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Angel Inn YORKSHIRE


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There is a tiny restaurant in Montpellier, in France, run by a woman who somehow does all the cooking and much of the serving. The food takes ages to arrive, but this matters not a jot because it is very, very good. More to the point, ‘Service Lente’ is writ large upon the menu. Denis and Juliet used the same little trick long ago, with ‘This is not a fast food outlet, so please be patient – all food is cooked to order’. Juliet speaks with passion about their own, untitled campaign for people to take their food slowly. “Denis died a few years ago but people called him the ‘Godfather of the Gastropub’. (He scorned the name!). He always had a dream that he could serve good food in a pub. Everyone at the time was promoting fast food. It was all gammon and eggs and scampi and chips – ‘fast’ from freezer to fryer. We broke the mould a bit. We stopped serving chips over twenty years ago.” Juliet met Denis in Preston in 1968 when he was the manager of a coaching inn. First they worked in Dublin and then Bristol, where Denis spent ten years at The Grand Hotel and The Grand Spa (now the Avon Gorge) as overall general manager. “Denis helped organise the Bristol World Wine Fair in 1978. I didn’t quite realise how much flair and vision

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he had.” They had a good life in Bristol but, being Lancastrians, eventually came up here, Juliet’s mother selling her house and moving in with them so that they could buy the old place. “We bought it at auction, and lived upstairs with the children for eight years.” Their vision was to run an English country inn full of nooks, crannies, beams, crackling fires and delicious food. That vision has become a legend. The Angel, an old drovers’ inn standing in the middle of a hamlet surrounded by lush grazing land with Rylstone Fell rising behind, has it all. It is a freehouse, so buys its beer where it chooses. The local Black Sheep is on handpump, as is Timothy Taylors, brewing beer at Keighley since 1858. From the start Denis imported wines too, mainly from Burgundy. And the Angel was probably one of the first pubs in the country to serve champagne by the glass. Juliet’s full-blooded support for Denis and his enthusiasms has been remarkable. “Denis had the food, wine and people skills, while I was a really good ‘gofer’.” But it is thanks to her that all the ancient trimmings – the mullioned windows, the oakpanelled bar, the working range – are so beautifully looked after, and that the bedrooms, peacefully in the barn over the 243

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road, are so luxurious. After a day trekking the moors what bliss to come back to lashings of hot water and a comfortable big bed, complimentary chocolates, comfy robes, fat white towels, space to lounge in – and chess! It is Juliet who is the founder of the recently inaugurated Chocolate Festival, but the Angel has been putting on special events for years. During

“Everything is cooked individually in little skillets: we’ve always been slow and would never rush a thing” September’s Seafood Festival, stylish seafood platters spill over with lobster, crab, langoustines, oysters, prawns, smoked salmon, mussels and scallops; at the summer barbecue you get Dales spit-roast lamb with live jazz. There are Winter Warmers in the bar and Supper by the Fire with English pies and stews, sponges and crumbles. The bar is informal, the restaurant is smart and people travel miles for Bruce Elsworth’s cooking: black pudding with spiced apple compote, roasted mallard breast with thyme mash, seared brill with langoustine purée, Granny Smith 244

crumble cheescake. The pub also does an ‘Inn Focus’ newsletter for the public: news and views, events and local suppliers. “I’ve tried to build on what Denis has done, not to change it radically but to give it a fresh look. At first I didn’t want anything to change, but now we are redesigning our menus – with four distinct seasons.” The rustic Wine Cave across the road adds another, unusual, touch. It is Pascal’s baby. “The Angel has been importing wines from small producers for fifteen years. We get our house wine from Georges Blanc in Burgundy. Dad even bought a cottage in Burgundy, he loved it so much. I came back into the business five years ago after training at Oddbins and in 2002 I did a wine-making course. Grape picking is the hardest job I have ever done. Dad said, ‘Son, it’s the only honest job you’ve done in your life!’ “l am a Burgundy specialist and run professional wine tastings for up to eight people at lunchtimes. People come from far and wide. There is nothing here that you would find in a supermarket and there aren’t many places like this in the country. Many Burgundy producers are small and don’t use chemicals, apart from, perhaps, copper sulphate spray.” Juliet and Denis were way ahead of their time in many ways. They banned smoking years ago, long before banning it became a political necessity. They


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were also devoted to local and organic sourcing before it became the thing to do. “We have always done this. You can’t be completely organic, but we do what we can. We changed over to organic salmon a while ago; it’s paler and it’s lovely. We do our best. Our co-director’s father was farming in this area, and he knows all the farmers, so is at home with them. The idea of buying local is instinctive to him, not a marketing ploy.” The food is modern British, with influence from France and Italy. Sunday lunch is delicious and traditional, and has an award-winning Yorkshire pudding. They also do Little Angel menus for children. Slow? You’ll not find pork chops and potatoes ‘boiled in the bag’ here. On the contrary, everything is cooked individually in little skillets. “We’ve always been slow and would never rush a thing. It demands care and attention – and a lot of your time. Why on earth would you want to eat fast food?” If you need further encouragement to stay at the Angel, this is wonderful countryside, within the Yorkshire Dales National Park, ‘James Herriott country’ as the Tourist Board calls it. The glorious up-hill-and-down-dale drive to get here is part of the charm. There are supreme limestone landscapes with valleys, crags, peaks and caves, and moorland criss-crossed by drystone walls and dotted with

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sheep and field barns. There’s walking, cycling, pony trekking, caving, fishing – and fell-running for the heroic. With wind in your rucksack you can walk the Pennine Way from here and the Coast to Coast Walk too, not to mention the Dales Way. There are short family cycling routes and the rigorous 210-kilometre Yorkshire Dales Cycle Way. If you are moved to be a tourist, and it would be entirely understandable, you have Skipton Castle, Bolton Priory, Fountains Abbey; and the handsome market towns of Grassington, Malham, Ingleton, Kettlewell, Skipton and Settle. Charles Kingsley, who wrote The Water Babies, was a frequent visitor to Malham Tarn and wrote part of the book here. J B Priestley loved the Southern Dales, too, and is buried in Hubberholme Church. You are in good company.

Juliet Watkins The Angel Inn, Hetton, Skipton, BD23 6LT • 2 doubles, 3 suites. £130-£155. Suites £155-£180. • Bar meals from £5.75. Dinner from £25. • 01756 730263 • info@angelhetton.co.uk • www.angelhetton.co.uk 245

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Angel Inn in Yorkshire sample pages  

Angel Inn in Yorkshire from Go Slow England (Alastair Sawday Publishing, April 2008)

Angel Inn in Yorkshire sample pages  

Angel Inn in Yorkshire from Go Slow England (Alastair Sawday Publishing, April 2008)

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