Dinner becomes a two-leg affair because of play-offs in pub and dancers in restaurant...
I’d seen it from the Sheffield to Lincoln train many times and wondered.
An old fashioned traditional pub – The Station Hotel at Kiveton Park - with a separate restaurant at the back called the Backyard Grill where, I imagined, the folk of Kiveton, Todwick and Anston might go for a steak or ribs of an evening.
To be honest, although it’s a pleasant enough trip, there’s not a lot to fire the imagination on that particular rail line.
I’m not sure even railway-loving poet John Betjeman would have been able to find inspiration in this particular stretch of unmitigated England.
So the Backyard grill provided food for thought between Shireoaks and Sheffield.
We booked for Thursday night at 7.30 – unwittingly on the same day as the first leg of Sheffield United’s League One play-off against Swindon.
More of which later.
The Station Hotel itself has just undergone £500,000 worth of renovations, transforming it – according to landlord Chris Bancroft – from a “dark little four-room pub that was full with 25 people in it, to a one-room pub that can get 225 people in.”
Chris also has plans to make more changes.
“We have a play area and we will be opening a roof-top patio for next summer,” said former motor trade director Chris.
“Next to the restaurant there is a patio that doesn’t get used much so we are going to make that into a conservatory for next winter so we can seat up to 120 people for funeral wakes, christenings and private parties etc.”
It was considerably less busy than that when we went.
In fact we were the only people there, but there were more on the way.
‘It’s up to you’, said Chris as we sat down at the table we booked for 7.30pm.
“You can eat in here but there is a dance class in here from 8.30 so you might want to move in to the pub to eat.”
We decided to go in to the pub but when we got there the restaurant felt more conducive to eating than the pub, with its central bar, pool tables and Sky Sports screens.
So we went back but said we would have dessert in the pub when the zumba group showed up.
Food-wise I went for a crispy seaweed starter and my wife had mozzarella sticks with Cranberry sauce.
Instead of arriving as expected in a green mound of crispy fuzz the seaweed came in sheets stacked together along with a salad without dressing.
They were pleasant enough but lacked crunch and seasoning and all the fun of the fuzz.
When I asked Chris about this later he said that’s just how Costco does them, as do Makro apparently.
The mozzarella sticks were fine with a crispy breadcrumb outer and came with plenty of cranberry sauce and a side salad that went down well.
For main course I had a mixed grill.
And meat feast it was, the star of the fleshy show being a beautifully cooked – I asked for medium and it was bang on – sirloin steak.
It was perfect.
Along with that came a huge piece of gammon, a pork steak, a moist and tender piece of chicken breast, a slice of excellent black pudding and, it has to be said, a disappointingly bready sausage.
But the meat was very good, as was my wife’s Hawaiian chicken that came with pineapple and bacon and French fry style chips.
Nicely cooked moist chicken with good salty bacon and sweet griddled pineapple.
“We get our meats from Mick McCall’s butchers in North Anston – it’s all good stuff.”
It certainly is and there was so much of it that I finished the steak and asked for most of the rest to be wrapped to take home.
That was to make way for dessert and the play-offs in the bar, populated by a few United fans.
I would like to go back to the Backyard for the carvery – which is sold out every Sunday Chris told us – to get a flavour of the atmosphere when things are flowing.
United were winning 1-0 when we got to the bar but that turned out to be a false dawn – the first of many over the two legs.
We chose lemon cheesecake and chocolate brownie with cream – ‘Would I like the brownie warm?’ Chris asked.
Indeed I did.
But I think the warming process may have dried out the brownie and it lacked that rich chocolately gooiness that makes this dessert so popular.
The cheesecake similarly lacked a bit of oomph and needed a belt of lemon zest or something to give it a lift.
All in all a victory on the night for the meat, Mick McCall and Swindon Town.
As for the zumba class, they never turned up.
Chris wasn’t sure why.
Something else to ponder on the train.
With a half of Stella Artois our bill came to £41.40.
Star ratings out of 5
* The Backyard Grill, Red Hill, Kiveton Park, S26 6NP.
* Open for breakfast: 9-11.30am; lunch or afternoon tea 12.30-3.30pm, evening meals 5-9pm.