First impressions count – and the Craven Heifer at Addingham appears to specialise in making great ones.
The first thing that strikes you when you walk into this Dalesway inn with a difference is the heady aroma of a real fire.
Then, when you open the door of your room, it’s simply wow. Each of the seven boutique rooms has a Yorkshire theme. Ours was the Big Splash, inspired by the work of David Hockney, but others include Chuffin’ Eck (cricket), Heathcliff, Cabaret and the de Havilland.
Our focal point was a Hockney style swimming pool mural along one wall, plus an enormous free-standing bath the size of your average rowing boat.
It’s so often the little touchers that make a visit special – a mattress so comfortable there’s simply no point moving; a cafetiere and real coffee instead of instant; Egyptian cotton linen on the beds; top-end complimentary toiletries in the vast, uber modern bathroom.
A flat screen television, stereo system with iPod dock and spotlights on a dimmer switch were highly impressive additions to the norm.
Downstairs the bar area is exactly what you’d want from an inn at the gateway to the Dales – Addingham is within easy reach of both Grassington and Ilkley – and we sampled a particularly splendid blonde ale from the local Wharfebank brewery.
And the restaurant was stunning. Apparently it was a quiet night, although all but one table was taken. A roaring real fire is the focus (and the source of the gorgeous smell we first noticed) while wooden floors and subtle lighting make you relax in an instant.
The Craven Heifer is actually the sister pub to the Gray Ox at Hartshead, where we’ve enjoyed many a top drawer meal out, so expectations were high.
We pondered the menus over canapes and a glass of dry white.
Husband chose the Heifer’s version of ham, egg and chips: ham hock, slow cooked egg yolk, confit potatoes and home-made brown sauce. no less – followed by ox cheek braised for 36 hours with root veg stew and a garlic snail. Yep, a snail. This detail escaped me until he plucked it from the shell popped it into his mouth and devoured it with all the glee of Horrid Henry.
I’m vegetarian – a fact that was noted when we ordered and the waiter duly delivered meat-free amuse bouches of wild mushroom and radish mousse.
I chose from the exceedingly good value market menu, starting with a flavoursome white onion and calvados veloute followed by Jerusalem artichoke risotto with parsley essence and shaved Swaledale cheese.
Again the attention to detail was exemplary; bread comes in the form of bite-sized fresh baked mini loaves of white (with cheddar and mustard) and brown Saltaire Blonde beer bread.
It was quite simply the best meal we’ve had in quite some time, with the complex flavours you’d expect from kitchens with more than one rosette to their name, with the added bonus of many locally sourced ingredients.
In fact our five-year-old was so enamoured with the sausages he had with mash for dinner that he ordered them again for breakfast – and the chef packed him off with a little packet of them when we left!Now that’s how to really make a good impression.