Jonathan Schofield enjoys good food in a very attractive pub

One of the finest exhibitions in the North West in the last 20 years was The Impossible View at the Lowry in Salford. This beautiful 2004 show gathered together works that ‘saw the world from a high viewpoint’. Artists featured included Bruegel the Elder, Turner, Hiroshige, Lowry and Hockney. The exhibition was blessedly free of that latest trend in public galleries where hectoring curators believe it is impossible for people to interpret art on their own without being told how to think. 

Whenever I see haggis I have to dive in. It's a no-brainer and this was a little piece of art, layered like the rock stratification on the moors above

One of my favourite artworks in the show was Rivington Lakes with Angelzarke Reservoir in the foreground by Frederick William Hulme, 1872. This captures the epic nature of the West Pennine moors while looking down on the cascade of reservoirs on the west side of Winter Hill. The painting has great charm with the sweet detail of gentlefolk taking in the view with their binoculars and picnics in wicker basket. 

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Rivington Lakes with Anglezarke Reservoir in foreground by Frederick William Hulme, 1872 Image: Wikimedia

In search of fresh air a couple of us were up Rivington-way a couple of days before New Year. Suddenly hungry, we stumbled across the Yew Tree Inn at Angelzarke, about twenty miles as the crow flies from Manchester city centre and thirty from Liverpool city centre. The reservoirs in that view by Hulme, the ones you cross and recross close to the Yew Tree Inn, were built from the 1850s to the 1870s to supply Liverpool with fresh water. They still do.

The pub is a classic stone Pennine farmhouse converted more than a hundred years ago into a hostelry. It looks just as every Pennine pub should, reassuringly sturdy, a respite from whatever the weather might throw at you.

It is an independent pub too not part of chain and it is very good: a real find in this attractive part of Lancashire. The interior will be familiar in décor to those who visit aspirational country pubs, flagstones, exposed stonework and where there’s plaster on the walls or wooden panels, those ever so polite Farrow & Ball muted shades. 

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The reassuringly sturdy Yew Tree Inn Image: Confidentials
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Inside the Yew Tree Inn Image: Confidentials

The menu is easy on the eye. The starters includes Stilton fritters with garlic mushrooms and fresh herbs or pig's cheeks braised in honey and clove with roast and pureed parsnip. It also includes haggis, neeps and tatties (£9) with a spiced fruit sauce, apt given January includes all manner of Scottish revelry around Burn's Night on the twenty-fifth of the month.  

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The Yew Tree Inn menu is enticing Image: Confidentials

Whenever I see haggis I have to dive in. It's a no-brainer. This was a little piece of art, layered like the rock stratification on the moors above, and a cunning and delicious way of presenting the dish. All the strong flavours came through with that refined fruit sauce a complement not a distraction. 

My dining partner went with the soup of the day, squash with cardamom (£7.95). It was truly magnificent, robust, creamy, rich and accompanied by a very fine homemade soda bread and a flourish of toasted butter. 

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Haggis, neeps and tatties at the Yew Tree Inn Image: Confidentials
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The squash and cardomon soup at the Yew Tree Inn Image: Confidentials

The mains were proper stomach fillers, big portions and well-presented, if, as is so often the case, losing a little of the finesse of the starters.

The duck breast (£22.95) was cooked just right, nicely pink, and came with some hard-to-spot Jerusalem artichokes and some very good sauteed, new potatoes. Cranberry sauce is, of course, almost de rigueur for duck, although perhaps layered on a little too thickly here, less is more and all that. The duck dish is pictured at the top of this page.

The chicken breast (£17.95) maintained the standard. The chicken had real flavour and wasn't just mush-flesh with its only characteristic being white and somewhat meaty as is so often the case. The addition of the bacon and chestnuts worked well and the dauphinoise potatoes were spot on, the kitchen could calm down with the beans though, a few too many there. 

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Chicken breast and dauphinoise potatoes at the Yew Tree Inn Image: Confidentials

A traditional sticky toffee pudding (£7.50) rounded it all off. Nothing wrong with this, all as it should be, good consistency to the pudding and a cracking butterscotch sauce with a ginger caramel ice cream. 

Given the nature of the menu we felt it right to drink Pike ales from Blackedge Brewery down the road in Horwich. All good again. 

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The Yew Tree Inn's sticky toffee pudding Image: Confidentials
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Blackedge Brewery's Pike ales from nearby Horwich Image: Confidentials

I like the Yew Tree Inn and I will be back. 

It's recommended if you are rambling, cycling or driving around that last fling of the Pennines before they drop down into the Lancashire plain. There's a confidence to the whole operation from the excellent service we received through the look of the place to the way the kitchen operates. Aside from a couple of issues with the mains, and these were minor, our afternoon occasion was exemplary in terms of what you want from a country pub: hearty, clever, comforting.  

The Yew Tree Inn, Anglezarke, Dill Hall Brow, Heath Charnock, PR6 9HA

Follow Jonathan Schofield on Instagram and Twitter @JonathSchofield

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The bill Image: Confidentials

The scores:

All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidentials and completely independent of any commercial relationship. They are a first-person account of one visit by one, knowledgeable restaurant reviewer and don't represent the company as a whole.

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 7/10

    Soup 8, haggis 8, duck 6.5, chicken 6.5, pudding 7

  • Service 4/5

    Really good, with a youngish staff who knew when to smile and offer advice

  • Atmosphere 3.5/5

    A very pleasant holiday buzz about the place