I had an inkling we were onto a good thing when I earwigged overheard yer man Andrew Pern – The Star Inn’s gaffer – talking on the phone about doing things to chicken skin and crispening it up.
We’d enjoyed Ilkley’s hostelries with no little ebullience the night before, so after a stomach churning voyage Up-(Massive)-Hill and Down-(Really Steep)-Dale, this was the kind of comforting talk that warms the heart. The views across Yorkshire’s Dales and Moors undoubtedly make for a stunner of a journey, but I bet they’re even more spectacular when you can operate both eyes simultaneously.
A constitutional around the village, a complimentary Mars bar and a chat with the chickens had us ready to go toe to toe with a restorative livener from Cross House Lodge’s honesty bar before a nice bit of tea over the road.
The Star Inn’s a thatch-roofed boozer that also happens to have been anointed by the Michelin bods and wears both hats comfortably. There’s the bar at one end, hosting quiz nights and the local cricket team; and at the other, a smart but homely dining room where we ate bob-on, no-nonsense things cooked and served by a bob-on, no-nonsense team.
A jolt of appley tartness cut through the rich disk of buttery foie gras and just-crisp black pudding in what I think, given I’d snaffled similar at the York gaff, is a signature Pern dish. Granted, this may’ve been a Michelin’d version (i.e. refined; i.e. smaller) but every bit its equal in terms of big umami hits.
My “rockpool” was a masterclass in procuring first-rate stuff from the sea and sticking it on a plate without pissing around too much. Bronzed, chunky scallop, meaty lobster (“like an oyster steak” according to Asbestos Tongue), and nuggets of sweet mussels were brought together by a moreish bread-dipper of “seaweed” veloute.
The proper-not-poncy theme (those apple shards above aren’t just cheffy twiddles, but bringers of zip and zing) continues into the mains, in which I pop my grouse cherry. The distinctive offally hum puts me back in St John’s dining room (restaurant not apostle), its deep iron richness reminds me of aged, crimson charcuterie while the accompanying game chips bring to mind Seabrook’s lattice crisps. All good there then.
Chunks of cow face – fibrous, slow-cooked cheek and toothsome tongue – show a piece of well-cooked but comparatively straitlaced fillet what’s what in the flavour stakes. There’s also an ace little corned beef fritter, something wrapped in cabbage and more foie gras ensconced in a couldn’t-resist-it Yorkshire pudding.
Those mains were 30 quid a pop. Granted, that’s a touch more than a Peperami might set you back at Ye Olde Dog & Bollocks, but they were the priciest items on the menu. For 3 courses you’re ordinarily looking at about £50 a head.
Considering this is ingredient-led, precision cooking with more flair than the village-boozer smokescreen would have you believe, I’m happy to cough that up every now and then. When I can’t, I’ll be down the other end of the pub with a packet of dry roasted.
You can bag deals from a couple of hundred quid, on which you’ll get an allowance for dindins, a room at Chicken HQ, aka Cross House Lodge (below) and a breakfast that you don’t need but so-what the next morning. There’s a market menu too, enabling you to scoff 3 courses for £25.