THE MURG, as it is known locally, was once a traditional British pub. Today it still resembles a Yorkshire stone pub from the outside, but inside it has been transformed into a shiny, modern bar and dining room.
It has long been part of life in the village of Skircoat Green, just up the road from Calderdale’s Royal Hospital, and with new management and a total refurbishment clearly has plans to remain there for some time to come.
The menu of this establishment, however, reflects both its origins and the fact that the pub has now moved firmly into the 21st century. Yorkshire tapas, no less.
When I first heard about this new concept in dining from the Man-in-Charge, who occasionally slopes out for a drink there with his squash club buddies, I was sceptical.
“Yorkshire tapas? Sounds like a contradiction in terms to me.”
After all, Yorkshire is famous for substantial food, like the eponymous puddings; the best fish and chips in the country; and beef dripping teacakes.
In my experience tapas dishes are generally much less filling and rely on fancy, foreign ingredients. Tapas literally means ‘tops’ and the original Spanish tapas were little tasters put on tiny plates to cover drinks.
They are not in the same league as manly Yorkshire dishes. Imagine balancing a Yorkshire roast beef dinner on top of a half of Theakston’s.
But I was told that Yorkshire tapas was more about miniature fried fish and small Yorkshires with beef; spam fritters and baby sausages.
So we went along with some friends and took advantage of the ‘three tapas for £11 offer’. The normal price is £4.50 for a single dish.
Quite soon our table was covered with an assortment of dishes – from huge spiced potato wedges, which packed a chilli punch, and a teetering tower of crispy battered onion rings to a dinky little basket of deep-fried fish goujons (again in a wonderfully light batter) and an individual Yorkshire pudding with beef in gravy.
There was also a red pepper and goat’s cheese tart (not very Yorkshire but delicious and beautifully presented anyway); two little slabs of belly pork with crunchy crackling and sweet red cabbage on the side and yet more potato wedges.
Only the spam fritters made me feel as if they should have been left behind in 1970s Yorkshire. Spam doesn’t taste as good as I remember it but there’s a certain nostalgic appeal.
Two weeks later and Firstborn and his girlfriend were visiting. “You must try Yorkshire tapas,” I said, because I have become a convert and have often commented that when we go out for a meal what I really want is several starters and no main course.
Once again we dined on the goujons, Yorkshires etc, but this time we added in the broad bean tortelli – a dish with a touch of Italy but based on good-old allotment vegetables (the pub is a few yards from the Skircoat Green allotments after all).
Yet again, Yorkshire tapas made another couple of converts. And, once more, we had no room for puddings.
The food at The Murg is relatively simple but well cooked and well presented. It requires skill to deliver perfect batter, crisp pastry and Yorkshire puddings with the requisite form and texture, and the chef certainly didn’t fail us on any dish.
I suspect it won’t be long before Yorkshire tapas starts springing up all over the county. And why not?
It’s a brilliant way to try a little of all the comfort foods that Yorkshire is famous for – and more besides.
Skircoat Green, Halifax
Tel 01422 610563
Opening hoursClosed on Mondays; 5pm until 11pm Tuesday to Friday; noon until 11pm at weekends. Food service closes at 8pm.
Children The menu has lots of small portions perfect for children and youngsters are welcome until 7pm.
Disabled access Ground floor dining and parking outside on the road.
The bill £28.75 for seven tapas and one side dish, no drinks on the bill.