They probably rumbled me.
When you’ve been doing this job a while it’s only a matter of time before someone recognises you.
Examiner reviews, I can assure you, are completely genuine. We book and turn up unannounced just as any diner would.
It’s only afterwards that we get in touch, say we’ve sent in a reviewer and ask if we can dispatch a photographer to take pictures.
I’d spotted the menu for the newly-opened Shoulder of Mutton on Facebook, liked the look of it and booked.
Subterfuge doesn’t come into it and I always book under my own name. I gave the young lady my surname. And spelled out S-H-A-W. Twice.
On entering and being shown to our table I spotted a familiar face. He dashed past me mobile phone pressed to his ear. Phew. He didn’t see me.
Pete and I share a love of horse racing and Pete is big pals with top jockey Frankie Dettori who I met all too briefly at the Pear Tree the other year.
I thought maybe Pete was just a customer at the Shoulder. Unfortunately, he was there in his professional capacity. And he knows where I work. Darn it.
It was only a couple of minutes before we eyeballed each other and realisation dawned.
“You still a troubleshooter, Pete?” I asked. “You still at the ... Examiner?” Pete replied. Sounded like a penny dropping to me.
“Let me introduce you to Lisa.”
Lisa Newby is the new landlady. The premises had been empty for a year when Lisa took it on two months ago.
Turns out I knew Lisa too. We’d never actually met but had spoken over the phone a couple of times through my work. Small world.
Ah well, rumbled or not, my partner Sian and I were guided to our table. It had been reserved with a mini blackboard name plate.
Nice touch except I wasn’t Shaw but Shaun. In journalism the first rule is spell people’s names correctly. And I had spelled it out. Twice. Unforgivable in journalism, a minor misdemeanour in other walks of life but if you’re making a special effort you have to get it right.
The Shoulder, popular in the village community of Briestfield, has been tastefully restored and has a homely, country feel. Customers are politely asked to remove muddy boots at the door.
It’s a cosy size with the restaurant part at the far end. We dined early evening and it was a good decision to book. Lisa said they had turned away seven diners that day.
We’d missed lunch to indulge in three courses from the select but imaginative menu.
The starter for me was the Homemade Pork Pie (£5.25). This was a huge slab of pure pink pork, surrounded by a soft pastry, and it has to be one of the best pork pies I’ve tasted.
I resisted the temptation to smother it in ketchup and brown sauce, as I would any normal pork pie, and enjoyed every mouthful with the tang of piccalilli. A crispy quail’s egg topped it off. Delicious.
Sian had the Smoked Haddock Fishcakes (£5.95) which came with watercress, parmesan, cucumber and caper ketchup. The fishcake was light, fluffy and a great appetiser.
For mains the Beer Battered Haddock and Chips looked very popular amongst fellow diners and there was a mouthwatering burger and steak but we went for something different.
I chose the Pan Seared Calf’s Liver (£14.95) served with smoked bacon, crispy beef fritter, bubble and squeak and kale and onions.
Like the pork pie this was a huge portion of meat. The liver, for me, was slightly under-cooked and a little too pink at the extremes. The bacon was beautiful and a little less liver and more than the one small rasher of bacon would have suited me.
Sian had the Pork Belly (£13.95) which was succulent and tender. It was accompanied by grain mustard mash - creamy with a gentle kick - and roasted veg.
There’s a horseradish mash also on the menu. Presumably with a bigger kick.
After my double helping of meat I wanted something a bit lighter to finish. But my eyes were bigger than my belly and Apple and Rhubarb Crumble and Custard (£5.45) it was! Mmmm..... Nuff said.
Sian had the Sticky Toffee Pudding (£5.45) with toffee sauce and salted caramel ice cream. It was rich and velvety and I helpfully reached over to help clear the dish as the sizeable portion of ice cream melted into the steaming pudding.
That’s the one I’d recommend.
The service was quick and friendly and the Shoulder is right back on the dining map. It’s had a chequered recent history but which pub hasn’t?
At least it’s still a pub and not a house or a supermarket.
The Shoulder deserves to be a success so if you want country locals like this to survive you know what to do.
Briestfield Road, Briestfield, Dewsbury, WF12 0PA
Tel: 01924 840981
Opening hours: Food – Wednesday, Thursday and Friday noon-2pm and 5pm-9pm; Saturday noon-9pm; and Sunday noon-4pm.
Disabled access: Yes but no disabled toilet
The bill: £63.05 (including drinks)
Would you go back? Certainly