A Punter’s View of The Pipe & Glass, South Dalton, by Savour writer Dave MacKay
Right, I want you to close your eyes, well, not actually because you won’t be able to read this review, so metaphorically close them. Now I want you to picture your ideal country pub. Done? Good, because I imagine that what you have just pictured won’t be a million miles from The Pipe & Glass.
Set on South Dalton estate, in miles of beautiful countryside, this former coaching inn dates back to the 17th-Century and has an oak beamed bar and a large dining room set in a conservatory which looks out over the 500-year-old yew tree in the beautifully tended back garden. Upstairs is the 10-seater Hotham Room in which parties can have menus specifically curated for them.
Celebrated chef James Mackenzie, and his wife Kate, took on the Pipe & Glass in 2006. The Yorkshire born and bred chef had previously worked as head chef for Andrew Pern at the Michelin-starred, Star Inn, in Harome. James and Kate focussed on simple cooking using the best local produce at The Pipe & Glass. This led to their first Michelin star by 2010, something that they have rightfully held ever since.
A Punter’s View is designed to reflect the experience of the customer rather than just a critique of the food, because it is the whole experience which is important. So how about I walk you through our stay?
We arrived, giddy with excitement, and spent a couple of hours in the sunshine trying the various beverages on offer, including The Pipe & Glass’s own ale: InnSpire and their own wine and gin. We chatted to various people, mostly about their dogs, and looked at the cyclists in lycra who had stopped off for a quality lunch. Suitably refreshed, we headed for our room.
The Pipe & Glass has five “garden” rooms, each with their own terrace, which are set in and around the rear garden – which not only serves as a relaxing vista and strolling destination but is also a working herb garden, so you should fully expect to see one or more chefs pottering around collecting ingredients likely to end up on your dish.
There are also now five further rooms at the end of the road in The Old Lambing Yard, which is a five-minute walk away. We have now stayed in all of the garden rooms. We have not done any of the Lambing Yard rooms as, frankly, we can’t be bothered walking. The rooms we have stayed in are all beautifully decorated and appointed.
On arrival, there are biscuits, popcorn, tea, coffee and a welcome letter the rooms are kitted out with a Bose sound system, Nespresso machine, warm blanket for the colder nights on the terrace … I could go on. Oh, and there’s a button next to the bed which turns the shower on so it’s warm by the time you get in!
The largest and most luxurious garden room is Mint, which is worth the extra money for special occasions but even the standard rooms, such as Sage, are among the best hotel rooms we have ever stayed in, anywhere.
Back round to the dining room then for our meal. No taster menus here, no foams, no dry ice, no atom sized portions. This is just good, hearty grub with dishes as simple as steak and chips and sausage and mash.
Starters were gin-cured trout with an oyster fritter and a mature cheddar rarebit for Mrs Punter. Both were polished off with absolutely no ceremony and certainly no offering of sharing.
My main course was chicken and veg. OK, so it is described slightly differently on the menu but that’s what it was. And it was fantastic. In James Mackenzie’s hands even chicken, possibly the dullest of birds, was taken to a new level and was complemented by some great greens and a healthy dollop of truffle.
Mrs Punter stuck to her usual course of sampling the vegetarian menu and was moved to make small whimpering noises and she demolished her pea and mint ravioli with parmesan crips. It’s not the first time the servings were so generous that we had completely given up on the idea of anything approaching pudding, but it turns out that the staff had other ideas as a single chocolate dessert with “Happy Birthday” on it was thrust in front of us. Never ones to offend, we were compelled to finish it off and we pleased that we went that extra mile, as did our waistlines.
A nightcap and then back to the room to bed.
Did I mention the beds? They are clearly made from the fluff from a newborn angel’s bottom because they are so soft and comfortable.
They are huge as well, I even had to text Mrs Punter in the room to see if she was awake. Breakfast, which you order the day before, features fresh juice, yoghurt with granola and fruit, toast and a choice of cooked breakfasts. I had the smoked haddock and eggs, a take on Kedgeree, and Mrs P went with poached eggs on toast with a hefty sized mushroom.
Yet again, I was unable to finish, although that might have something to do with the aggressive sampling of the bar day before. And that was our lot for another year, it was our eighth straight visit and it won’t be our last.