The Shibden Mill Inn, Halifax: Review

The world needs more beer gardens. Specifically, the world needs more beer gardens like the one down at the Shibden Mill Inn. You know the sort: secluded and tranquil with enough greenery to transport you far away from the daily trudge. The occasional spaniel trying to nick your pork scratchings.

Here, they’ve even stuck a bar outside to save you the arduous task of heading indoors to stock up on refreshment. That’s service.

Indeed, it’s no surprise to learn that on the week of this visit the Shibden Mill Inn was crowned Yorkshire’s Favourite Pub. It does things right.

Snake your way down winding lanes and you’ll find it tucked away in the valley bottom next to the Red Beck. It’s a handsome old spot whose whitewashed walls look striking throughout the seasons.

Yep, I’m already familiar with the Shibden. Many are the pints I’ve swilled here – and I can always recommend scoffing fish and chips in the downstairs bar – but this is the first time we’ve stayed over and the first time we’ve tried new chef Adam Harvey’s food. (Yes, this was an invite. No, this doesn’t mean I’ll automatically wax lyrical because of it.)

The eleven guest rooms are part of the same deceptively large building as the pub and restaurant. Handy.

With its huge stone arch and roll-top bath our suite nods to the past without being a slave to it and is fitted out with the contemporary bits and bobs you’d expect from an AA five-star rated inn. Plush carpets; massive walk-in shower; proper teas and coffees. The private patio’s a smart touch, too.

Bring your boots. There are a handful of walks to try directly from the front door and Tour de Yorkshire fans can have a go at the vertiginous Cote de Shibden Wall. The panoramic views at the top are worth the cobbled climb, and well-kept beers from breweries such as Moorhouse’s and Little Valley will go down particularly well afterwards.

In the winter it’d be churlish not to bag a table in the homely bar downstairs next to the crackling fires, but tonight we eat in the beamed restaurant above. The menu includes  some rugged staples to counteract all that hard hiking/supping you’ll have done in the afternoon – think chicken liver parfait, steak and chips – but Harvey’s also included plenty of plates-with-ambition to get amongst, too.

There’s a “posh prawn cocktail” that’s been gussied-up with a dash of whisky and an avocado mousse, but whose best bit is the hefty langoustine sitting on top. Meaty, salty and succulent; I look anything but “posh” as I tear it apart and suck out the good stuff.

The classic garlic and herb broth pooling around a small mountain of plump, saline mussels leads to much happy dredging of bread.

We smell the mains before they arrive. A piece of buttery halibut with smoked mash is a winning combination, and – from the specials – a slab of venison with its gamey fug is as rich as its deep maroon hue suggests. The accompanying black pudding rosti – crunch and iron – is a belter.

It’s aspiring stuff without ever forgetting that people come to these places to hunker down and be fed well.

A riff on lemon meringue pie doesn’t quite hit the same heights – a bit too stiff – but the cheese board features some standout local numbers including a brilliant Pexommier (me neither – think soft and mild) from the Pextenemet Cheese Company down the road in Todmorden. We’re pretty good at cheese around here and it’s nice to see it given centre stage. All go well with an additional wedge of fruitcake, by the way.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the menu develops through the seasons, which is thinly-veiled code for “I want to eat this lad’s food again soon”.

There’s a vast spread of Good Things available for breakfast the next morning but, still full after dinner and with further exploration of the valley apparently in store, I settle for muesli (cancels out the cheese) and a sausage sarnie. Woe is me, I know.

We’re looked after throughout by a slick but unstuffy team that takes a busy (and red hot) night in its hospitable stride.

The Shibden Mill Inn’s often referred to as a hidden gem, like it’s a secret only those in-the-know are aware of or are able to find. Well, it’s fully booked on this visit so the word must be out for Yorkshire’s Favourite Pub, and rightly so.

Go and have a look at The Shibden Mill Inn website.

The Shibden Mill Inn’s part of the Great Inns collection. Nice, aren’t they?

See also The Inn at Whitewell.

More of this waffle on Twitter.

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