Richard Miller has a bit of a barney over the bread in this bucolic boozer

With its open fires and low, beamed ceilings, the whitewashed Shibden Mill Inn is one of those picture-perfect spots you’d usually expect to find nestled in a Yorkshire Dales nook, rather than a connecting road between Halifax and Bradford. But here we are.

We push through from tasty, well-executed pub fodder into the business of proper restaurant cooking.

I’m a sucker for these bucolic boozer-come-restaurants, with their promise of generous platefuls of grub gussied-up with a few tricks and flourishes from up an ambitious kitchen’s sleeve. The Shibden Mill Inn duly delivers - there’ll be no going hungry here - though not before we have a bit of a barney.

2019 04 30 Shibden Mill Inn Bread
Mini loaves (£8)

You see, I’m an ardent bread-head, I lust the crust, but even I wince at the eight quid price-tag slapped on the mini loaves that get us going. Granted, they’re nicely baked and arrive accompanied by pots of whisked pork rind (greasily good) and a ‘Lancashire custard cheese’ (think oozy brie meets the squeezy tube stuff), but for that price I expect the famous fromage to be hand-delivered by Mrs Kirkham herself. Compare that, for a sec, to the superlative sourdough served up at the nearby(-ish) Moorcock Inn that goes for a measly £2.50.

2019 03 30 Shibden Mill Inn Fishcake
Salmon fishcake with poached egg (£8)
2019 04 30 Shibden Mill Inn Croquette
Duck leg croquette with peanut butter soup (£10)

Tiff over, we find better value elsewhere on the menu. There’s a fishcake – of course there is – that does the word ‘offcuts’ proud (£8). The thick disk of liberally-vinegared salmon comes paddling in a soup-sauce hybrid with the spiky fresh hit of dill. It’s crowned with a poached egg that, when skewered, does its gushing yolk thing with aplomb. 

Charmed into ordering the disconcertingly entitled ‘duck leg croquette with peanut butter soup’ (£10), I picture a 1990s-era Gary Rhodes and brace myself. I needn’t have worried. What lands is a broad-shouldered, bread-crumbed cylinder loaded with rich leg meat and accompanied by a jug of the “soup” or, to you and me, a light satay sauce. A mound of mashed squash adds an earthy sweetness, and wisps of surprisingly fiery spring onion perk it all up. It works.

2019 03 30 Shibden Mill Inn Hogget
Hogget (£22)

But it’s when the £22 hogget arrives - that meaty middle-ground between mild-mannered lamb and funky old mutton - that we push through from tasty, well-executed pub fodder into the business of proper restaurant cooking. 

Two lumps of the stuff have been expertly cajoled until pink of flesh and crisp of skin. A smattering of shaved almonds adds a delicate salty crunch, and the ras-el-hanout jus, with its mildly aniseed edge, makes for a welcome diversion from the same-old-same-old lubricant in which we usually douse our meats. I’d like a touch more golden crust on the pommes Anna, but that serves me right for not ordering chips. You should always order chips at these places. 

2019 04 30 Shibden Mill Inn Cod
Cod (£18)

A chunky piece of cod (£18), pearly white and flaking in all the right places, is almost upstaged by the smoked leek and clam pie accompanying it. A forkful of that buttery spud and creamy, molten filling (and a swig of old-school Chardonnay, available by the carafe - £21.65) is committed to memory as a Happy Place.

Having already treated my arteries to the dual delights of hogget fat puree and whisked pork rind I opt to give them a time-out at dessert. As such, the sticky toffee pudding is swerved and, instead, a blood orange iced parfait is shared (£7). It’s refreshing and zesty, but its finest component is, of course, the chunk of treacle tart adorning it. Sorry, heart.

2019 03 30 Shibden Mill Inn Parfait Dessert
Blood orange iced parfait (£7)

It’ll cost you about six quid in a taxi from the station to get to this handsome, wonky-floored pub in the tranquil Shibden Valley. If it’s sunny give the belting beer garden a go or, if not, hunker down in the cosy interior. There are bedrooms, too, should a little lie down be in order. 

Shibden Mill Inn, Shibden Mill Fold, Halifax, HX3 7UL. Tel: 01422 365840

Follow Richard on Twitter @eatingthenorth

2019 03 30 Shibden Mill Inn Receipt

The scores:

All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.

  • Food 8/10

    Bread 7, fishcake 7, duck 8, hogget 9, cod 8, parfait 7

  • Service 4/5

    It’s a busy place and the service is affably slick

  • Atmosphere 4/5

    Roaring fires + a top-notch wine list = convivial buzz