Long time followers of the Yorkshire restaurant scene will fondly remember the Black Bull at Moulton up near Scotch Corner: the seafood bar loaded with crab and lobster, the oysters on silver trays of ice, the wood paneling, the marble-topped tables, the conservatory hanging with vines, even a heraldic coat of arms from Lagos Town Council. Most memorable of all though was the 1932 Brighton Belle Pullman dining car named Hazel complete with lace curtains, original lamps and starched white linen. It was all terribly north-Yorkshire-posh and we loved it. So did the Good Food Guide – it was a fixture there for 38 years until George and Audrey Pagenham’s retirement in 2006.
Its glory days over, the Black Bull went into decline and closed suddenly in February 2012 just as the owner Philip Barker, a Harrogate property developer (he recently refurbished the White Hart Hotel and Fat Badger bistro in Harrogate) was accused with eight others of mortgage fraud amounting to £30 million. Barker denies all charges. The trial date is yet to be announced.
The good news for the Black Bull is that Michael Ibbotson and Chris Blundell the men behind the impressively successful Yorkshire chain of Provenance Inns are in negotiations to buy the landmark inn. ‘It was like the Marie Celeste when we went to look,’ said Ibbotson. ‘The bar was still full of bottles.’ It needs a lot of work and money but if anyone can bring the Bull back to life these guys can. They’ve turned round the Carpenters Arms at Felixkirk, the Oak Tree at Helperby, the Punch Bowl at Marton cum Grafton and the West Park Hotel in Harrogate and if all goes smoothly Moulton may soon have its country inn back again.
And the Brighton Belle? Sadly that’s gone, but to a good home. It was bought by the charity, the 5Bel Trust who in August craned it on to a low loader and trundled it down the A1 to Derby with plans to spend £300,000 restoring the lovely old art deco carriage to its former elegance and put it into mainline service.