Blue Lion, East Witton
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 sits 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 fullof big, bold British flavours like suet pud with colcannon, North Sea cod with shellfish cream. It’s not all hearty and traditional, chef Jon Appleby can turn his hand to more modish dishes like Blue Wensleydale and leek risotto or grilled halibut with hollandaise. Eat in the bar, the back bar or the candlelit dining room and if the Blue Lion is all too good to leave, they have 15 bedrooms.