Carpenter’s Arms, Felixkirk
With British pubs closing at a rate of 40 a week, it might seem foolhardy to invest in three at once, but Michael Ibbotson owner of the Durham Ox at Crayke did just that with the Oak Tree at Helperby and the Punch Bowl at Marton cum Grafton. The first of the three to open was this one at Felixkirk near Thirsk and after a total refurb it’s now a modern, but not too modern village pub: warm, polished and comfortable, as cosy as a country pub should be with wool curtains, flagged floor, deep red walls and a fireplace.
The food is in the safe mainstream of North Yorkshire gastropubbery and there’s not much wrong with that: proper prawn cocktail, scallops in garlic and parsley butter, belly pork with black pudding, calves liver, sea bream, classic steak and chips, toasted sandwiches and a specials board.
Everywhere are masses of garden flowers supplied by Chris Blundell who lives up the road in the big house, Mount St John and who also happens to be Ibbotson’s business partner. Another bonus of the partnership is the magnificent walled kitchen garden that provides produce for the Carpenters kitchen. And what produce: apples, plums, figs, a dozen different types of tomato in the hot house along with aubergines, peppers and cucumbers. Salad leaves, tomatoes, peas and herbs go into a gorgeous goat’s cheese salad. Wheelbarrows laden with apples and plums are delivered to the kitchen door to be made into chutney or jam for the Bakewell tart. Anything Mount St John can supply gets used in the kitchen.
We also like to take a bit of credit for a new menu of vegetable dishes they’ve brought in. Having taken Ibbotson to task in a Yorkshire Post review for the lack of decent non-meat dishes at the Durham Ox, Ibbotson promised me he would include some. He’s done better than that. He’s created menu called ‘A Celebration of Vegetables’, which takes the fabulous produce that comes down the lane from Mount St John and provides a choice of eight dishes, they include eggs florentine, nicoise salad, ragout of vegetable gnocchi, courgette crostini.
And if you like it all enough, you can now stay the night. They’ve just opened eight new rooms at the back.