Chris Lloyd is all smiles in the shade after a somewhat enforced choice of eaterie in Richmond

IT was a brutally hot Monday lunchtime in Richmond, the temperature on the car’s dashboard display topping 30. People basked in the fierce blaze on the terrace of the King’s Head Hotel, but as it was full, we ended up going over the road into a café, feeling guilty that we were passing up the opportunity to dine al fresco.

We entered Penleys, which opened in Leyburn a decade or more ago and a few years back branched out into Richmond Market Place. We were greeted by an extremely smiley welcome and decided to take a table on the first floor, beside an open sash window looking down on the people on the King’s Head terrace.

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Penleys’ menu is wide-ranging but pretty café standard. Main courses, for under a tenner, include fish and chips, sausage and mash, bolognaise, or you can go for paninis, sandwiches, wraps, salads, jackets and omelettes.

I popped down to the till to order Grilled Dales bacon and cheese burger, with onion rings, mayonnaise, chips and salad for myself (£9.25) and a salad of chargrilled Mediterranean vegetables, chevre goats cheese, cherry tomatoes and pesto for my wife, Petra (£8.25).

Our tea for two quickly arrived, and it was exactly that: two tin teapots, each containing a teabag. As a pair of tea-drinkers, though, we are like that nursery rhyme about Jack Splat and his wife – he would eat no fat while she would eat no lean, and together they licked the platter clean.

I like my tea black after the briefest flirtation between water and bag; Petra likes hers stewed until it is so thick it could be mistaken for slurry. I, therefore, would have liked one of the teapots to have been hot water only so I could have diluted down to taste. She, though, was happy as by the end of the meal, there was twice as much over-brewed tea as she might otherwise have expected.

Over at the King’s Head, there were other issues. With my bald head, I was glad that we hadn’t been able to sit out in the unforgiving sun, but I pitied the waiters who were dashing about in full tie and jacket on such a scorching day.

I also noticed that a table at the front of the terrace had been occupied by a smoking and vaping group of four. While others were eating away at tables beside them, the two smokers were puffing away and the vapers were billowing out clouds as voluminous as any steam train. Suddenly, the enforced decision to sit out of the fresh air, in the confines of a smoke-free vape-void room, didn’t seem so bad.

My burger was perfectly pleasant. It was topped by a rasher of bacon, two onion rings, a smear of cheese and then the burger itself. Not the biggest burger, but certainly a very plump and moist burger.

The chunky chips were very good: golden brown and crispy on the outside, and fluffy and piping hot in the middle.

It was also accompanied by a rather nice, creamy homemade coleslaw. Coleslaw, I think, is due for artisanisation – everything consumable from beer and cheese to pork pies via olive oil, specialist marmalades and chilli concoctions is these days produced by artisans who pour fresh ingredients and love into their products which enables them to put a few pounds on their prices. Coleslaw – a Dutch delicacy that we misheard in the late 18th Century – is dreadfully cold and insipid in supermarket packs but, as Penleys demonstrates, could benefit from being artfully produced.

Petra’s salad was also perfectly pleasant. She was a little disappointed that her Mediterranean vegetables didn’t run to aubergine, but there were peppers, courgette, onions and tomatoes, and plenty of other greenery, nicely dressed, in a large bowl topped by an acceptable slice of goat’s cheese.

Penleys’ desserts consist of a wide selection of cakes, muffins and cookies. We went for a takeaway option of a couple of slices at £1.20 each. I wasn’t particularly enamoured with the carrot cake which didn’t really taste of much, but the chocolate brownie was truly exceptional. It had a nice, firm chocolatey outside and a superb, thick, gloopy centre.

We left with our cakes in a bag, having spent £26.60 in total. As we crossed the cobbles, the people dining on the terrace got some relief from the fierce rays of the sun as a cloud momentarily drifted in front of it – I think it was a little light cirrus up in the stratosphere but it could have been a Blackberry Crumble Burst billowing through the vaposphere.

FOOD FACTS

Penleys Café-Bar-Restaurant

5-6 Trinity Church Square, Richmond

Phone: 01748 824052

Website: penleys.com

Service: 4/5

Surroundings: 3/5

Food quality: 3/5

Value: 4/5