Ilkley Moor Vaults, Ilkley
A million years ago when Jill and I worked together at YTV, an enterprising set designer, David McDermott, opened Arts Bar & Café in Leeds, which more often than not was full of telly folk taking long liquid lunches. Those were the days. Anyway. It was innovative, interesting and the food was good. There must be something in the McDermott genes, as his son Joe has created a very similar ethos and feel in his rescued Ilkley boozer. Joe and his wife Elizabeth took the reins of ‘the Taps’ five years ago; it was in a pretty sorry state but it’s scrubbed up rather well. It still feels like a proper pub, with flagged floors, beams and open fires, and there are some nice touches; vintage standard lamps with the kind of fussy shades my auntie Ethel had in her ‘best’ room, tea lights and contemporary artwork on the walls. Service is bright and intelligent without being breezy, you’re never hassled – quite the opposite, the feeling is ‘stay – read – eat – relax’.
Food here is honest, simple and the very opposite of squidbeakery. The short menu (size does matter. Where menus are concerned, short is always preferable) changes regularly, but will always include meat and fish smoked out back in the yard. In summer, leaves and herbs are picked from their garden, they do their own pickling, and Elizabeth makes sour dough bread daily. Bread so good you want to take the loaf home. (There’s an idea if you’re reading this guys!) Ham terrine with pub grown gherkins and toast is a wholesome chunk of succulent, tender meat with a doorstep of the aforementioned sour dough. Vaults rarebit with pub cured bacon and chutney is a fantastic snack and a great accompaniment to a pint of Tim Taylors. Roast Lishman’s beef, Yorkshire pudding and all the trimmings is a steal at 10.90; there’s always a good veg option, perhaps Moroccan spiced tagine, couscous and mint yoghurt. School dinner puds complete the retro treat; apple crumble and jam sponge both good; rice pudding and homemade damson jam is nothing like the slop you were dished up at school. If you’re in the mood for a proper pub with interesting, honest food and a friendly, lively atmosphere, this is the place.