Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Lunch at The Gray Ox, Liversedge, West Yorkshire

I married a man who is originally from Huddersfield, and although many of his family are now living further down south, we love to go up to this part of the country and smell the fresh air and walk the hillsides. Things have certainly changed in the last 20 years since I've been going up and one of the most noticeable is the variety and quality of the pubs, inns and restaurants that are now to be visited and enjoyed.

As a journalist I have been all over the world writing for a variety of publications and I still like to keep my hand in where I can. My most recent commission was for Beautyandthedirt and lucky me, I was being sent to one of my favourite parts of the country to review three establishments, The Gray Ox Inn, The Craven Heifer and The Fleece.

Grilled Isle of Skye queenie scallops, gruyere cheese, Ripon Leeks, dressed leaves, £7

First stop-off was for lunch at the award winning Gray Ox Inn which sits on a beautiful spot on the moors overlooking Huddersfield, Brighouse and the surrounding countryside, just as it has since 1709. Originally an ale house where locals would bring their own tankard for filling, The Gray Ox Inn is very much a country pub that's welcoming, cosy and yet has modern flourishes that make sure it's not to be overlooked if you're on the look out for good food and wine. The decor is all recent - lovely soft furnishings, polished floors, muted coloured woodwork, providing the perfect place to meet friends or relax after a walk.

But it was lunch that we were there to try out and we certainly weren't disappointed with what we found. Great thought has gone into a menu that is created to reflect UK classics but with a truly modern twist. The menu is varied and although the vegetarian option is limited it did look good (in this instance a couple of starters and Portobello Mushroom, Yorkshire Blue Cheese and Kale Wellington with parmentier potatoes and creamed leeks for £11).

Crispy hens egg, butternut squash puree, sauteed wild mushrooms, fine frisee salad, black truffle £6

Our starters are in the first two pictures. The perfect size, cooked to perfection and a mix of delicate flavours none of which overwhelmed the other. Mushroom with butternut squash puree perfectly complemented the hen's egg which had the lightest of batters. The small scallops in a large shell came in a gentle cheesy sauce with leeks, no self respecting leek is anything without a good cheese sauce!

Next came the main courses. I opted for twelve hour braised belly of Gloucester Old Spot pig as seen below. I can honestly say I have never had port belly like it. Usually it is done to a crisp but this, having been braised, was soft, full-flavoured and had a melt-in-the-mouth quality which really is hard to beat. The black pudding was an inspired addition as were the honey roasted parsley root (something I don't think I have ever had), and the tiny sweet-coated apple, a new spin on apple sauce to accompany the pork.
Braised belly of pork, honey roasted parsley root, baby potato fondants, sage and onion jus £15

My companion decided to pace himself and chose the buttered roast salmon fillet, warm potato and crab salad with samphire, brown shrimp & tarragon beaurre noisette. This was a healthy portion of salmon done perfectly and not at all dry. The samphire is a truly British product that is too often overlooked - especially on lunchtime menus, but it adds a unique flavour and sets of the shrimp to perfection.

Roast salmon fillet, warm potato and crab salad, samphire with beaurre noisette

It was hard to believe that we would have any room left at all for dessert but we were on a mission to test the best that The Gray Ox had to offer, and it would have been rude not to. The brownie was in fact more like a rich, gooey muffin served with Bailey's Ice Cream and a chocolate sauce. Warm, filling, darkly rich and oozing this was well worth the extra calories. Not too sweet, in fact it could have done with vanilla ice-cream instead of Bailey's, as the chocolate was overwhelming and drowned out the flavour of the ice-cream.

Warm, chocolate brownie and ice-cream, £6

Again we were surprised by the second dessert. This is as far removed from school dinner crumble and custard as you can possibly get. Again the crumble is more like a beautifully formed muffin, the custard hand-made, flavoured with a sprinkling of nutmeg and makes all the difference. The fruit here was Bramley apple & pecan - the perfect dessert for a winter's day.

Fruit crumble with proper custard, £6
If you are in the area then this is well worth a visit. There's an early-bird menu which provides excellent value, especially given the high standard of the food, from Monday-Friday 12-2 and 6-7. Two courses are £10 and 3 courses £13 although it is advisable to book in advance.

I would love to see what a Sunday lunch is like here - two courses are an unbeatable £14.

The Gray Ox Inn, 15 Hartshead Lane, Liversedge, WF15 8AL.

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