The Blue Lion is in one of Yorkshire’s most strikingly pretty villages. East Witton with its handsome greensward bordered by a horseshoe of honey-coloured cottages, and like so many proper English villages, at its heart sit the pub and the church. Richard Whiteley of Calendar and Countdown, who died too young, is buried in the churchyard. He was a friend and former colleague of ours and the Blue Lion was his local. Trust Richard to ferret out the best pub in Lower Wensleydale.
Yellowing walls, soft lights, an inglenook fireplace with logs collapsing to ash and hissing away gently. It all seems timeless except that it’s only been like this since Paul Klein took over in 1990. Before then, it was run by the eccentric Bessie Fletcher and a bit of a dive by all accounts. She served beer from a jug and kept the door locked. The flagged floor, the old settles, the ticking grandfather clock and the hunting and shooting-alia, are central to a sensitive refurb, and it’s lovely.
The food matches the setting. The blackboard is full of big, bold British dishes like leek and potato broth, suet pud., smoked haddock and sliced potatoes topped with Gruyere cheese and a poached egg, roast pork with crackling and bags of seasonal game from the Jervaulx estate. But it’s not all hearty and traditional, chef John Dalby can turn his hand to more modish dishes like soft shell crab, or red snapper with noodles and a cracking liquorice ice cream. Eat in the bar, the back bar, the candlelit dining room or hire an elegant private room. If the Blue Lion is all too good to leave, they have 15 bedrooms.
East Witton, Nr Leyburn, North Yorkshire DL8 4SNTel 01969 624273
Review by Jill, 7 December 2011blog comments powered by Disqus