General Tarleton, Ferrensby
John Topham deserves to be heartily sick of making little moneybags of seafood in a lobster sauce. He’s been making them for 25 years ever since his days as head chef at the Angel at Hetton, the famous Dales inn that we like to think started the whole gastropub phenomenon.
John Topham and the Angel’s late owner Denis Watkins were the dream team which back in the early 80s served great food and decent wine in a pub before anyone else had thought of the idea and had people queuing 20 deep for a table at the bar.
In 1998 they bought the General Tarleton together, a whitewashed roadhouse on the Knaresborough to Boroughbridge road. Eventually John and Claire Topham took sole ownership and made it their own.
Today the GT has 14 bedrooms a restaurant, brasserie and outdoor eating area. It’s all quite elegant. White napiary and polished silver in the restaurant, matching leather chairs in the brasserie, though I have to admit a liking for the bar when it was rougher and more relaxed where you could bag a Windsor chair and eat your moneybags or drink your wine at an old oak table by the fire.
The food, though, remains consistently strong in restaurant or brasserie. A bit more expensive in the former, plenty of old favourites in the latter. Wherever, you can be sure that John Topham always commits to good seasonal food and local produce: Swaledale cheese soufflé, slow braised Yorkshire Dales lamb. Lowna Dairy goats cheese tart and north sea fish pie topped with Fountains Gold cheese. Factor in chicken and leek pie, pork with apple sauce, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, salmon with hollandaise sauce, superior fish and chips. At dessert, the perennial crowd pleasers come out: brulees and brandy snaps, lemon tarts and sticky toffee.
We approve of their Family Simple Suppers served between 5.30pm and 6.45pm (and Sunday and Monday lunchtimes) – two courses for £12, three for £15. Great for families with kids wanting a decent meal in civilised surroundings, great for the GT who can pick up customers in that dead time before things get going around 7pm.