We stride purposefully through the car park towards the Old Horns at High Bradfield and our Sunday lunch.
“You’ve remembered to put the handbrake on?” says my wife. “And left the car in gear?”.
Last time I came here, when the pub housed the Huntsman restaurant, a lucky backward glance caught my car opting to spend the evening in Low Bradfield, 500 feet below. Only a low kerb stopped it from getting there.
It’s a carvery all day on Sunday and on a good day (ie, when it’s cool) they can serve up to 400 covers.
We have chosen a Sunday when the temperature is at least 26C but it still looks pretty busy in the L-shaped dining area of the late 19th century stone-built pub in the lee of Bradfield Church.
The menu at this family-orientated pub is a bit like that old Scaffold song, Today’s Monday. Monday here is steak day, Tuesday is curry day, Wednesday is pie day, Thursday is burger day (and American ribs) and Friday, of course, is fish.
So what’s Saturday? I ask landlord John Wyke, after our three-meat Sunday lunch.
“Nothing special, just the menu. We don’t need it, we’re busy enough as it is,” he smiles broadly.
John took over the pub where he had once worked and knew well – he’s from Loxley – in late 2009 and immediately began ‘stripping out the restaurant and turning it back to what it is, a country pub”.
It’s a beams and Artex sort of place and two TV screens, with the sound turned off and music turned up.
John’s already got the Blueball Inn at Wharncliffe Side and Peacock at Stannington with his brother Ben so when the chance came to lease the pub from Thwaites he leapt at it.
The countryside around here is very beautiful. The best tables at the Horns are at the other end from the carvery counter where you can see the Bradfield Valley through the bay windows.
“People fight to get a table there,” says the girl at the bar when I go to top up on the guest beer, Wadworth 4X.
There are five handpumps but no local beer. The Bradfield Brewery is not far away and John agrees it is silly not to sell it but he’ll have to come to agreement with Thwaites.
As well as being pretty, the area is becoming a lot more interesting from the food and drink viewpoint. Apart from the brewery there is the Our Cow Molly ice cream farm at Dungworth and in Low Bradfield the Schoolrooms deli, café and bistro recently opened.
The carvery costs £7.95 for adults, £5.95 for less hungry teenagers and £3.95 for children. You pay at the bar and get a ticket to show to the obliging chef at the carvery.
There were three meats on offer, beef, pork and gammon and we had a slice of each. My wife didn’t want vegetables so ordered salad, which turned out to be a big, generous bowl with her choice of dressing, before she went for the meat.
If you like your beef pink you’ll not get it here but it certainly was flavoursome. The star joint, by a long way, was some excellent gammon. Our chef laboured long and hard to cut me some crackling from the pork.
“It’ll not be crisp. It goes soft under the heat lamps,” he warned. It was a pleasant chew and worth the effort.
With any carvery, the length of time the vegetables have been waiting is paramount. We timed it right with the arrival of a new batch of crisp roast potatoes. You help yourself to these and the rest of the veg, which includes the usual and some just-like-your-mother-used-to-make cauliflower cheese.
The Yorkshire Puddings are bought in and the gravy – slightly Bistoey but with meat juices – is ladled from a big vat.
All in all we thought it excellent value and if you’ve a vegetarian in the party there’s a nut roast with their own special gravy.
If none of this excites there is the standard menu, which includes, lasagne, fish and chips and Dambusters’ Pie (beef in Lancaster Bomber beer). Families should note that there’s also a beer garden and a play area. Among the customers were a couple of girl riders who had hitched their horses to a bench and were sharing a dish of chips.
There’s a lot of talk these days about community pubs but the Old Horns certainly seems to be one. It gets involved in the village music festival (Julian Lloyd Webber popped in for a meal before visiting here this summer) and churchgoers drop in after Sunday service.
“It’s a great community pub and we are very proud to be here,” says John.
So is Thwaites, which has just made the Old Horns its Food Pub of the Year and Pub of the Year.
At this point I should mention I had the fruit crumble (£3.95) for afters, which was nowhere near the standard of the mains, but that doesn’t stop me awarding the Old Horns, with its young, friendly, helpful staff, four well-earned stars.
The bill for food was £19.85.
- High Bradfield, Sheffield S6 6LG. Tel: 0114 285 1207.
- Open for food daily, Sunday carvery 11.30am-7pm. Vegetarian and gluten-free options. Credit cards. Disabled access (from the front) and toilet. - - - Large car park. Put your handbrake on. Web site: www.theoldhorns.co.uk
- Sunday lunch rating (out of five) HHHH