Old Gate, Hebden Bridge

With an hour to kill before I catch the train to Hebden Bridge, I turn to a couple of pints of Hazelnut Porter from Saltaire Brewery for company in Bradford’s Jacobs Well pub.

After being, for years, a gathering point for local office workers thirsty after a hard day’s graft Jacob’s Well went the way of many pubs and last orders were called. It’s since been reopened, closed, and opened again and now seems to be ticking over nicely.

Realising that people don’t (shouldn’t) go to pubs to watch ITV2, the 50” plasma has gone, as has the dartboard and the grumpy bastard who used to work behind the bar. There are now a handful of cask ales as well as a fridge full of the craft stuff. The office workers are returning, we have upturned barrels for tables, and Elvis is being played on the CD player. Jacob’s is, indeed, Well.

And so to Hebden Bridge.

Old Gate has got everything I wish I had in my local boozer. Before we get to the food there’s a pint of Magic Rock’s latest offering; Magic Spanner, and beyond this there’s Dobber from the equally ace Marble Brewery as well as fridges packed with beery refreshments from around the world.

We choose to sit upstairs at a table overlooking the Friday evening hubbub of the bustling bar. We’re starving, and as we’re in town for a gig we can’t loiter for as long as we usually would, so it doesn’t take long to choose from the menu and order. It’s good to see a pub menu without too much waffle on it.

Before long my venison haunch steak lands at the table, along with a ubiquitous burger.

The venison’s from Round Green Farm which is, I learn, as good a place as any that you’re likely to get it and that shows on the plate. Charred nicely but medium throughout, and with a gamey richness, it’s hard not to go back for more even when I’m blatantly full. I wish I was having it for tea tonight.

If I was having that for tea, I’d be having the bubble and squeak cake it came with for supper. Potato, leeks and bits of bacon mashed together and fried can only be a good thing. Which it was.

The burger’s cooked pink (nice), topped with cheese and bacon (tick tick), and comes with proper chips (never a bad thing). It’s come out of the kitchen looking good, and it tastes good, too.

But here’s the thing. And this isn’t just aimed at the good people in the kitchen of Old Gate: the burger’s too posh.

Burgers should be guilty, trashy and dirty with juices pooling on the plate. From a chef’s point of view this was obviously “a good plate of food” (℅ John Torode, every episode of Masterchef, ever), but a burger should be something you eat with one hand, not something you need to dismantle and tackle with a knife and fork.

Burger rant over, let’s not forget the main point here is that at Old Gate you’re fed and watered generously and skillfully. Many enjoy a posh tower of a burger – this is, after all, Yorkshire.

With a bottle of Chianti, the bill was just under fifty quid.


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