OUR first experience of proper Yorkshire hospitality was many years ago, when we’d first moved into the area and an elderly neighbour invited us in for Sunday lunch.

She’d been born just after the end of the First World War into a farming family near Thirsk, and given the Old Testament Hebrew name Zillah although she went by “Kath”. She surprised us by giving us Yorkshire Pudding as a starter with a jug of gravy. It was proper Yorkshire Pudding, none of this rounded puffed up nonsense, but a flat, light traybake.

It has been this way since 1747, when cookery writer Hannah Glasse first described a northern dripping pudding as coming from Yorkshire. Zillah explained that her mother would encourage her and her brothers and sisters to fill up on the cheap starter so the more expensive meat of the main course would go further.

That’s proper Yorkshire housekeeping, and at a proper Yorkshire place like Tennants of Leyburn for a proper Yorkshire Sunday lunch, there’s Yorkshire Pudding and beef gravy as a starter for £4.50.

I have never seen it on a menu in all the years that Zillah served it to us, but it was there, apparently, by popular demand. And the two gentleman on the table opposite had ordered it…

The Northern Echo: The Garden Rooms at Tennants of LeyburnThe Garden Rooms at Tennants of Leyburn

We’d turned up at the auction rooms unannounced and they’d kindly found the last available table for us. It’s a large, comfortable, modern room into which they could have jemmied many more dinners but instead left plenty of room for the family groups to breathe.


The Northern Echo: The white, warm buns

Other starters were £7.95 – smoked haddock roulade, beetroot and goats’ cheese terrine and chicken satay skewers – but you really didn’t need them as we were each given a complimentary warm, white artisan bun with a wedge of butter (above).

We went straight for main course, while our men opposite – in country blazers and mix-and-match trousers – poured their gravy from their little white jugs onto their puffed up puddings.

There was roast beef (£19), roast honey and mustard glazed ham (£18), roast turkey (£17) and a five nut roast (£16.50), all served with Yorkshire Pudding.

The Northern Echo: The Garden Rooms at Tennants of Leyburn

I went for the sirloin of 28-day aged beef (above), which was expensive, but it was extremely good. It came with roast potatoes, which were a little too solid, but there was loads of fine quality meat, topped by a rounded pudding which was light and moist and yet a little crispy.

The Northern Echo: The vegetables with the roast dinner

The real stars were the vegetables (above). There was a smear of carrot and truffle puree on the plate, which got a little lost amid the gravy, and some nicely gentle red onion.

On a separate tray, there was a pot of red cabbage, a pot of carrots and swedes and, best of all, a pot of broccoli cheese – a new combination for me which had a bit more to it than cauliflower cheese. Plus, there was a white jug of excellent extra gravy.

The Northern Echo: Sea bass

Petra, my wife, had passed up on the opportunity for Yorkshire Pudding and had chosen the pan fried fillet of seabass (above), crushed jersey royal potatoes and dollops of wild garlic and nettle pesto (£17.95). The fish was perfectly cooked and the pesto was superb and interesting – a waft of garlic with a noticeable sting of nettle.

The Northern Echo: Fish and chips

Theo, our son, went for cod and chunky chips (£16.50) (above), which were as traditional as Yorkshire Pudding, and he enjoyed their straightforwardness.

Now, with the drama on the table opposite reaching its peak – what do you follow a Yorkshire Pudding starter with at Sunday lunch? – we had to have some desserts (all £7.25).

The Northern Echo: The Garden Rooms at Tennants of Leyburn

Theo had a lime cheesecake topped with slices of passion fruit and accompanied by a lemon sorbet (above). The clever combination of flavours was lost on him as he demolished it with rapidity.

The Northern Echo: The Garden Rooms at Tennants of Leyburn

I, though, savoured my tiramisu (above). It was more substantial than I expected, with more sponge than air, but it was lovely, a creamy combo of coffee and chocolate.

For three of us, three main courses and two desserts, our bill came to £76. My roast beef was probably a pound or so more than other places, but not only was it very good quality there were several touches of imagination that raised it above the average roast.

And the Yorkshire Pudding was so good that, while one of the gentlemen opposite had the pudding-free sea bass for his main course, the other had the classic roast beef – so that’s Yorkshire Pudding followed by Yorkshire Pudding.

That’s a lot of pudding. Too much, I would argue, but on the way out, I doffed my cloth cap to him for his double Yorkshire consumption, and I think I saw in his eyes, as he scanned the dessert menu, a profound sadness that there was no Yorkshire Pudding, sweetened with either syrup or jam, as I believe they serve in the deepest Yorkshire corners of the county. Is there anywhere that has such a local delicacy on its menu?

The Northern Echo: The Garden Rooms at Tennants of LeyburnThe Garden Rooms at Tennants,
Leyburn, North Yorkshire DL8 5SG
Tel: 01969-621146
Web: tennantsgardenrooms.com

Food quality: 8
Service: 9
Surroundings: 8
Value for money: 8