In June 2012 Grahame and Sue Nutt took over the Jacobs Well at Honley.
Despite having a prime location on the Woodhead Road just outside the village this once-popular pub had fallen on hard times and closed its doors.
Enter the couple, formerly of the Farmer’s Arms at Burnlee, Holmfirth, who between them had a half century of catering experience. Originally a nurse, Sue had been in the business for 25 years and Grahame was in shop and bar fitting.
They gutted the interior and after re-opening word of their hearty home-cooked food began to spread, resulting in packed tables and a long line of parked cars outside the stone building. In their first year they achieved seven certificates and awards, including Best Business Turnaround Strategy and Best Customer Experience.
Fast forward to last October and Jacobs Well once again closed its doors. This time the ambitious licensees invested £39,000 of their own money as part of a £200,000 refurbishment.
Last week Christine and I paid a delayed visit to the revamped hostelry – we had to book in advance such is its current popularity. The money lavished on the interior is plainly visible, giving more of a ‘country inn’, rather than ‘local pub’ feel.
There’s an on-trend plaid carpet (you’re not allowed to say tartan as nobody can step on a tartan), solid wooden tables and American-style dining booths. William Morris-style and bird wallpaper, along with old prints of Honley, create a homely atmosphere without being too fussy.
This congenial ambiance is emphasised by the friendly welcome we received on arrival, as well as the restoration of a real fire in the newly-enlarged dining room – you can’t beat a real fire for atmosphere.
The new bar area was also quite busy. You can still pop in for a drink as well as a meal and with five Cask Marque approved ales and a good selection of fine wines and bottled beers there’s plenty to tempt those fond of a tipple. The money hasn’t just been spent on the interior, the outdoor beer garden has been landscaped and a wood-fired pizza oven is due to be blazing away any time soon. The menu is extensive with a strong emphasis on traditional favourites, sourced locally and served in gargantuan portions. Knowing this, we decided to share a starter – but even then were defeated.
The half rack of pork ribs turned up as two halves, the second one added for free. There was plenty of barbecue-flavoured meat on the bones and the accompanying battered onion rings also went down a treat. We requested a pause to allow it all to digest before tackling the mighty main course.
Faced with a dazzling array of pies and puds, burgers, fish, steaks, specials, vegetarian options and ‘Jacobs Favourites,’ Christine opted for sea bass on a bed of seafood risotto served with roasted cherry tomatoes on the vine (£12.25). The fillet was light and succulent, well complemented by the heavier and full flavoured risotto.
A good choice.
I have to confess to being disappointed with my 10oz ribeye. The marbling is what gives ribeye its full flavour, but there was simply too much fat.
I ate the lean parts, but told the waitress that it was too fatty – I’ve never subscribed to the British habit of nodding politely at the end of the meal if something wasn’t up to scratch.
The service throughout was first class and Sue came over, said they had looked at the steak and it should never have been served!
I received heartfelt apologies and a full refund for the ribeye, despite having eaten half of it. They were on to the phone to the butcher before we had even left the restaurant. And therein lies the secret of the Jacobs success. There are lots of pubs around Huddersfield serving good, traditional food but the Nutts are not satisfied with being ‘good’, they want to be the best.
For them, the old-fashioned premise that “the customer is king” is alive and well – and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back.
I hasten to add that everything else we ate that night was good, including the homemade crème brulée with a delicate orange tang which we shared and enjoyed.
VERDICT: I’m not surprised the place is packed.