Malcolm Warne spices up a dining experience with a haunting tale of the supernatural

LAST week we celebrated the survival of a village pub: this week we're talking about a country which closed back in 2012 and never re-opened.

At least it didn't re-open as a pub. It became an Indian restaurant.

It’s not hard see why the Busby Stoop Inn didn't work as a pub. What used to be called a road pub, it is located by the roundabout junction of the A61 and the A167 near Thirsk which before the advent of the drink-drive laws probably did very well indeed from all the passing traffic.

But with the arrival of the breathalyser, its position some distance from the nearest village of Sandhutton probably killed its trade.

And it surely can't have helped that it decided to give away something which made it a rather special pub to the local Museum.

I’m talking about an oak chair to which is attached an extraordinarily good story of the supernatural. Apologies to everyone around Thirsk who knows the story well but it bears re-telling, albeit briefly.

Thomas Busby was a landlord of the inn in the 17th century and by all accounts a bit of rogue. He was found guilty of murdering his father-in-law and the sentence was that he be gibbetted (hung, his body coated in tar and the remains displayed on a stoop, or post) opposite his inn.

Before he met his grisly end, he was granted his last wish, a drink while sitting in his favourite chair in the pub. Before he vacated it for the last time, he is said to have cursed the chair by saying that no-one should sit in it after his demise.

And so the legend of Busby Stoop (as the inn was subsequently renamed) was born and burnished over the years by the number of people – up to 60 - who died after sitting in the cursed chair. They included many Canadian airmen with bomber squadrons based at the nearby Second World War airfield at Skipton on Swale who frequented the inn.

Cynics may say the survival odds of bomber crews over Germany in 1942 meant that the fact that many met their end after sitting in Busby’s chair was not statistically significant. Or they might point out that a furniture expert, on inspecting the chair's machine-tooled spindles, judged that the chair was only one hundred years old at best.

Whatever, it is a cracking tale which should have kept curious folk flocking to the inn for years. Except they didn’t because a spooked landlord in the 1970s decided the chair was too much of liability and donated it to Thirsk Museum. It is now one of the museum’s star attractions and is suspended from the ceiling – so that no-one can sit in it.

The inn is now the Jaipur Spice and there’s little evidence of its previous incarnation apart from the central bar.

We took particularly note of the chairs but, somewhat reassuringly, they were those ubiquitous high-backed leatherette jobbies, well used from the backsides of folk who have had too many nans with their chicken tikka marsala.

We were seated at the far end of the main dining area, rather irritatingly close to what now seems to be de rigueur for Indian restaurants these days, a wall-mounted flatscreen telly with Bollywood movies on loop.

The menu was rather more diverting however. It was certainly long, listing no fewer than 27 starters, 12 tandoori dishes, 15 traditional mains (bhunas, dhansaks, rogans etc), eight biryanis, 18 specialities, five special thali dishes, five “fusion” dishes (fillet steak masala and ostrich jaflong among them) and, finally, 19 “Jaipur signature dishes”.

After a couple of poppadums with pickle tray (£2.50) we shared the Jaipur Sizzling Cocktail starter (£7.50), a steaming plateful of chicken tikka, vegetable samosa, some beautifully aromatic seekh kebab, onion bhaji and, best of all, some sticky, marinated lamb cutlets.

Sylvia’s chicken balti (£7.50) was first class with very tender, lean breast meat and a rich, medium-heat and spicy sauce.

I couldn’t resist one of the signature dishes – Ussmani (£8.95) – for no other reason than the menu description which I think is worth reproducing in full here – “Succulent pieces of chicken or lamb cubes marinated in aphrodisiac spices with ginger, spring onions, methi, shallots, fresh green chillies, including crispy red peppers which will surely activate sensuality and consequently inhibit clear and high thinking. A very hot dish, only one for the brave!”

Inevitably, it didn’t quite live up to its extravagant billing. It was certainly vindaloo-hot, the chicken was as good Sylvia’s and the aromatic hit did produce the desired light-headedness. As for the aphrodisiac, sensual quality of the spices used, we’ll just have to draw a discreet veil over that.

We also enjoyed sharing a special fried rice (£2.95) and a perfumed (with fenugreek, perhaps) cauliflower bhazi (£2.95).

With some Cobra beers, the bill came to £41.88.

The Jaipur Spice

Busby Stoop Inn, Busby Stoop Road, Thirsk Y07 4EQ

Tel: 01845 587189/587635 No website.

Disabled access. Vegetarian options

Open: Mon 4-10pm, Tues-Thurs 5-11pm, Fri 4-11pm, Sat 5-11.30pm, Sun 5-11pm


Food quality 8/10

Service 7/10

Surroundings 6/10

Value 8/10