrome.

Owned by a bartender, chef and gardener, each of the trio’s expertise combine in the menu, with the produce picked from the garden and the creative dishes based on the season. These are complemented by drinks pairings, ranging from anything from a cup of Yorkshire tea to an imaginative cocktail.

Just a few tables were occupied as we took our seats, rather late in the evening, but the ambience was relaxed and the waitress welcoming and just the right amount of attentive throughout the evening. My dining partner and I were a little amused that the waitress was literally being shadowed by what we assumed was a waitress-in-training, one who didn’t speak or assist - merely hovered.

However, our attentions quickly turned to the serious business of the cocktail menu. I plumped for my favourite, a classic bramble, while my partner opted for a house favourite, a pink grapefruit G&T.

As we studied the menu, we decided to follow the recommendations to the letter, and so my starter of soused mackerel (£5.50), served with watercress, spring onion and radish salad with a split beetroot dressing came with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, Giddy Goose. Beautifully presented, this classic fish dish offered light and fresh flavours. My partner’s choice of chargrilled courgette, with fettle bon bons and a spiced tomato puree (£5) was paired with a Tempranillo Rosado, Candidato.

He couldn’t decided whether his dish was supposed to be served hot or cold – it arrived warm. In his opinion, he thought, being a vegetarian dish, it would have been better hot. This didn’t hold him back though, and the plate was soon cleared.

For the main, I’m afraid I fell at a hurdle and couldn’t imbibe as fast as I ate, and so the Pinot Noir, Mount Hector, suggestion for my duck breast and nugget, served with orange-braised fennel and courgette ribbons (£15) remained unexplored.

The duck was cooked as per chef’s liking and the tender, juicy and pink meat was sublime against the slightly salty crispy skin. The nugget added further flavour and texture. As good as mine was, I eyed my dining companion’s beef skirt rump accompanied by tomato stew, glazed carrots and gratin potatoes (£16.50). He had kept apace with the drinks and sipped a Cabernet Franc, Bodega Atamisque. He declared the meat was very tender and nicely seasoned – it being locally sourced from a well-established supplier.

The glazed carrots were not overcooked with enough flavour, and the gratin potatoes were a nice addition with a subtle flavour that complemented the rest of the dish nicely. Alongside the mains we ordered a watercress salad, with a thick and sweet treacle vinegar, and proper chips - proper as in chunky and cooked in beef dripping. Delicious. 

On to dessert, and I opted for The Queen o’ t’ owd Thatch’s take on the Eton mess - raspberry mess, with jelly, sweetened cream and meringue (£5.50). The meringues exploded in my mouth, taking me from a satisfying firm crunch to soft chewy sweetness. The jelly added sharpness while the paired Sauternes, Lucien Lurton et Fils - yes, I was back on track - enhanced the flavours beautifully. My friend opted for the dark and milk chocolate, which came with white chocolate cookies (£5.50).

Deciding not to conform this time, he shunned the suggested Orange and Macadamia Alexander tipple and instead perused the post dinner cocktail list and ordered an Espresso Martini.

The conclusion was that his pudding was nicely presented and well executed, with the espresso martini well prepared and not overly sweet - just enough to round off the meal without leaving too sweet a taste on the palate.

At this point I admit I couldn’t eat another morsel or drink another drop, not even a post dinner cocktail peach and sage sidecar to ‘sharpen you back up’ as the description suggested. Indeed, I went to The Queen o’ t’ owd Thatch and dined like a king.



Our Christmas and New Year Opening Times

Christmas Eve: Open as usual

Christmas Day: 12pm - 3pm for drinks and mince pies only

Boxing Day: Open 4pm - 11pm. Blackboard menu

27th - 30th December: Open as usual

New Years Eve: Open 12pm - 4pm for regular menu. Celebratory menu available from 7pm, £60 per person, advance bookings only

January 1st: Open 4pm - 11pm. Blackboard menu

4th - 7th January: Closed

8th January: January sale starts. Open from 5pm, then open as usual throughout the rest of January

25th January: Burn’s Night Celebration Menu

January Sale
Take your voucher home with you, or download by clicking the 20% graphic below, to receive 20% off your food bill throughout January.



Single Malt Club...

The ever-growing popularity of our Single Malt Club saw our first Summer month event, last week, as we explored whiskies deemed well suited to sipping on Summer evenings, rather than sat by the fire on a wet and windy night. The brief meant I eschewed peat, and the lovely stewed fruit and coffee flavours from sherry casks, when choosing the malts. Instead, I went for more delicate, fresh-tasting whiskies from Speyside and the isles along the warmer west coast.

As usual, each malt was also paired by the kitchen with a delicious nibble. Highlights were the salted almond brittle dark chocolate, which was paired with Bruichladdich's Organic Scottish Barely (brought back from my recent trip to Islay), and our home-cured duck ham, which was paired with the 18-year-old from the often underrated Arran distillery. Both whiskies admirably matched the bold and complex flavours in their matched canapes, much to everyone's enjoyment.

Also tasted on the night was a Tomintoul 14-year-old, which showed rich hints of vanilla and spice from the bourbon barrels, and harmonised perfectly with the apple turnovers supplied by the kitchen. A Tobermory bottled by the Boutique-y Whisky Company completed the whiskies supped on the night. With subtle salt and gorgeous honeyed melon flavours, it proved a bright and vibrant malt.

All told we had a great night, and are thoroughly looking forward to the next Single Malt Club on Wednesday 9th September, when we'll be exploring the Highland distilleries.



Dining Pub of the Year - Yorkshire Food and Drink Awards 2014

It is always an exciting high point of the year when judging for the Yorkshire Life Food & Drink Awards comes around again. It means we can catch up with our illustrious team of judges, not only to hear all their news but to discover who they feel are the most interesting potential movers and shakers on the Yorkshire hospitality scene. Our judges’ meetings are held at the celebrated Rudding Park in Harrogate where, over fine food suppers, we have thrashed out just who will make it onto this years’ shortlist.

This year has been especially interesting, as there have been many nominations from readers and our judges have been crisscrossing the county eating, drinking and staying their way through some really excellent places.

We are thrilled with our shortlist which represents some interesting new finds, along with some more established food businesses, and we can’t wait to announce the winners at our fabulous awards lunch on Monday, September 22nd at Rudding Park, Harrogate and we’d love you to join us if you can.

Ltd Bradford. Marketing director Kevin Butterworth, said: ‘We are really looking forward to being part of the awards this year because Yorkshire Life has championed food and drink in the county for so long.’



Six of the best romantic cocktails in Yorkshire

It’s so important to keep romance in your life, especially when you’re married, writes Tony Greenway. That’s what my wife and I believe, anyway; so every week we take the time to go to a little restaurant we like, to make the most of the candlelight, romantic music and smoochy atmosphere. I go Wednesdays, she goes Fridays. Ha ha! Only joking, of course. (And please don’t tell her I said that).

But we do enjoy a cocktail whenever we get the chance, because... well... it’s always five o’clock somewhere. Plus there’s something quite decadent about them, and something quite powerful too, like the one I tried to make at Christmas. Notice I say ‘tried.’ It’s more difficult than it looks and was so blisteringly lethal and eye-wateringly strong that I couldn’t drink it, so I added a little bit of vinegar and we used it to clean the sink and worktops instead. You should have seen the shine on the taps.

My advice: go with people who know what they’re doing and can really shake a mean drink. Also, with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it’s best to order a cocktail with some fizz and passion, that’s been lovingly made by the experts in a high-end, glamorous setting. Go down market and the names of the cocktails can be a bit off putting and not very romantic. You know the ones I mean. They usually involve walls or beaches.

So if you want to get all flirty over a glass or two of something long and alcoholic (hold the fruit), here are my glamorous cocktail spot recommendations...

The Queen o’t’owd Thatch, South Milford

The wonderfully named The Queen o’t’owd Thatch is, essentially, a pub but, of course, not just any old pub. The excellent menus are creative and big on local produce and the team behind the scenes strongly believes in making sure you get the right drink with your food. They’re serious about this as their awesome selection of pre-dinner, mid-dinner, post-dinner and non-alcoholic cocktails proves.