Saturday, July 12, 2008
The White Horse at Emley
Pub number eleven in the burgeoning Ossett estate opened it’s doors to the world last night, and disguised as a local hack from the Huddersfield Daily Unexamined I managed a quick nosey and even some rather good ale (a real rarity in these parts). This is the company's first foray into rural pub ownership and represents a significant change of tack for an outfit whose reputation rests entirely on it's championing of the Real Ale Revolution in urban West Riding locations. Sensibly a couple with many years experience of running similar backwater food pubs has been found to manage The White Horse (rather than the usual promotion from within), acknowledging the fact that this will be a very different proposition not to mention gamble if handled badly.
There are few surprises decor-wise, with Ossett's trademark pseudo-rusticity dominating throughout, comprising dark-stained furnishings, exposed stonework and flagged floors. I was rather hoping that maybe a piece of local history would have featured such as a bit of the original giant TV mast that famously collapsed nearly forty years ago or at least some old newspaper accounts of how locals were skewered by six foot icicles falling from the enormous cables supporting the doomed structure - but never mind, there are some very nice prints of white horses in the theme room.
No expense is spared when it comes to the bar in an Ossett pub and the White Horse is no exception with some fine craftsmanship on show - but I must admit I didn't expect to find eight real ales on it! Granted, this is the bare minimum at the other ten pubs but out here in the sticks with little passing trade, a poor bus service and in what is destined to be a food orientated pub, it's difficult to see how so much beer will shift. Obviously I'll be doing my bit since I'm near by, but I'm just not sure how many beer drinkers will be driving out to Emley on a regular basis. Of course there may be a substantial number of neglected ale fans residing locally who are chomping at the bit in anticipation of their own beer oasis, but we're a rare breed these days so I somehow doubt it.
The entire village seemed to have turned out for the opening which was encouraging though a large percentage were hitting the Holsten Pils - now there's a name I hadn't seen, heard or even thought about since the days of those naff ads with Griff Rhys Jones - but hey, it's still with us! I guess this must be the obligatory standard Brit-brewed lager in the absence of Becks, Stella and the two C-words though I have to say it does come in a rather nice glass! Emley's other pub the Green Dragon (Tetleys) has had little or no competition of late but I would imagine will be feeling the pinch by the end of next week. The place has suffered from chronic neglect for years so I can't imagine that getting accepted, not usually an easy thing in rural communities, will pose too much of a problem for Ossett in Emley.
The key to success here will undoubtedly be the food, in particular Sunday lunches. There is a fair bit of up-market, albeit largely beerless competition where dining is concerned nearby, but if The White Horse can achieve the popularity of say the Riverhead's restaurant at Marsden (Ossett's only other gastro-pub, for want of a better description), then it really will be in a league of it's own. The attractive dining room features just seven tables and will be doing business by the end of the month.
The beer choice on this opening night was the usual mixture of Ossetts, Fullers London Pride, a mild from Fernandes, the excellent Phoenix Spotland Gold and a first outing for Riverhead's Centenary Ale, brewed to commemorate Huddersfield Town FC's 100th birthday. A very well-hopped and enjoyable 3.9% ale, this is certainly one for the tickers and, considering the great affinity between Emley FC and their big brothers down the road, should prove to be something of an ice-breaker with the villagers. Now whoever had that idea deserves to go far!