My last visit to the Three Acres was about 15 years ago on a very busy Friday night so this time I took care to book a table on a Monday evening when things would hopefully be a bit quieter.
To accompany me I took my brother-in-law Mindy but once word got out that we were going other friends were keen to come too.
And who better to invite than my friend Howard Lewis, a former firefighter and bon vivant from Highburton whose superb knowledge of food and wine stretches across the world.
Also keeping us company were my chess chum Dr Stuart Oliver who entertained us with his tales of awkward dining experiences in traditional Japanese restaurants and his wife Maryna.
Amazingly, The Acres has been owned by two men called Neil Truelove and Brian Orme for more than 40 years, which is an astonishing feat given the often fickle nature of the trade.
And you don’t need to be a top detective to work out why this Michelin-listed inn works.
The food is top-notch with plenty of variety, there’s wood panelling with real fires, a cosy, candle-lit atmosphere, low ceilings and staff who are relaxed and at ease with themselves, confident in the knowledge they are working for one of the best restaurants in the region.
The Angel at Hetton near Skipton and The Box Tree at Ilkley are two of the best restaurants in Yorkshire and The Acres, as it’s known locally, is right up there with them.
Over pints of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord and Ossett Brewery’s flagship beer, White Rat, as well as a Black Velvet aperitif for Maryna, we poured over the extensive menu.
Howard and Mindy plumped for the French onion soup and I did too and its full-bodied nature more than made up for the disappointingly bland one I sampled recently in Paris.
Stuart was more adventurous in opting for a delicious-looking forest mushrooms and crispy hen’s egg served en croute with tarragon and crispy streaky bacon while Maryna chose the chicken liver parfait at which I kept casting envious glances.
To wash it all down, Howard, who has an excellent nose, chose a good claret and we all admired his cork-sniffing routine.
It must have been good as we drank our way through three bottles before the waiter said there was no more and we downed an equally good bottle of Rioja.
For mains there was surprising unanimity with only me not going for the seasonal game suet pudding which proved a winner. This was described as pheasant, venison and mallard served with buttery mash and special red cabbage.
I enjoyed a beautifully presented breast of Lunesdale duckling with mash and vegetables which tasted even better than it looked. For dessert I had the perfect finale, a black cherry tart, as well as tucking into some of Mindy’s cheese and biscuits.
Stuart said: “To say it was a dank, foggy night and a Monday night too, it was humming with guests. My starter was delicious with the warm runny yolk running over the dish, delightful. The suet pudding was another success. It burst with flavour yet had a delicate gravy that kept the whole dish wonderfully moist.
“Overall, a little on the pricey side at £80 a head so somewhere for special occasions or entertaining clients you want to impress.”
Howard said: “I enjoyed the meal, the company was excellent and I thought the menu was interesting and varied enough to suit most tastes.
“French onion soup was good, onions lovely and soft, well-sweated, nice, rich stock and no shortage of cheese.
“I really enjoyed the game suet pudding, plenty of lovely tasty tender meat but not so impressed with the ramekin of red cabbage, luke warm and bland same for mash, but overall satisfying and hearty.
“Chateau Haut Philippon 2015, obviously very young but smooth, with good tannins, cherry notes and a good warming finish.
“The meal improved my opinion of The Acres, in terms of food quality and interest, nevertheless, pricey.”