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The Shoulder Of Mutton Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield loves the crafty food found in the hills

Written by . Published on April 9th 2014.


The Shoulder Of Mutton Reviewed
 

IT must have been a surprised cow. 

 Yates' consistently make a destination of a pub halfway to heaven in a small village in the West Pennines.

During WWI a German zeppelin invaded UK air space over the North Sea and bumbled towards Manchester. The zeppelin ditched bombs over Holcombe, the village above Ramsbottom, where the only casualty was a surprised cow.  

I'm thinking it went like this: ‘Munch, munch, I like grass, munch, munch, wouldn't eat anything else, what's that whistling noise. What the f...’ Bang.

And up above: "Herr Capitan vith zis glorious action ve have severely damaged der Englander var effort."

I told my sons the story of the cow that died for its country in the Shoulder of Mutton pub as one of them ate bovine - namely a rump steak. I took their smiles to mean, 'I wish one day I grow up as brainy and with as many fascinating anecdotes as my dad'.

Church, pub, altitudeChurch, pub, altitude

I was in a good mood. I love moorland settlements such as Holcombe, could live there if I didn't like the city so much. I adore the solid millstone grit buildings, the higgledy-piggledy relationship between church, pub, terraced houses, the fields and the surprise woods in deep cloughs.

It's getting up high which brings the euphoria. Holcombe, is, what, 700 feet above sea level, which means - even in the twilight - you can see Manchester and Beetham Tower.

Manchester fifteen miles away from Holcombe village

 

Manchester fifteen miles away from Holcombe village

The food is good in the Shoulder of Mutton. It comes from the talented hands of Chris Yates, a chef we've praised before on Confidential. He runs the pub with his charming brother Dan Yates who is 21 and very serious about making the business a success.

The showpiece starter was 'Ashcroft's baby beetroots, homemade thyme goats cheese, lemon, olive crisps with herbs and flowers' (£7.95). This was such a pretty dish I wanted to turn it into a Lady's Day hat at Ascot.

I have no idea who Ashcroft is but he has a way with beetroot and Yates has a way with this dish. Everything worked, it was moist, yet with cracking 'bite', flavours flooded the mouth. I want a packet of the lemon and olive crisps. A 9/10 easy.

 Mr Ashcroft knows his beetroot and Mr Yates knows how to present it

 

Mr Ashcroft knows his beetroot and Mr Yates knows how to present it

The boys shared a soup, the 'Potato, leek, wild garlic with bacon puffs' (£5.50). Smooth and rich as a Rockefeller this one, another excellent job of work with the wild garlic a fun reference to the name of nearby Ramsbottom.

Wild Garlic is also known as ramson: Ramsbottom means - disappointingly - 'valley of the wild garlic'.

The older son, Oliver, declared it the best soup he'd ever had.  

 Best soup ever?

 

Best soup ever?

Mains didn't fail.

The 'rare breed pork loin' (not your common pig then), Bramley apple, pak choi, black pudding and pork quaver (£17.95) was the star. It again showed flair in the choosing of the ingredients and then displaying nous in the elegant manner they were put together. The cubes of black pudding were a delight.

Pork should have more presence in restaurants; loin as good as this would be welcome on most menus if delivered with imagination, good for the bottom line as well.  

Pork of joy

 

Pork of joy

Inspiration for foodInspiration for foodA guinea fowl, wheat fed (of course) from the vast fowl and goose ranches of Goosnargh (naturally) came with a crackingly timed and crunchy glazed carrot modelled on Concorde and was almost as good as the pork.

Poached ballantines of the fowl (£17.95) were chunky yet subtle in texture and flavour. A 6oz rump steak (£14.95) did the job for Ralph, the thirteen year old, who singled out the complex and utterly gorgeous gravy for acclaim.

Ballantines about to take offBallantines about to take off

The mains came with potatoes and vegetables as standard, no outrageous pricing scams on side dishes. Well done The Shoulder.

We finished with an excellent pear and apple crumble distinguished by a proper custard for £5.95, and a cheese board for £6.50 that provided an excellent Lancashire blue but also a Wensleydale containing bits of fruit. No cheese should be ruined with embedded fruit, just as nobody should use an exclamation mark in prose unless they're a teenager or in PR. Not necessary.

Crumble and custard: the simple things in life

Crumble and custard: the simple things in life

For drinks I had a decent enough, if unspectacular, Hawkshead bitter, followed by a far more satisfactory Rioja.

The Yates' consistently make a destination of a pub halfway to heaven in a small village in the West Pennines. It's a place to which I regularly return. The interior of the Shoulder is cute too, a classic here and there layout, haphazard rather than planned.

Combine a meal with a walk up to Peel Tower on Holcombe Hill, another couple of hundred feet higher, for a spectacular view, and it makes for a perfect weekend trip.

This visit was no different. As we left the skies were clear, the stars were out, we checked but there were no sinister zeppelins nosing over the ridge. Manchester twinkled to the south, our bellies were full and the cows were safe. 

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL AND PAID FOR BY THE MAGAZINE. 

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter @JonathSchofield or connect via Google+ 

The Shoulder of Mutton, Holcombe Village, BL8 4LZ (01706 82 2001, www.theshoulderofmutton.net).

Rating: 15/20
Food: 8/10 (soup 8, beetroot 9, rump steak 8, pork 8.5, chicken 7.5, crumble 8, cheeses 7)
Service: 4/5
Ambience: 3.5/5

PLEASE NOTE: Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away.

 

The Shoulder of MuttonThe Shoulder of Mutton

A lovely rumpA lovely rump

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29 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousApril 9th 2014.

looks superb, will go soon i think

AnonymousApril 9th 2014.

Where is currently serving the best "dining pub" food these days in peoples opinions? Think "gastro-pub" has expired as a term has it not...

AnonymousApril 9th 2014.

"Herr Capitan vith zis glorious action ve have severely damaged der Englander var effort." You see JS...now that's funny. It reminds me of a 70's sitcom, or even Blackadder. Now personally I don't see it as racist or non-PC, but there are people on here and in this world that would be all over that, protesting that you've hurt [in this case] zee Germans' feelings. It might be wise though, to not include the same approach in an Asian or Chinese restaurant...on the lines of "Goodness, gracious me" or "Oh! bloody hell!"...or even "Waiter, this duck is rubbery". Some of those people do get a bit sensitive.

Henry VApril 9th 2014.

It certainly isn't the the new place, Beef and Pudding. Good new pub, shocking/childish food

11 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousApril 9th 2014.

like what?

AnonymousApril 9th 2014.

Errr...fish & chips at £11.95. That's shocking.

AnonymousApril 9th 2014.

Why? You would probably spend half that on the ingredients to make it yourself. Yet you're sitting inside, there's obviously a lot of overheads, someone is cooking it for you and someone is serving it to you. How much would the fish and chips be in your fantasy restaurant?

AVoApril 9th 2014.

For comparison, Fish and chips are £13.50 at Grill on New York Street. Similar kind of place. I don't think the prices are that unreasonable.

AnonymousApril 9th 2014.

Half on the ingredients? Not even full retail in a supermarket. I appreciate that restaurants have overheads, but we're talking about deep frying three potatatoes and a piece of fish. @Avo, well obviously compared to a more expensive restaurant it will look reasonable.

AnonymousApril 9th 2014.

It's £10 for fish and chips in Harry Ramsdens.

AnonymousApril 9th 2014.

Yeah...well that's Yorkshiremen for you.

AVoApril 10th 2014.

I didn't specifically compare the prices to a more anonymous restaurant, I compared the prices to somewhere with the same type of menu, decor and service standards to show that in fact Beef and Pudding's prices are either in line with or slightly cheaper than their fellow Manchester restaurants. If you're so hung up on the prices charged by restaurants, nobody is forcing you to eat out. Just buy the ingredients at your closes budget supermarket, cook the food yourself and stay in. That way, you won't be infecting the world with your dour outlook on life.

AVoApril 10th 2014.

*expensive not anonymous.

AnonymousApril 10th 2014.

Since when was £12 for a meal in a restaurant expensive?

AnonymousApril 10th 2014.

When that meal is fish & chips!

JoanApril 9th 2014.

Jonathan. You meanie. How can you let two teenage boys share a soup! There......You've made me use an exclamation mark!

Andy LoynesApril 9th 2014.

Great place

JenniferApril 10th 2014.

Good food however I would not describe any members of this family 'charming'

1 Response: Reply To This...
Craig YatesApril 22nd 2014.

How do you know the family ?

AnonymousApril 10th 2014.

I happen to be half German and find the whole GERMAN think rather uncalled for in 2014.......Selective... as would never have a go at some OTHER groups.....?? That being said, is a GREAT place and the walk up to the Peel Tower is worth a go after your meal....

5 Responses: Reply To This...
GordoApril 10th 2014.

I keep being called fat, ginger and bald. Bu I take it all in good humour.

AnonymousApril 10th 2014.

Which half of you thinks it's uncalled for?

GordoApril 10th 2014.

oh, and an old bugger.

AnonymousApril 10th 2014.

So now you're a gingerist, a weightist and a hairist?

AnonymousApril 10th 2014.

no sense of humour, them there Germans.........

TimetoshineApril 11th 2014.

Through the day the pub's dog friendly so do yourselves a favour and go for a walk up Holcombe Hill to the Peel Tower and on your return go for a top lunch. I can recommend the pie!

April 12th 2014.

I agree with Jennifer, don't know Dan, but Chris is a thoroughly unpleasant individual.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Craig YatesApril 22nd 2014.

How can you not know Dan he has run FOH for the last eighteen months

AnonymousJuly 11th 2014.

been tonight good food average service

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