THE woman walking back to the next table seems to be carrying a relief model of Mount Kilimanjaro.
No it’s not, it’s her Sunday lunch.
A small river of green beans and red cabbage is running down the mashed potato slopes into a lake of gravy. That plate is stacked so high they could be clouds circling the peak. No, they’re cauliflower florets.
If you think that’s big you should see the feller’s next to her. He’s got an Everest.
I’ve half a mind to ask him if I can photograph it but reckon I just might get punched.
We are at Cubley Hall Hotel’s fabled carvery, where people go every Sunday to stuff themselves silly.
“I once saw this guy and you could have lifted his plate with a fork lift truck,” says co-owner John Wigfield, quoted on the website as saying: “It’s no sin to ask for more.”
You might be able to scoff till you drop at Cubley, just outside Penistone, but you wait for the command.
Diners are escorted to the counter when the food is good and ready, for this is no tired, jaded carvery.
“The secret is to have the through-put then the food refreshes itself. There’s nothing worse than soggy vegetables,” adds John.
We muse that there is a direct correlation between the size of the diner and the size of their plate. From our observations the other Sunday, there probably is.
The carvery is in a former barn at Cubley, which celebrates its 30th anniversary as a pub next month. It’s one half of a business which includes Staindrop Lodge at Chapeltown, run by fellow director David Slater.
A main course, with a choice of roasts or all three, costs £9.25 for adults, £5.25 for kids. Two courses are £13.
There is an a la carte if you want to look at it but who would when you can scoff pork, beef and turkey with Yorkshire pudding, sausage in bacon, stuffing, roast, boiled and mashed potatoes (with cheese), green beans, red cabbage, spring cabbage, cauliflower (cheese sauce optional), mashed swede, carrots, roast parsnips and gravy?
What’s more, with the exception of some wet Paxo-ey stuffing and thin gravy, it’s a lot better than in many places I’ve been to.
The story goes (and it is true) that a foreign businessman was once taken here and was so smitten by the Sunday lunch that he hired head chef David Brown to cook for him at his place in the Bahamas. These days the head chef is Richard Cooke.
Cubley was once best known for its vinegar brewery which closed over half a century ago. These days it’s for the hall, a former mansion, which became a pub in 1982.
But if you’re after Sunday lunch walk behind the ivy-clad building to the stone barn which was opened eight years later as a function suite (they do 100 weddings a year here) and restaurant.
It’s got unplastered walls (one party had stuck on their own balloons and banners with Blu-Tack), beams, old harnesses and strings of fairy lights.
They can do 200 lunches on a Sunday, in sittings, between noon and 1pm and again between 3pm and 4pm, so the kitchen and the food is not being unduly hammered and nor are diners’ stomachs. You can take two and a half hours for lunch should you want.
It was probably a little reckless, in view of what was to come, for me to go for the grilled pork and leek sausage with onion mash and red wine gravy but it is a lovely sausage and I enjoy it.
My wife has a differently arranged prawn cocktail, a timbale of prawns with a choron sauce (béarnaise minus tarragon plus tomato).
When we get the nod to go to the service counter we need no second bidding. I am tempted to pile my own plate up to mini-Everest proportions, if only for the sake of a photograph, but I would have felt duty-bound to eat it all and then been taken home in an ambulance.
Instead I stick to beef and pork, sausage and bacon – “we don’t get many refusals,” chuckles the chef – and a healthy selection of fresh vegetables. Even so, it is almost twice the size of a normal plateful.
Here they cook the beef to grey, probably because of local preference, although it is tasty enough. Far better is the moist, juicy pork. My wife also has beef with very commendable turkey. And the vegetables, all as fresh as a daisy (no frozen peas), are no mere afterthought.
It’s best to book here. We didn’t but manager Astero Booth, who runs things admirably, found us a table.
I’m not planning on dessert – too full – but my wife insists it is our duty to report back from the kitchen front. Last time we came it was scorched apple pie, hidden by custard. This time it’s far better, a sprightly lemon tart (£4.95) to share.
We finish with coffee and mints (£1.65).
Our bill comes to £34.25.
We didn’t need any tea.
The Dawes Verdict
Mortimer Road, Penistone S36 9DF.
Tel: 01226 766 086.
Carvery Sundays noon-6pm. Food served in pub all week. Credit cards. Children welcome. Play area. Beer garden. Car park.
Sunday Lunch 4