THERE has been much coming and going at The Fountain Inn Hotel at Ingbirchworth in recent times.
Sadly, for the owners and the locals, the significant movements have involved the inn’s landlords.
There have been many.
In April last year I visited the Fountain for an evening meal and in my review I noted that the food was very good, but that the atmosphere was “subdued”.
Admittedly, it was midweek, but that evening there appeared to be just me, my wife and the waitress in the place.
Since then there have been several ins and outs on the managerial front, a near constant flow.
So when we had heard that there had been another change in licensee at the Rag and Louse, as many a local still calls the place, we decided to drop in unannounced and suss it out – after all it is just down the road apiece from where we live and a pub I have visited often since the Swinging Sixties.
It had been some time since we wended our way along Wellthorne Lane, the setting for the Fountain, and there has been much new development there which has been completed since we last called.
It was early evening, but we immediately noticed a distinct change.
The car park was dotted with vehicles and cars were parked at the side of the pub over the road just like the good old days at the 17th century former coaching inn just off the A629 Huddersfield to Sheffield road.
We went in through the former games room area and gravitated up to the snug bar, a favourite haunt of ours over the years, where we were greeted by a roaring log fire in the hearth – the weather had suddenly turned autumnal that day – and a cheerful welcome from the man behind the bar and one of the friendly locals.
There was a distinct buzz of activity about the place. So far so good.
We ordered our drinks and were soon engaged in conversation.
The man behind the bar was in fact genial David Dobson, who made a name for himself in the Huddersfield area as mine host at the Bulls Head at Blackmoorfoot, Linthwaite – a pub featured in this column back in 2009 after colleague Andy Jackson popped in to savour its festive fayre.
Back at the Fountain, we chatted with the man at the bar who told us that the locals were delighted with the changes the new regime had brought to the place. New manager David had only been there for five weeks but his new approach to things seemed to be working a treat. Trade was brisk
David had for 10 years run his own bar restaurant in the south of France where he was head chef and chief bottle washer. “The restaurant was serving just three meals a week, but we managed to turn it round,” he said.
He brought us his extensive menu to peruse. There was also a blackboard choice of specials which are changed weekly, but we didn’t have to go through into the dining area to check on this as the pleasant, helpful young lady who came to take our order recited the list of specials for us.
The one which took both our fancy was the loin of cod topped with Welsh rarebit sauce and served up with saute new potatoes and an enormous dish of vegetables – chantenay ‘baby’ carrots, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.
For starters we went for the curried parsnip soup, as the record high October temperatures earlier in the week had plummeted to definite hot soup-eating levels.
This turned out to be a wise choice. The soup was truly superb. Served up in a large, deep, ornate bowl, it had a thick texture and spicy rich taste. It was topped with cream, herbs and croutons and came with warm crusty bread. This starter exuded a warming glow and was a veritable meal in itself.
The main cod dish too was delightfully prepared and served. The cheesy topping highlighted the subtle flavour of the succulent cod loin and the vegetables were cooked just to our taste with a crunchy ‘bite’.
At first glance I regarded the choice of Brussels sprouts to serve with the fish as an odd choice, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the taste combinations worked splendidly. Was this David’s French connection coming to the fore?
The servings were generous, in the case of the vegetables too generous, as we did not manage to empty the dish and the portions were such that we did not feel able to sample the delights of the sweet selection. Perhaps next time?
We ate in a comfortable, secluded corner of the redesigned restaurant and on this occasion we did not dine alone.
Our return to the Fountain had turned into a most convivial evening out where the dining was indeed fine.
Also on the menu along with our soup starter were prawn and pineapple cocktail, sliced goats cheese and black pudding topped with wholegrain mustard cream, large field mushrooms on toasted brioche with garlic and cream sauce and homemade chicken liver pate with melba toast.
The Fountain Inn specialities were roast cod loin on a bed of chorizo, white beans and spinach in a goat’s cheese emulsion, slow roast belly pork and crispy crackling served with wholegrain mustard mash and a selection of seasonal vegetables, confit of beef shoulder with baby onions and a red wine jus and a 12oz ribeye steak with chips, tomato and field mushrooms. The Fountain also has a pub classics menu and serves up vegetarian specialities.