Shibden Mill Inn0
Down a winding single lane road the descent to Shibden Mill Inn is not one to be taken with nonchalance. A careless clutch foot could result in an unexpected round of automobile tobogganing, even without the help of rain, ice or snow.
But survive the swooning approach and there sits a fine pub to be snowed in at: good beer, warm hearths and food fit for kings.
The pub is infected with sunny Sunday smiles. Gregarious family laughter shrieks, hoots and squeals around the dining room and through the thick bricked chimney breast. Not that Shibden Mill Inn is loud or raucous, nor large or imposing (though it does look expensive from the outside, which it is). It’s because it’s a place not just for meeting but rather gathering.
The inn sits east of Halifax’s strange topographically imposed footprint – the town’s urban area flares north-westerly like an Olympic flame from the shelf of Southowram. Hidden in the folds of the Shibden Valley it’s a sublime and homely setting for a country pub.
Shibden Brook runs through the garden, an unlikely source of geological carpentry. Its slow lapping pace complements the green and pleasant dale, but once it powered not only nature’s moulding of the valley but the corn mill that stood here before there was a pub (a mill which burned down long before it was rescued by (now deceased) local brewer Webster’s and turned into an eighteenth century inn).
Tucked in a little nook with all the charm and decor of a rural cottage, three candle lit tables are served by a hidden corner of the bar. The laughter is a distant and comforting hum, and we dine here sharing our bar with a clutch of other lunchtime visitors and a map-wielding drinker.
A local West Yorkshire bitter helps wash down a stodgy bread starter – four types of interesting nano-loaves with various homemade pickles and dips (a mini meal in itself, perhaps requiring a full two pints to wash it down).
Service is impeccable (all staff are suited and booted with smart aprons and pressed shirts or little black dresses); the food served is equally sophisticated – pan fried Cornish mackerel in oyster sauce melts at the sight of a mouth, pan fried scallops with artichoke the best scallop pairing since sliced black pudding. The staple fish and chips are completely unpretentious – chunky cuts of potato, a smashing big piece of haddock and generous pot of velvety mushy peas.
Perhaps I should have pushed the boat out and had the venison or Barnsley Chop? Only to raise fork to mouth again and wonder at how the chef made mackerel taste this good?
Full, immensely satisfied, wallet subdued, we still can’t help but acquiesce to the dessert menu and find something sweet to finish our meal off. Perhaps by the time we’ve picked from the luxurious chalkboard a serendipitous snowstorm might have blocked the winding single lane ascent towards home?
The snow doesn’t come, and when we eventually rise to leave the pink-cheeked chap at whose expense the laughter erupted gets his revenge, via a red-faced gusty rendition of ‘For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow’ that announces the triumphantly arrival of birthday-sized dessert under a candle salute. And more people arrive to gather.Tags: gathering, halifax, pub food