AS a lover of racing, I'm the sort who likes to rely on a favourite with previous form, rather than take a punt on an unknown outsider.

So, having enjoyed staying in a luxury log cabin in Constable Burton for my birthday in April, I immediately booked a return visit for my wife's birthday in the autumn.

The cabin, one of the splendid Sun Hill Lodges overlooking Ann Duffield's racehorse gallops, has become our idea of the ideal getaway: peaceful, scenic, and surrounded by some of the best pubs and eating places in the North of England.

The break could hardly have got off to a better start, with Dark Reckoning – one of Ann's recommended horses – coming in at Ayr at odds of 25-1.

OK, our £1 each-way was never going to break the bank at Ladbrokes but, nevertheless, it would go towards a meal at the Wyvill Arms, a few miles down the road towards Leyburn.

The Wyvill Arms is well-touted locally. Ask around for Wensleydale eating out suggestions and it usually comes up, along with the Wensleydale Heifer at West Witton and the Blue Lion at East Witton.

It's an enticing place, with ivy-covered walls outside and a welcoming log fire inside. We liked the fact that it prides itself on using local produce for most of its menu, not least the herbs from its own herb garden.

Staying true to the keep-it-local theme, I started with the Wensleydale terrine of ham, pork, chicken, and cheese with pear and apple chutney, and enjoyed it very much.

My wife chose the salmon fish cake on tomato carpaccio with spring onion and chilli jam (£6.95 or £12.50 as a main course) and also declared herself well satisfied.

I'm a man who finds a pie hard to resist so my main course had to be the steak and onion pie with the "famous" short crust pastry. A pie well filled with succulent meat, with hand-cut chips and crisp vegetables, the Wyvill was living up to its reputation as far as I was concerned.

My wife, however, was experiencing something of a let-down with her spicy Egyptian aubergine, courgettes and red pepper stew, topped with mozzarella and served with chunky chips.

She'd imagined something a touch exotic, but it was anything but. The Egyptian influence was well hidden and it was a stew highly unlikely to have tempted Cleopatra.

Indeed, my wife felt it was a throwback to the bad old days when restaurants didn't really know what to do with vegetarians so just threw something simple together without a great deal of thought.

That disappointment aside, The Wyvill Arms is certainly a nice place to visit, with friendly service and a warm atmosphere.

We finished our meal by sharing the three-way brûlée, comprising vanilla, blueberry and strawberry.

With a bottle of wine and a pint of Theakston's Best, the bill came to a reasonable enough £61.30. Although the Egyptian stew was a non-runner, we still made the Wyvill Arms a decent bet.


Food: ***

Service: ****

Ambience: ****

Value: ***

The Wyvill Arms, Constable Burton, DL8 5LH