by Debbie Djordjevic
Being sent to Yorkshire to review a restaurant or two is nothing but a pleasure. Forget the stereotypes of whippets, flat-caps and wellies, this county has brilliant bars and clubs in it’s towns and cities, and fabulous fine-dining in even small remote villages. Which is where I found The Gray Ox Inn at Hartshead, a small but lovely village of old stone houses not far from Huddersfield in West Yorkshire (so not too remote really).
Sitting on a beautiful spot and overlooking the moors, Brighouse and Huddersfield, this 18th century former ale house where locals would bring their own tankard for filling, is now a smartly decorated, warm and welcoming country pub with great food. It’s everything a pub like this should be – roaring log fire, flagstone floors, well-stocked bar and plenty of places to while away an hour or two on a winter break.
We were there to take a look at the menu created by Executive Chef Mark Owens and owner Craig Minto and sample the menu at lunchtime while soaking up the atmosphere. They’ve taken into account that this is a traditional Yorkshire pub building in a traditional town – but have proved that you can take ingredients and recipes that are fresh and local and create something quite surprising for visitors and locals alike. The menu is therefore varied though reasonably small and reflects the desire to use local produce and create something with great care and thought. Vegetarians have a couple of starter options and one main – so not a huge variety, but with Portobello mushroom, Yorkshire blue cheese and kale Wellington with parmentier potatoes and creamed leeks being the chosen main course, any veggies are bound to be happy.
We started with a crispy hen’s egg cooked in the lightest of batters and served with mushroom and butternut squash puree and black truffle and small scallops served in a large scallop shell and topped with leeks in a soft cheese sauce. Both were the perfect size with a balance to the flavours, and the hen’s egg cooked in this way, was a delicious surprise!
Moving on to mains, I chose twelve hour braised belly of Gloucester Old Spot pig and can honestly say I’ve never had pork belly like it. Usually done to a crisp yet this time having been braised, it was soft, full-flavoured and had a melt-in-the-mouth quality which was hard to beat. The black pudding was an inspired addition as were the honey roasted parsley roots (something I don’t think I have ever had), and the tiny sweet-coated apple, provided a new spin on apple sauce to accompany the pork.
Deciding to go for a slightly lighter option and failing miserably, my partner chose the buttered roast salmon fillet, warm potato and crab salad with samphire, brown shrimp & tarragon beaurre noisette. This was a good-sized portion of salmon done perfectly so it flaked to the touch and wasn’t at all dry. Samphire is a truly British product that’s too often overlooked – especially on lunchtime menus, but it added a unique flavour and set off the shrimp to perfection.
It was hard to believe that we’d have any room for dessert but as our mission was to really test out the full menu that The Gray Ox had to offer, it would have been rude not to indulge. The chocolate brownie with Bailey’s ice-cream (my choice) was in fact more like a rich, gooey muffin served with a chocolate sauce. Warm, filling, darkly rich and oozing this was well worth the extra calories.
The other dessert chosen was about as far removed from school dinner crumble and custard as you can possibly get. Again the crumble is more like a beautifully formed muffin, the custard is hand-made, flavoured with a sprinkling of nutmeg and makes all the difference. The fruit here was Bramley apple & pecan – the perfect dessert for a winter’s day.
Prices range from £5- £7 for starters, £11- £24 for mains and around £6 for a dessert. There’s an early-bird menu which provides excellent value, especially given the high standard of the food, from Monday-Friday 12-2 and 6-7. Two courses are £10 and 3 courses £13 although it is advisable to book in advance.
Sunday lunch looks to be an absolute treat and two courses are an unbeatable £14.
The Gray Ox Inn, 15 Hartshead Lane, Liversedge, WF15 8AL.