A week of mainly beer and eating for a friends big birthday celebrations.
by Slug on January 13, 2013
To completely finish us off, our friend who owns a holiday home in Whitby took us to his "local", the Black Horse, on the main cobbled street on the old town side of Whitby. This is more of a locals pub and I can imagine it being pretty much as it was when Bram Stoker used to visit and possible drop off for a beer or two while pondering his plotline for Dracula. It was pretty busy for a Monday evening in November which is always good to see given the number of pubs closing down in the UK.The building has been a pub since the 1500s and is one of the two oldest pubs in Whitby. It was also used as a brothel in the dim and distant past so I'm sure the walls could tell a tale or two. Another interesting fact about the Black Horse is that it has one of the oldest bars in Europe dating from the 1880s (most pubs did not have a separate serving area before then). The pub has two main rooms, a little snug which faces onto the street, and down a corridor to a larger long and narrow room at the rear. The pub serves some wonderful real ale and I'm afraid to say we drank rather too much of it as it slipped down very well indeed. The Black Horse is also one of those rare pubs that sells snuff (not that I'm a fan of the stuff) but the smokers in our party appreciated a tobacco product they didn't have to smoke and which they could use indoors.The seating is cosy and you can't help but get close with the folks sitting next to us; fortunately in our case it was a sozzled older couple with two very sweet and friendly dogs. With a pint of fine well kept ale and a dogs head in my lap I could have stayed all night (in fact we almost did). The Black Horse isn't particularly a foody place but it does offer a few nibbles including a lovely looking cheeseboard, a fresh seafood selection and a choice of olives. Again, if it weren't for the monster fish and chips we had enjoyed at the Pier Inn I would have happily partook of the offers here. To sum up, we were perfectly happy in this traditional little bar and remembered what pubs are all about; drinking, chatting and making new friends
No trip to the North York Moors is complete without a day in the beautiful sea side town of Whitby, and after a bracing stroll along the windswept Pier, we decided to bolt to the nearby Pier Inn for a drink and for lunch.I think in my time I've visited all of the Whitby Pubs at one time or another but I reflected that it had been a while since we had visited the Pier. We usually eat at the rather upmarket Magpie Restaurant but given that we were a large party with mixed incomes and children too, we thought the Pier would be an easier option. As it happened, the pub was very quiet indeed (heh, it was a Monday in November) meaning the little ones could let off steam without annoying anyone (something that would have been impossible in the closely set out tables in the Magpie.The pub is starting to look a little tired with its furnishings but it is certainly clean enough and everyone was quite comfortable sitting there watching the world go past one of the busier Whitby streets. Our server was very friendly and attentive and she made sure the mothers were happy in particular. I was also pleased to see a few local real ales behind the bar, and better pleased that they were well kept. As this is a large bar, there were 4-5 bitters on offer, and the two I sampled of local brews were perfectly acceptable. Of course with our being beside the sea, lunch could be nothing other than fish and chips although the pub offers other standard pub fare. Our fish and chips was huge, but the place does offer a smaller portion if you don't want to be over faced. We enjoyed our meal and the fish was certainly very crispy and tasty, and quite a bit cheaper than that provided at the Magpie. I seem to recall our fish and chips was in the region of £7 which was a good deal. To sum up, the Pier Inn is a good central location to stop by for a well kept beer or two. While I personally prefer the Magpie (as I usually have a fish salad rather than fish and chips) this is a good quality low cost alternative if you can't face the queues to the Magpie and just a few doors down from it on the harbour front.
by Slug on January 9, 2013
With just over an hour left on our parking space in Pickering, we decided to find a close by pub for a very quick bite to eat and a pint. Wandering back into Pickering from the car park, we spotted one of the types of pub we normally like; old and slightly battered around the edges. The Black Swan is a white painted rendered building of a certain age. A plaque outside described tells the tale of how the locals of Pickering walked to the pub after the opening of the train line in the mid 1800s. What an exciting day that must have been and how it would have changed lives forever. Today I have to say that the pub is nothing special, and in fact it looked a little careworn and a bit down at heel. Unfortunately the days of pub landlords sitting back serving pints and expecting a living out of it has long gone. The Black Swan is one of those pubs unfortunately refurbished in the early 1980s with artex walls painted dark yellow to hide the cigarette tar with bright patterned carpet. To complete the look there is a host of horse brass dotted along the wall and hanging from the ceiling. I imagine old open air museums of the future will be screaming out for a place like this.The meals board offered two dishes for £10. Good value indeed and the choice included standard pub fare such as lasagne, pie and chips or fish and chips. In total there were about half a dozen choices and a separate kids menu. My beloved chose a cheese and tomato toasty and I went for a coronation chicken sandwich on a French stick which was even cheaper. Obviously there isn't too much to go wrong with a cheese toasty, but my coronation chicken was particularly gloopy and oily, and the bread was that horrible easy bake stuff – hard and crispy on the outside and slightly soggy in. While our meal didn't break the bank (I think the sandwiches were £4 each) it also wasn't anything to write home about. A friend's scampi was basic but reasonable. In short, it seemed the food was cheap and cheerful rather than anything else, but then we didn't pay anything beyond fairly cheap for it. Thankfully the beer was rather better kept and my pint of Black Sheep was spot on. While the Black Swan didn't sell anything "unusual", a nice pint of sheep is enough to keep any real ale fan satisfied. We did find the service to be friendly and quick, and as we were dining one of the wait staff volunteered to stay on for quarter of an hour to help out (there was quite a party of us), which was a good sign that the staff cared about the service they offered. Overall, I won't claim the Black Swan was anything special but it was OK for what we wanted it for.
by Slug on December 29, 2012
Near to our holiday cottages in the country village of Ebberston in North Yorkshire it was just a short stroll along the busy Scarborough Road to the local pub. As our party had already drunk too much to sensibly cook dinner, we thought it would be a good idea to see if we could dine there. Fortunately we came across a very friendly and accommodating place who set up our table for 12 without a blink of an eye. Helpfully for all involved they popped our party in an adjoining room to ourselves; this meant the two mothers in our party were more relaxed about their running screaming offspring than they otherwise would have been. The pub itself is styled more as a restaurant than a bar these days with stone flagged flooring and old wooden tables and modern padded dining chairs for comfort. The pub is rather understated and styled with dried grasses in pots and the like. I think I might have liked a bit more informal seating in a corner for drinkers only as sitting at these tables just felt like we were awaiting dinner. Sadly, the beer choice is a little lacking for those who enjoy a pint or two of real ale, with an uninspired choice of Greene King IPA or Tetley's. I had a pint of rather vile Becks Vier lager before moving onto a better choice; red wine, although the house Merlot was off the menu.The food thankfully was much better. For starters we just had three starters between five; rather simple bread, olives and oil and then a scrummy chicken pate with toast. It kind of set the meal up well and was ample for a bit of a snack. For mains, I chose a lamb steak on a bed of mash and a lovely red wine and mint gravy which was beautiful. The meal arrived with vegetables. At almost £15 for the dish, it was enough, but I enjoyed it immensely. My beloved had steak and ale pie which she also enjoyed, although she did find the crust of the pie a little solid. The chicken wrapped in bacon served with tomato sauce was also very nice looking. The menu was fairly small and traditional in style; there wasn't really anything unusual for those fancying a change but there was a solid choice for one off diners. I think I might get bored fairly quickly if I were a regular. The sweets were just a tad under whelming and looked a little like the standard offering from a pre-prepared catering company catalogue, rather than their premium range as I might have expected. As there was no cheese and biscuits we passed on the dish and were pleased we hadn't bothered with the calories or the £5 expense. To sum up, The Grapes offers reasonable food and nice wine in pleasant surroundings. While it wasn't my favourite place we visited in the area it was certainly adequate and we appreciated the extra care and attention they gave our large mixed group of adults and children.
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