The Fleece in the village of Addingham, near Ilkley, is a regular haunt of ours. I generally tend to dislike the term "gastro pub" but I guess that best describes what they do; it's a fully functioning local village pub that serves great pub food. I feel that this in itself shouldn't set it aside from any other pub in the country, but unfortunately it does.
From the outside it’s a handsome 17th Century coaching inn, inside a very traditional pub with low ceilings, Yorkshire stone flagged floors, log fires and an eclectic mix of old furniture, paintings and paraphernalia. It is relaxed and informal yet can get very busy, but at least this means that there is always a vibrant atmosphere.
More significant than the comfortable surroundings though are their attempts at resurrecting Yorkshire's respectable tradition of honest food and good ale. There are always local beers on tap - usually Black Sheep, Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, Tetley’s Cask and Copper Dragon’s Golden Pippin. There is a decent wine list and they stock a range of delicious Frobisher's fruit juice.
There is also a great dedication to locally sourced food– meat from the nearby Bolton Abbey estate and local seafood and veggies abound. There is even an allotment out the back.
There are no printed menus; it's all chalked up on the blackboards. There is an ever changing seasonal specials board, loaded with dishes such as warm salad of crispy belly pork, Chorizo Sausage & Black pudding, calves liver and confit duck leg with spiced red cabbage. There is always a good range of steaks and plenty of fish options too – usually Mussels (when in season) & dishes like Cornish whole sea bass stuffed with spinach and chorizo or seared Islay king scallops with black pudding.
Offered alongside the specials is a more traditional pub menu including classics such as meat and potato pie, jumbo Whitby haddock and chips, a classic ploughman's, braised Wharfedale lamb shank, fish pie, roast belly of pork with mustard glaze, bangers and mash, shepherd's pie and half roast organic chicken.
This visit we both opted for a fishy starter. Dave's crab puff pastry roulade with butter sauce and tomato salad sounded interesting, his conclusion was that, although delicious, it maybe didn't quite showcase the fresh crab to its full extent. My Keralan spiced mackerel with creme fraiche and wilted greens was delicately fragrant with warm spices, complementing the oily fish well.
For mains we went for the Wharfedale hand carved sirloin for 2. Served on a huge wooden board with a garnish of mushrooms, tomatoes & onion rings, bearnaise sauce and a dish of chips, this is unfussy pub food at its best. The meat was amazing; cooked medium rare, exactly as requested, juicy and flavoursome. Great fat crispy chips and the rich tarragon laden sauce were the perfect accompaniment. However the whole semi-cooked tomato felt largely superfluous and was ignored, by me at least.
This is gutsy pub food with hearty portions to match. It is rare that we eat two courses here and still have room for a pud. The Fleece meat and potato pie would satisfy even Desperate Dan, it just requires the horns. This time was no exception, the steak had us beat and we had to pass on pud.
I have heard complaints that The Fleece is expensive, in particular many seem to object to the fact that accompanying side dishes are charged as extras. However with mains priced from £9.50 for bangers and mash, even the most expensive items from the standard pub menu are less than £14, I am mystified as to why – I actually think it represents great value. Yes some of the specials are more expensive, but being realistic you would pay similar prices to those quoted above if you ate at your local Beefeater and it would be vastly inferior food! The punters are hardly being fleeced.
Admittedly service is not always consistent; like the food and surroundings it can be "rustic" and at times we have found it to be less than well organized, but this is really the only criticism I can level.
The dishes here are probably at their best when uncomplicated and not overly ambitious. I've never had a below par meal here though and will keep on returning for their solidly executed comfort pub classics.
The Fleece Inn
154 Main Street, Addingham, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 0LY