Review: Crooked Billet
Tadcaster, United Kingdom
146 people found this review helpful
If you wander off on a ramble between Towton near Tadcaster in North Yorkshire and the tiny settlement at Saxton, you will sooner or later come across Lead Chapel sitting all alone in the middle of a field in the countryside.
This tiny place of worship, made from local stone and only 18 feet long, has been there since the 12th century and mounds in the adjacent field are all that is left of a Medieval Manor House which the chapel once no doubt served.
It is said that before the bloodiest battle on English soil took place at Towton on 29th March 1461, soldiers on their way to and from the nearby battle-site prayed here. As indeed they might, as 28,000 men died in a single day there. (See www.towton.org.uk for further details).
The chapel was originally named St. Mary's, and as the manor house and associated settlement gradually disappeared over the centuries, the chapel fell into disrepair. Groups of ramblers saved the chapel from ruin in 1931 and funded a refurbishment. It is now known as the Rambler's Chapel. Regular services are held and it is usually open to the public. It is truly beautiful and atmospheric inside.
The chapel can be seen in the distance from the dining conservatory of the Crooked Billet pub, the only other building nearby.
When most of the population were illiterate, as in the early days of the chapel, ale houses needed something recognisable as an indication to travellers that the building was indeed an ale house.
There are several interpretations of 'billet'; as accommodation for soldiers, a staff or cudgel, a note, ticket or pass, but in relation to public houses, it is generally accepted that a cooked billet is a bent branch from a tree. Publicans would hang this over the front door of the premises to indicate that it was in the beer business. Thus it was one of the earliest forms of pub sign.
This particular Crooked Billet – there are several dotted around the country, all unrelated to each other- sits on a country road, the B1217, near the village of Saxton. The building itself has a little known past, but is much younger than the chapel.
In a nod to the battle-site, The Palm Sunday Archers meet once a month here to practise the art of longbow archery. Members of the public can take part too and children can use specially adapted bows in safety. Modern interests are catered for in the provision of free car parking for ramblers and geo-cachers as there are many circular walks and geocache spots nearby.
It has kept going when many others have fallen by the wayside and does so by offering itself as a dining destination.
Breakfast, from the Full English downwards is served from 9am to noon whilst afternoon coffee and cake can be indulged in at £5 a head. Particularly handy for hikers like me.
It is the evening dining experience which keeps drawing the punters back however.
Since taking over the pub about 18 months ago, Landlady Laura and her team have rejuvenated the menus and have created a growing reputation for good food and value for money deals like the 2 for £12 Fish Frydays and the giant filled Yorkshire Puddings. There is also a special menu for pensioners and live music on the last Friday in the month.
On my latest visit with friends, I found that the décor had been refreshed with sage, stone and maroon colours and looked very attractive. There was the ubiquitous mis-matched furniture, but that is par for the course these days and looked suitably at ease in the overall feel of the place.
There is a stone-flagged patio area to the rear as well as an open field for kids to run wild in during the warmer weather.
There are a couple of real ales on offer, currently Theakston's Best and Shepherd Neame's Spitfire. Both were palatable. There are also draught lagers and a cloudy cider available.
Staff were friendly and attentive throughout.
Starters range from £3 for a home made Yorkshire Pudding with meaty onion gravy to £7 for more exotic choices. My choice of smoked haddock fish cake with spring onion was actually a little dry, but came with a puddle of chilli sauce and fresh salad.
Most of my guests opted for prawn on salmon salad, which had folds of salmon mounted with juicy prawns in sauce.
My partner went for English muffin with ham hock and poached egg in a hollandaise sauce, which was pronounced very good indeed.
Mains start at £10 and go up to £17 for the 'Crooked Grill', a hefty plate of sirloin steak, gammon, sausage, lamb chop, black pudding and all the trimmings. You need a very healthy appetite to tackle this monster.
My choice of slow cooked lamb shoulder came with garlic roasts and the most lovely minted gravy. The tender meat fell off the bone easily.
The salmon choice, which came with parmesan potatoes and fine green beans with herbed butter looked and tasted good but was, perhaps, not the choicest cut of salmon.
What a fishy lot my guests were.
Small dishes of fresh cabbage, carrots and broccoli were supplied with the meals.
There are four different home made burgers to chomp on, all at £10.50.
Desserts were chosen from a small selection on a blackboard, with the honey, fig and pistachio cheesecake being particularly delicious.
The coffee came thick and black and was a little overpowering to be honest, and I like my coffee strong.
A couple of minor points to overcome then, but a good night out with good pub food, all at reasonable cost.
Filling rather than thrilling was my verdict, but worth a return trip sometime.
Wi-Fi is available free of charge whilst the sat-navvers and geo-cachers will find the Crooked Billet at LS24 9QN.
For menus and further details go to www.crooked-billet.co.uk.
146 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.