IF you drove through Brinsworth in search of a tip-top meal and passed the undistinguished looking Sidings pub with its banner advertising pensioner specials you would probably not even take your foot off the accelerator.
Its humble red brick 1990s exterior on the edge of an estate wouldn’t suggest that here you could get some of the best pub food around.
You wouldn’t think that in this one-time ‘rough pub’ the chef could rustle you up a dish that posher places would call rabbit three ways, but is essentially rabbit stuffed with black pudding, with its own sausage and, as an extra, a rabbit meatball
That chef, Les Allen, wanted to advertise it as rabbit farci on the specials blackboard but pub boss John Fox wondered if customers “might think it was something to do with Brian Rix,” smiled Les.
But, say, you hadn’t read the glowing reports on TripAdvisor, which have brought clients from as far as Hebden Bridge, and you’d gone inside and read the menu, the following might get those tastebuds tickling...
“Our chef makes all his own sauces, chutneys, piccalilli and custard, not to mention pies, pastry and mushy peas. Our chips are made from Marfona potatoes, peeled and chipped at the pub.”
Ah, those trigger words: pies and custard.
So, after reading the menu ‘credits’ to local suppliers (but not the lads who brought in the rabbits, a quid for the one shot clean through the head and 50p for the bunny which got a broadside) you might very possibly sit back and say show me, then.
As we did. And I have to give Les full credit: he cooked his socks off.
John had always had a yen to run his own pub the proper way – good beer, good food and it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg– and looked at 30 before the Sidings (the railway runs behind it), a pub with “a reputation.”
He bought it outright. “I wanted a traditional pub.” There is a taproom and a lounge, a large, carpeted area with exposed beams, big bay windows, banquette seating running round the walls and real ales.
For food he hired Les, aged 59, whom I first wrote about when he switched from landscape gardening to cheffing and did so well he later employed his old boss.
He grew up and went to school in the village so Brinsworth is home. He also wanted to do proper English food, nothing continental, make it from scratch and didn’t have a boss who wanted the ingredients from Makro. He’s free to snuffle around the area for suppliers “and it’s cheaper,” says Les.
On the starters there’s whitebait, creamy wild mushrooms with Yorkshire Blue and truffle oil, deep-fried Yorkshire brie and a very decent if slightly too chilled chicken liver parfait served with one of Les’s chutneys (get that vinegar zing) and garlic croutes for a knockdown £3.95.
I had a knockout mushroom soup, dense and rich, finished off with truffle oil (what’s that stuff about not going continental Les?) served in a big coffee cup for £3.
Mains are mostly under a tenner. You can have cod or coley and chips, gammon steak with duck egg and pineapple chutney, sea bass with pan haggerty, a Northumbrian tummy sticker of potatoes and onions which once saw me through an eight-week strike (the haggerty, that is, not the sea bass) and pies.
Now the pie is terrific, not individual but cut from a tray with a top and bottom of really good, crumbly buttery pastry with great mouthfeel. There was a choice of filling and my wife chose the one with creamy chicken and leek (£7.75). Pie night is Tuesday (and this week is National Pie Week).
“This has got to be worth a tenner, she said, savouring the thick chips with soft-as-butter interiors and the homemade mushy peas.
I’d lashed out £10.50 on the rabbit special. What Les had done was wrap chunks of saddle meat and black pudding into a cylinder of bacon, roast then section it into three. He’d blitzed the leg meat with black pudding to make a very tasty sausage. The rest of the meat was rolled into a ball, covered in panko breadcrumbs and deep-fried as a “rabbit bon bon.”
There was a heap of creamy mash and another as a puree of roasted roots (carrot and swede, I think), rounded off with a rabbit gravy. Wonderful.
By this time we knew we had to give top marks but ordered the treacle sponge with ‘real custard’ £3.50) to make sure. “Light, fluffy, lovely,” said my wife as I admired the little jug of vanilla-flecked custard.
Now you’d expect to find this sort of food in a quaint country pub, not in the middle of Brinsworth.
Les does a two-course £7.95 senior citizen daytime menu in the week. There’s a home made children’s menu and veggie dishes – vegans, people with nut allergies and coeliacs can ring to check what’s on.
We paid £28.70 for food.
A little find.
The Dawes Verdict
Whitehill Lane, Brinsworth, South Yorkshire S60 5HE.
Tel: 01709 296 024.
Open for food daily noon-8.30pm (until 4pm Sundays). Sunday lunch, roasts, £7.95. Credit cards. Disabled access and toilets. Car park.