THE Fleece at Barkisland had been a topic of conversation in the Examiner office recently.
The hot weather had seen the refurbished building play host to crowds of people, who flocked to the pub to make the most of the sunny weather on a whopping terrace, which gives fantastic views.
Sadly when we arrived on Sunday, the weather had broken and it was grey and muggy and, as I was driving , there was to be no partying so it was blackcurrant and soda all the way!
The ‘new’ Fleece sports a big car park and its historic exterior at the front is juxtaposed with a modern stone extension to the rear.
Stepping inside we were immediately met by helpful staff who led us to our table. We went through the cosy pub bit into a more formal, but still welcoming, dining room to the rear – which I presume is under the terrace mentioned above.
The dining room, which is decorated in subdued hues of greys, has one wall made completely from patio doors which can be opened and folded to let the outside in.
Looking at the menu I was a bit disappointed with the Sunday options (the rest of the week is different with more choice). There was plenty of standard fare there, but I didn’t really want standard fare.
For starters I ended up with broccoli and stilton soup and my partner went for chicken liver pâté with mushrooms. But there were options such as prawn cocktail, crab cake and Yorkshire pudding and gravy on there too.
To be honest I can’t remember the last time I ate soup in a restaurant but when mine arrived the concerns I had about the menu were eased. Thick, green and with delicious wafts heading up my nostrils I immediately tucked in and can report that the broth was fantastic. It tasted fresh and, although full of flavour, it was well balanced with the elements working together rather than conspiring against. It also came served with a handcut wedge of bread and decent slab of butter. All disappeared.
My partner’s pâté was the smooth kind. It came served with toasted brioche, a few rocket leaves and some chutney. She enjoyed it, said it was pleasant, but could have done with more bread.
We had our little boy’s meal served with the starters and, from a pretty standard kids’ menu, went for chicken goujons, chips and peas. But when it came out it was pretty clear this wasn’t standard kids’ frozen cooking. The chips were thick homemade beauties while the chicken was actually chicken. It had been portioned up and cooked in a crisp batter, which kept the chicken moist and the outside crunchy. The peas were served in a little pan and, as well as looking great, the meal tasted great. It was less of a kid meal and more a small adult meal, such was the quality of both ingredients and presentation.
Our mains arrived and sadly for you dear reader we’d both gone for the traditional Sunday lunch. The menu we were eating from was served from 12pm to 7pm on a Sunday and was priced at one course for £11, two courses for £14 and three for £17.
Again the main course choice left me slightly cold. As well as Sunday lunch there was fish and chips and then some other things that I had no interest in as I remember them being vaguely vegetarian sounding. My partner, who is a committed meat eater too, claims to remember a risotto and I’m sure there was something about gnocchi.
But, much like the starters, when the food arrives it’s prepared and cooked to a high enough standard that any problem you have with the lack of imagination on the menu are assuaged by what you put in your mouth.
I’d gone for the honey and mustard ham while my partner went for the beef – and was offered it pink – which she joyfully accepted.
When the meals arrived we each had a great big Yorkshire pudding, a decent quinnel of mash and a good sized roastie, plus swede and plenty of flavoursome gravy. We weren’t sure whether we actually got more veg with it but asked, and a side of baby carrots, mange tout/sugar snap peas turned up with apologies. It was no big deal and the waiting staff deserve credit as they were always helpful and proactive without being overwhelming.
My partner’s beef was pink and oozed meat juices and promptly disappeared moments after I was told it was ‘melt in the mouth’. My ham, of which there were two decent slices, was good but could have been a little bit more moist.
There’s plenty in the main course so we were unsure whether there’d be room for a pudding. But luckily for you (!) we both stuck to the task and ordered one! I went for chocolate brownie with honeycomb ice cream and my partner went for sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream.
My brownie was delightfully dense and had an almost bitter quality to it – it was top notch. My partner’s sticky toffee pudding was a much lighter affair than expected and remembered from schooldays past. It was fragrant as well sweet and after tasting some of mine, she declared she preferred the pudding. The only one gripe about the desserts, which came in good sized portions, was the ice cream: it was practically melted when it got to the table. I know it’s a warm dessert with a cold accompaniment but I expect the ice cream to be solid rather than almost liquid.
There’s no doubt of the skill brought to bear on good ingredients, which make some fabulous plates at The Fleece. I know the menu was a standard Sunday one, which appeared to be aimed at families and all ages, but I would have liked to see a little more of something different. Despite my minor moan, diners at the Fleece won’t be disappointed – there’s lots to like in a great setting.
Ripponden New Bank, Barkisland, West Yorkshire, HX4 0DJ
Tel:@ 01422 820 687
Opening hours: For food: Monday – Thursday: 8am – 9pm; Friday – Saturday: 8am – 10pm; Sunday: 8am – 7pm.
The bill: £48.10 including drinks
Would you go back? Yes