Lured by the invitation of ‘proper pub food’, Malcolm Warne seeks to banish the memories of sins past

I’VE eaten some fairly extraordinary things over the years but one thing will haunt me till the day I die.

Lovers of chips and mashed potato may think this worth a try but I would humbly advise against deep-fried mashed potato.

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It was a long time ago in a pub where the chef seemed to be working on winning a bet to serve potato in as many different ways as he could with Sunday lunch. There were roast potatoes, boiled potatoes, Dauphinoise potatoes and the aforesaid deep-fried mash.

What made this a culinary horror show was the mash, Clearly yesterday’s, or perhaps even from the day before, it had been formed into cricket ball-shaped lumps of greying vegetable matter and dropped into the fat for so long they were volcanically-hot but assumed the consistency of a snowball, lovingly hand-packed to the rock-like hardness which left a red wheal on the skin of an unfortunate victim (those were the days, eh, before ‘elf and safety banned school snowball fights?)

You want to know where this was, don’t you? And reluctantly I’ll reveal it was the Coore Arms, at Scruton, near Northallerton. But it was a long time ago, long before the current custodians of this attractive little village pub took control and I wouldn’t want anyone to think the sins of the past are have any bearing today.

The Henderson family have been at the helm for about five years as owners of the freehold and before that as tenants. Purchasing the pub in 2012 gave them the opportunity to give the place a much-needed refurbishment which gave it a contemporary facelift but didn’t change its village pub character. Five years on the refurb is wearing pretty well, especially the large dining room to the rear which I suspect does not get the traffic the horseshoe-shaped bar and eating area at the front does.

Currently, the Coore Arms is blighted by utilities works outside which we tried our best to ignore as we sampled a pre-prandial snifter watching the sun go down over fields opposite and catching the occasional shouts of “Howzat!” and the thwack of bat on ball from the nearby Scruton Cricket Club.

If it hadn’t been for the thin coating of road dust from the works over our table, we might have considered eating al fresco but after finishing our drinks and ordering we scarpered inside taking a window table in the front bar.

Sylvia’s starter of chicken goujons with sour cream and sweet chilli dip (£5.95) were a revelation mainly because of their size. Expecting some little finger-sized strips of chicken, she was somewhat taken aback by the three mini-fillets overflowing the breakfast plate they were served on, along with a little salad (lettuce, cucumber, tomato and red onion).

As I had chosen a relatively light salad starter I helped her out with one of the goujons (light, crisp batter and tender chicken). My beetroot, feta cheese and toasted pine nuts combo (£5.95) was enlivened by lots of pea shoots and lettuce, including radicchio. It was a refreshingly tart plateful.

The Coore Arms menu is headed “Proper Pub Food” and there is rather agricultural feel to it. For every salad there’s a dish like sausage meat and Granny Smith rolled belly pork, mustard mash and cider gravy (£11.95) or steak and Guinness pie in a puff pastry basket (also £11.95). There’s also a selection of char-grilled steaks (£18.95-20.95) plus a couple of pasta dishes and a risotto.

I chose the ‘Boro’ chicken parmo (£11.95) against my better judgement but mainly as a favour for a work colleague who has been in mourning for the loss of the “best parmo in North Yorkshire” which he used to enjoy at the now closed Haynes Arms at Kirkby Sigston.

Not being a big parmo fan I’m not entirely sure I found his Shangri-la at the Coore Arms but it was a very acceptable, tender, breaded escalope of chicken topped with béchamel sauce and a awful lot of melted cheese. I only managed half of the Parmo and about half of the fat, chunky, chips. It was also served with coleslaw and salad garnish. Sylvia thought her cider-infused, thickly sliced ham, free range double egg, chips and pickle (£8.50) was pretty good, particularly the lean, sweet ham and the golden-yolked eggs.

As you’ve probably gathered by now, portion sizes are on the substantial side of generous so desserts were never going to be a realistic option which was a bit of shame because the pudding menu had a couple of novel options (chocolate and hazelnut roulade, for example) alongside the usual sticky toffee and crème brulee.

The bill was modest £43 with a gin, a pint of Black Sheep and two soft drinks included. Service was never entirely confidence-inspiring but neither did it ever really falter.

FOOD FACTS

The Coore Arms

Scruton, Northallerton DL7 0QP

Tel: 01609 748215 Web: thecoorearms.co.uk

Open Mon 6-10.30pm; Tue-Thu noon-2pm and 6-10.30pm; Fri noon - 2pm 5.30-11.30pm; Saturday noon-11.30pm; Sunday noon-10pm.

Disabled access. Gluten and vegetarian options available

Food quality: 4/5

Service: 3/5

Surroundings: 3/5

Value: 4/5