Thursday, May 03, 2007

Riverhead Revisited

I wasn't expecting to be back in Marsden quite so soon, but an invite to a pre-launch meal at the Riverhead Brewery Tap Dining Room was too good to turn down. With the upstairs conversion now complete, and opening night just a few days away, it was guinea pig time at Ossett Brewery's new eatery, and for one night only, I turned food critic! Unfortunately I know nothing about food, except that it mostly comes in cans or newspapers, but I can say something about the decor in this twelve cover first floor restaurant. As I mentioned in my last piece on the pub, I was looking forward to judging the Riverhead after dark to see what kind of atmosphere would be created, 'cos whilst many people aren't especially bothered about ambiance when popping in for a pint or two, sitting down to a meal is a very different thing.

First impressions were good though and even before reaching the table a particularly comfortable, even up-market feel told you that this would be an enjoyable hour or two - food permitting of course! Continuing the theme from the bar, the walls feature the works of local landscape photographers, and very inspiring they are too - well to me anyway! A small bar stocking wine and bottled beer doesn't interfere with the layout too much and the sturdy dark stained tables and chairs are well enough spaced to allow waitress access together with a degree of privacy. The staff were smart (everyone in the company's embroidered black shirts) and very courteous too although inexperience showed through on a couple of occasions.

I suppose it might be reasonable to expect one or two unusual local delicacies to pop up on the menu from time to time, like Cuckoo pie perhaps, but with sooo many fresh sheep around these parts I personally wouldn't need to look any further than a good old rack of lamb (and it will be featuring on the full menu so I'm promised!) Our limited sample menu tonight included a rich liver pate made with Ossett's own Treacle Stout (which has also found it's way into some special edition sausage so I believe), Pork Fillet served with a plum, ginger and white wine sauce and a homemade strawberry cheesecake plus comlementary bottle of house wine. Presentation was pretty without being over-fussy and, with the exception of the vegatables which were a little mushy for me, the preparation spot on. I expect that should you require a pint from the main bar to complement your meal that there will be someone on hand to fetch it, but I didn't test this - it was a freebie after all and I didn't want to push it!

For me personally a night out drinking a few decent ales rarely goes hand in hand with a three course meal but here you have the choice all under one roof with the emphasis on quality. The appeal will be across the board in Marsden, with an afternoon menu for the walkers and something a little more substantial for those in the evening who prefer to be away from a busy main bar. It wouldn't work everywhere of course and I don't expect any of the brewery's other pubs to follow suit, but in this part of the world it can't help but succeed. Viva the reinvented Pie & Ale House! It could be the new Starbucks!

Apologies for the lack of decent photos this time, I got rather carried away with the food and wine and basically forgot to pick the camera up. Shalln't be giving up the day-job obviously!

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