THE Arden Arms has been late to the Covid-19 takeaway party – the only option currently available for pubs – reopening on a limited basis on May 22.

Perhaps that’s not surprising. People understandably don’t want to travel far to collect hot food and the Arms is not particularly handy for anywhere, its crossroads location being roughly in the middle of a triangle formed by Northallerton, Darlington and Richmond.

If it has lagged behind some of its local competitors (and I’m not sure that’s probably quite the right word in these strange times) in this respect, it more than makes up for it in providing a really first-class service.

It starts with the ease of ordering. Landlord Alan Scaife will take your order by phone (you can leave a message and he’ll call you back – promptly), by text, via Facebook Messenger and quite possibly by carrier pigeon too.

The Arden Arms has limited capacity to deliver orders too – especially for those shielding - but if you can collect you should.

Payment is made either over the phone in advance of by person with card in the pub’s entrance (plenty of sanitiser to hand) on collection at the time allotted to you when ordering. A note is taken of the car you will use to collect so they can bring the food out as soon as you pull up. Don’t then do as I did in turning up in a different car: it’s not helpful!

Having used the service twice in the last ten days I can confidently say the system works seamlessly.

Most importantly the logistics work well too. Food is packaged beautifully in clearly-labelled, robust, containers and packed with care in decent quality carry-out bags.

Last week, I apologise for the poor “food styling” on this page – reference to the difficulty of making food look attractive which has been transported home in a container and then decanted on to a plate.

The Northern Echo:

Well this week I think we’ve done rather better – check out the picture of the plated-up Sunday lunches – thanks mainly to the way the food was so well presented in the containers. It was as if someone had taken as much care as if they had been plating up to put it in front of you in the pub.

The Arden Arms takeaway menu is the most extensive we have seen so far, most pubs sticking to a cut-down “greatest hits” list of options. All the lockdown favourites are there plus some dishes for those missing something a little more adventurous.

There are six starters – including moules mariniere and deep-fried panko-crumbed king prawns – around the £6 mark.

For mains, there is a choice of five “bar meals” at £10 – including fish and chips, chicken pathia or korma curry, a chicken burger and the good old parmo (chicken or pork).

For a few pounds more the “something special” selection offers six dishes, including confit duck a l’orange, pork stroganoff and salmon with a cream, asparagus and watercress sauce. All main courses are served with appropriate vegetables, potatoes, rice or chips.

And finally, there are three salads – chicken Caesar, grilled salmon and chicken, mushroom and bacon – served with new potatoes for £10.50.

We shared a starter of shredded duck served with pancakes, sliced spring onion and cucumber and hoi sin sauce. There was enough duck, sliced vegetables and sauce for ten pancakes which was hardly a starter really and set the standard for everything else. Portions were extremely generous.

My cod wrapped in Parma ham on a substantial serving of curried pea and prawn risotto (£14) inexplicably came with a portion of chips too. And given that Sylvia’s steak and ale pie (£10) came with vegetables and chips, the extra portion of chips ended up in the bin.

That aside, everything we ate was really top notch, survived the journey back very well and the vegetables had been cooked on the al dente side so that a quick warm through in the oven didn’t turn them to shrivelled mush.

The experience was so good that we immediately booked a Sunday lunch for the following weekend and were not disappointed.

Again everything was most efficiently and neatly packed up and the beef was superb. Still slightly pink, and placed in a container with gravy to keep it moist, there was lots of additional gravy, two types of potato, a pile of veg included creamed cabbage with bacon and very large and crisp Yorkshire puddings – all for £11.

Other Sunday options are roast pork or chicken, grilled salmon and a vegetable curry.

Our best lockdown eating-in experience so far and it will take some beating.

The Arden Arms

Atley Hill, South Cowton, DL7 0JB

Tel: 01325 378678

Takeaway meals available 5pm-8pm Friday and Saturday; Sunday noon-5pm. Pre order by phone, text (07932-061291), email ( or via Facebook Messenger (@theardenarms)

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 9 Social distancing 10 Logistics 10 Value for money 9