After offending pub landlords and owners everywhere, Malcolm Warne finds himself eating his words

A FEW weeks ago I probably offended most of the pub landlords and owners in these parts by saying, in effect, that their menus were dull and boring because of their spirit-sapping same-yness and predictability.

But not one has complained which just goes to show that either nobody gives a monkeys about what I think or it’s a truth that nobody wishes to challenge. Either way that’s absolutely fine.

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But then the very next dining pub we stumble into disproves the theory somewhat by slipping a couple of Greek dishes onto a menu of unimpeachably British pub classics.

The slow-cooked lamb dish of kleftiko and a platter of halloumi, tzatziki and olives stuck out like the most incongruous of sore thumbs on the blackboard menu of the Bolton Arms in Downholme, near Richmond.

It turned out that landlord and lady Steve and Nicola Ross included them for no other reason than they had enjoyed a holiday in Greece. Which is as good a reason as any, I guess.

We paid a visit on a recent Saturday evening and booked. Which is where things went awry. We thought we were booking a table in the restaurant to the rear which has the considerable benefit of views over the eastern fringes of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. I knew from a previous visit that on sunny, late summer evening the vista can be spectacular.

On arrival, however, we found that our booked table was actually in the cosy but vista-less bar. The restaurant was fully booked. Whose fault? Well, I hadn’t specified I wanted a table in the restaurant when booking but then the pub had not pointed out that they only had room in the bar.

On any other night that would have just been a minor disappointment but it was Saturday and one would expect and indeed want in a popular pub that a goodly number of locals were in, putting the world to rights in forthright terms over a pint - or three.

But that’s particularly not conducive to dinner a deux. It’s a bit distracting when a village loudmouth is spouting absolutely bollocks and you have to resist the urge to intervene and put them right. Not that I would do that, of course…

The other problem with our table was that blackboard menu was in the other part of the bar, on the other side of a large party who had clearly booked out half the restaurant (and no doubt why we couldn’t have a table there. Grrrr.) and were having pre-prandial snifters before moving through to sit down. Thank God for camera phones which enable us to snap the wall-mounted menu and return to our table to peruse.

As well as those aforementioned Greek dishes and the pub classics reference earlier, there were also some blackboard specials but we didn’t spot those through the melee, only noticing them on the way out when they’d mostly been rubbed out. Must have been pretty special.

Having moaned about the lack of menu variety, we felt duty bound to order both Greek dishes, Sylvia choosing the kleftiko (£15.95) and I settled for the Greek platter starter (£7.50).

I thought £7.50 was a bit on the steep side for a small dish of olives and sun-dried tomato, two slices of halloumi cheese, tzatziki (natural yoghurt, garlic and cucumber) and some pitta bread but it could easily have been shared by two people and the halloumi was top-notch in that strange way that only halloumi is. Why is that something which can only be described as dry, rubbery and squeaky on the teeth is so sublime?

Sylvia liked her classic prawn cocktail (£6.95) for the larger than average prawns which had probably been frozen but certainly didn’t taste as if they had been.

The kleftiko was also well received. Slow roasted shoulder of lamb is nearly always tender in a falling-off-the-bone fashion and this was no exception. We suspect that not many beachside tavernas in the Peloponnese will prepare it with redcurrant gravy and mint but it worked well here.

My roast guinea fowl (£14.95) stuffed with black pudding and sausage meat and served with a mushroom and shallot gravy was packed with flavour and richness and kept pretty moist which is always a challenge with a bird that even more unforgiving than chicken when overcooked.

Both dishes came with decent vegetables – new potatoes, carrots, peas and broccoli.

The richness of my main course meant I didn’t quite finish it but I rejoiced in the presence of summer pudding on the dessert menu. It didn’t disappoint with nicely sharp/sweet fruit and wasn’t too sloppy, the bread retaining some strength and structure.

We had no complaints about the service, bar the information vacuum over what we were actually booking. The bill, with a soft drink and a glass of house white was £56.96.

FOOD FACTS

The Bolton Arms

Downholme, Richmond DL11 6AE

Tel: 01748 823716 Web: www.boltonarmsdownholm.com

Open: Noon-2pm and 6.30-9pm.

Disabled access: Steps up to the restaurant. Some vegetarian options

Ratings:

Food quality: 4/5

Service: 4/5

Surroundings: 3/5

Value: 3/5