IT was an idyllic summer’s evening in the chocolate-box village of Cawthorne...
The car park at the Spencer Arms was packed with most of the outside tables and chairs taken as the punters basked in the warming sunshine on arguably the finest evening so far of the depressing English summer.
Cawthorne, on the outskirts of Barnsley, is listed in the Domesday Book, and is as far removed from the classic music hall image of the town as is possible. It is a regular nominee for prettiest village award regionally and nationally and with the attractions of Cannon Hall, the former home of John Spencer Stanhope, behind the village – a grand country estate with gardens and lakes by Capability Brown – it is a magnet for tourists.
Also in the village is the Victoria Jubilee Museum, an historic church – and its country inn, the Spencer, draws in trade from far and wide.
The Spencer Arms pub, built in 1720, has recently been given an extensive makeover, combining a mixture of olde-worlde charm on the exterior, with a contemporary, stylish interior, but it has retained the intimate cosy nature of a local pub, with open fires and candles.
We called in on a Monday evening. With so many people around and ‘reserved’ signs on several of the tables in the main restaurant area, it crossed my mind that we should have booked in advance. Would they be able to fit us in?
It turned out that all was well and we were allocated a corner table with a view out towards the village green and a cooling breeze wafting in from the open door leading onto the patio.
We were given copies of the ‘Menewe’ which, though not extensive, looked promising. As well as the Menewe there was the ‘Prix Fixe Menu’ alternative, offering two courses for £14.95 or three courses for £17.95. The starters on this menu were Soup; Spicy, Breaded Wheel of Goats’ Cheese deep fried with garlic crostini, mixed salad leaves and a chick pea puree; Smoked Chicken and Chorizo Salad with roasted pimento, tomato and a balsamic dressing or Shredded Ham Hock timbale, pineapple pickle and quail’s egg with an English mustard dressing.
The mains choices were Four-hour Braised Lamb Shoulder with pomme puree, shallot, spinach and walnut confit and red wine jus; Fillet of Sea Bass with potatoes bataille, roasted fennel and chive and truffle cream sauce; Marmalade Confit of Duck Leg, with bubble and squeak mash and braised red cabbage or Mediterranean Vegetables in a herbed ragout, bound with penne pasta and topped with buffalo mozzarella. For desserts there was a choice of Treacle Tart with vanilla ice cream and chilled caramel sauce; Strawberry and Vanilla Cheesecake with rose water cream and tuille biscuit; Chocolate Brownie with pistachio ice cream and strawberry milkshake or Rich Fruit Cake with clotted cream ice cream.
We chose from the Menewe and for starters I went for the Grilled Tuna Loin served with a Caesar salad – or in my case a modified Caesar salad. I am allergic to eggs, so I asked if the salad dressing contained any. We got the message back from the chef that it did, so I decided to give the sauce a miss. My tuna came with a salad, largely of lettuce and dry croutons. The tuna was expertly presented – a sizeable piece of prime fish cooked to perfection.
Carol, though, had less success with her choice. She ordered the Seafood Cocktail, billed as prawns bound in a Bloody Mary sauce with crayfish tails, king prawns and shredded gem lettuce. What she got was what appeared to be a prawn cocktail in mayonnaise, with lettuce.