Imagine the scene: arrival at a cosy inn for a booked meal, walking into the busy front bar, a blazing fire in the massive inglenook fireplace, the locals gathered round regaling each other with the latest village gossip – the very essence of the British country pub.

However, on informing the bar staff that you have made a reservation, you are escorted to the pub’s dining room/restaurant, leaving behind the warm, glowing embrace and camaraderie of the bar for the soulless atmosphere of a mausoleum.

Typically, pub dining rooms are deathly, often flat-roofed extension built in the 1960s and 1970s when pubs first decided that they had to take food seriously and provide more sustenance than just a packet of crisps or a pickled egg (or both – veritably a feast!).

I have lost count of the number of occasions when having booked a table for a meal at a pub, the sensible precaution of making sure there was room at the inn has backfired spectacularly.

While suggesting that you should never accept a booking in any pub dining room when food can be served in the bar is probably over the top advice, always take the precaution of asking if the establishment has any other dining room bookings. Learn from my salutary lessons.

Which I didn’t or just forgot when booking a table at the Fox & Hounds, Bullamoor, just outside Northallerton.

The Northern Echo: The Fox and Hounds at Bullamoor, near Northallerton Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

So, as we walked in on a recent Friday evening, I realised I’d completely forgotten what the inside of the Fox & Hounds was like, that it has multiple dining spaces, and I didn’t have a clue where we would be sitting.

What’s more, there is a room which looked very much like a formal dining space although to be fair it looked rather attractive and at least one of the tables was occupied.

As it happens we were steered to a less formal dining area close to the centrally-located bar which was warm and busy.

The Northern Echo: The Fox and Hounds at Bullamoor, Northallerton

Which is good, for the third weekend in January is always a difficult time in the pub business with Christmas/New Year a distant memory and the end of the month pay day still almost a fortnight away.

It must be at least seven years since a previous visit but I guessing it hasn’t changed much in that time. It looks tidy, by which I mean that its clean, warm and comfortable. I know that could be interpreted as damning with faint praise.

To put it another way, if you had walked into a pub that looks like the Fox Hounds 20 years ago you probably would have said “Wow”. Today you would say “Well, it’s tidy.”

The menu has a slightly retro feel as well.

The Northern Echo: The Fox and Hounds at Bullamoor, Northallerton

Remember that time when pubs discovered the sizzler? That was probably 20 years ago. Spiced or marinated slices of meat would be served on a molten-hot cast-iron skillet and brought to the table in a cloud of steam and popping fat.

There was a bizarre variation involving hot stones instead of a skillets and you decided how long to cook your meat for. I vaguely remember that was a thing at the last incarnation of the Catterick Bridge Hotel before it closed for the final time and itself went up in smoke.

Sizzlers were the height of sophistication for about a year but they still do it here.

And rather well as it happens. Son Calum had chosen the Cajun Chicken sizzler (£15.95) and the chance to observe a small thermo-nuclear explosion on his plate. When the mushroom cloud had cleared he enjoyed the tender chicken strips, peppers and onions in a pretty spicy sauce with a pile of OK chips.

Partner Rob struggled with the Chicken Parmesan (£15.75). He’s a big Scots lad but he has yet to get his head round this parmo thing, particularly that there’s a reason why most places offer a half or lighter portion.

It didn’t help that he had a small mountain of garlic mushrooms (£7.75) to start. Calum and I had picked starters of grilled black pudding (£6.25) with a creamy wholegrain mustard sauce. The sauce was great, the pudding a bit so-so. Basically if it isn’t Doreen’s fabled triangles of black gold, or Stornoway, I generally find black pudding a disappointment. I should have checked before ordering.

All three starters came with crusty rolls and butter.

My main, a curried prawn risotto (£12.95) was not bad, light on the spicing, creamy and with a bit of bite left in the rice. It was a handsome portion.

Sensible Sylvia had skipped a starter, opting for a grilled supreme of chicken and Chasseur sauce served with vegetables and new potatoes. She judged it perfectly serviceable.

Which rather sums up the Fox & Hounds. We also add to that good value. The bill for the four of us was £112.20, including drinks.

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Fox & Hounds

Bullamoor, Northallerton, DL6 3QP

Tel: 01609 772257


Open for food: Wednesday-Friday noon-2.30pm and 5.30-8pm, Saturday noon-8.30, Sunday noon-7pm; closed Monday and Tuesday.

Ratings (out of 10): Food quality 7 Service 8 Surroundings 7 Value 9