The Three Acres is quintessentially English.
If I met an affable Martian on the streets of Huddersfield who, instead of demanding “Take me to your leader,” asked to be shown somewhere which typified my country, I would have no hesitation in whisking him up to the Three Acres at Shelley.
There we’d soak up the candlelit atmosphere between the wood panelled walls as we embarked on an interplanetary discussion comparing the merits of life on the Red Planet with that of Huddersfield.
And even if there is life on Mars, I doubt the inhabitants have anything quite as convivial as the prospect of a good meal at the Three Acres, washed down with a bottle or two of wine on a dank autumn evening.
And last Saturday night was no exception. The hills were cloaked in a blanket of fog and five of us crawled along the country roads at snail’s pace (in a car, I hasten to add) until we eventually spotted the welcoming orange glow of the Three Acres beckoning us in.
Entering was like stepping through the wardrobe door into C. S Lewis’s Narnia. We left the cold, damp grey reality of a Pennine November and entered a wonderful warm and multicoloured world populated by laughing people around the bar, smart waiters gliding around the rooms and tables overflowing with well dressed diners engaged in animated conversation.
Even Caroline, my perfectionist posh friend from London, was impressed.
The Three Acres has been a Huddersfield institution for three decades and for many years it stood head and shoulders above other restaurants in and around the town. But these days it has some competition: Eric’s, Lepton’s 315, Stainland’s 1885 and possibly Kirkburton’s Dyeworks, to name but a few contenders for the crown of Best Restaurant in Huddersfield, never mind what Trip Advisor says.
En route to our table we passed a menu on the wall signed by a Mr David Cameron, whoever he is.
A couple of years ago, the owners gave the decor and menu an overhaul, with the result that the interior is even more welcoming and the addition of a char-grill and rotisserie menu means there is something for everyone - even Caroline, who is vegetarian.
Our starters were well presented. The Loch Fyne king scallop and langoustine mille feuille with wild mushroom duxelle , spinach and Parmesan cream layered in butter puff pastry and topped with a Parmesan crisp was delicate, fine and as almost as extravagant as its name.
The prawn and crayfish cocktail and posh mushrooms on toast were all enjoyed by our party. The French onion soup was well caramelised and full bodied, but slightly sweet.
Pick of the starters was the Asian salad of wood pigeon. The Oriental sweet chilli and sesame dressing showed a lightness of touch, providing a memorable accompaniment to the game.
For the mains, the assiette of Yorkshire game appeared quite small, but in this case, small was beautiful. The combination of wood pigeon ravioli, Chanterelle sauce, venison cottage pie and pan-seared pink Yorkshire grouse breast with game jus had depths of flavour and satisfied even Jonathan’s carnivorous cravings.
The crispy fresh salmon and parsley fish cakes were light and well received, although extra vegetables were ordered for balance.
By this time we had polished off the bottle of French Viognier, which we agreed was pleasant but unremarkable, and were on to our second bottle of the quaffable South African Pinotage.
The service was not overly attentive, but between us we usually managed to flag down a gliding waiter when needed. It would have been nice, however, to have been asked if there was anything else we required from time to time.
Our table’s final entreé was another highlight; the sticky roast rack of pork ribs, well seasoned with a hint of spice, and served with barbecue sauce, chips, celeriac slaw and watercress. Ribs torn off the big rack by Trish and handed round the table to the non-veggies met with approval.
For dessert we shared a pleasant and fresh autumn berry pavlova with vanilla seed ice cream and another pud, the name of which escapes me, washed down with coffees.
We headed back out into the fogbound and alien landscape with a satisfied glow.
VERDICT: Good food in excellent surroundings. For all-out traditional dining experience, it takes some beating. With 180 covers including private dining rooms, it’s still Huddersfield’s favourite destination for celebratory meals.
The 3 Acres Inn, Roydhouse, Shelley, Huddersfield HD8 8LR
Tel: 01484 602606
Opening hours: Monday to Friday lunch 12 noon to 1.45pm, Monday to Friday 6.30pm to 9.30pm, Saturday 5.30pm to 9.30pm, Sunday 12 noon to 1.45pm and 5.30pm to 9.00pm
Disabled access Yes, full access
The bill: £181.35 for five, including three bottles of wine
Would you go back? 100% yes.