ACCORDING to researchers, 61 per cent of the Great British population continue to enjoy a Sunday roast every weekend.

That’s almost 30 per cent more than the support Theresa May’s ill-fated Brexit deal received and, while our country remains divided between remainers and leavers, there appears to be one important question that will never require a referendum – what is the nation’s favourite sabbath dish?

Ever since the 15th century reign of King Henry VII, citizens of these shores have been eating meat on Sundays.

The crown of Best Sunday Lunch, therefore, is a majestic honour in this country and one that was bestowed on South Milford’s The Queen O’ T’Owd Thatch by the Observer’s Food Monthly awards in 2018.

Intrigued as to whether that honour was merited, given the stiff competition for that title here in North Yorkshire alone, we paid a mid-afternoon visit after walking our dog around the affluent village, downloading our route from the thoughtfully-suggested link on the pub’s website.

On arrival, even though there was a mix-up after believing I had sent notification via the online booking system that we would be bringing our 75kg St Bernard, we were still accommodated swiftly in time for our 2.30pm reservation slot.

Despite our accompanying canine, we were also seated in the main dining area, with a raised section for guests, who prefer not to eat close to others’ pets, the only part of the pub forbidden for non-humans.

Otherwise, with dog biscuits on the bar and blankets to lie on, man’s best friend couldn’t be made to feel more welcome although, located in a commuter village rather than prime hiking land, it is unlikely the T’owd Thatch is ever overrun by animals and, indeed, during our two-hour stay, we didn’t see another hound.

As two-legged customers, we felt just as warmly welcomed by both locals and staff alike and the service throughout was friendly, attentive and efficient.

The pub has also been modernised to a high standard, but retains its old charm with wooden floors, strong wooden tables and exposed brick work.

Our attention was drawn to the specials’ boards, meanwhile, by our waitress, with five additional starter choices, two mains and three sweets significantly adding to the Sunday Best Menu of one course for £14.50, two courses for £21 and three courses for £27.

It contained four starters, nine main dishes and six desserts, with menus updated on a monthly basis and dependent on local produce with the main suppliers Wetherby’s Sykes House Farm and Bert’s Barrow, who started out selling vegetables from carts next to an honesty box in Hillam to raise money for a village defibrillator.

The drinks choice, meanwhile, catered for all tastes, including a selection of cocktails and cask ales.

For a starter, while tempted by Black Pudding with poached egg, bacon and cabbage, I decided on Crispy Duck Egg with celeriac puree, treacle and port dressing.

The yolk oozed out satisfyingly slowly, rather than being too runny, while the thin outer layer was skilfully crisp, the mash well-seasoned and creamy and the sauce subtle, rather than domineering, which it didn’t need to be.

My wife opted for the specials’ Yorkshire Blue Cheese and Red Onion Marmalade Tart with dressed rocket.

I could smell the pleasing strength of the cheese as soon as she cut into the tart and, having been saved a mouthful, can vouch for the tasty tanginess of the marmalade and the lightness of the pastry too.

For main course, the meat and cheese sharing boards looked good, but it was Sunday and the only real decision to be made for me was whether to go for beef, lamb, pork or the specials’ board’s turkey for me.

I chose Slow Roast Shoulder of Lamb and the serving of meat was plentiful, perfectly-cooked and tender.

The roast potatoes, meanwhile, were soft and had a slight taste of the fat they had been cooked in, which I like, but my wife doesn’t.

Honey-glazed parsnips were the standout highlight of the accompanying three veg, although the mashed carrot was also very good, while the football-sized Yorkshire Puddings were golden and crunchy and ensure that nobody in the pub goes home still hungry.

Freshly-made condiments, including my mint sauce, were appreciated too, although the cranberry sauce that accompanied my other half’s turkey roast was a little sour for a philistine like me, who is used to the jarred, sweeter version.

Nikki’s generous portion of turkey was again juicy and a welcome sight on the specials’ board almost a month on from Christmas.

It was all served with lashings of gravy to pour yourself but – and it’s a repeated gripe of mine with otherwise fine dining experiences – it and the meals could have been hotter with the higher temperatures of some of the food suggesting the dishing up hadn’t all been done simultaneously.

For dessert, Nikki went for an old classic that appears to be enjoying a renaissance and reported that her specials’ board Rum Baba would have graced the 1980s, with the sponge moistened perfectly with alcohol.

Toying with the idea of handmade chocolates, I decided on a specials’ option too and the sweetness of my Tiramisu’s well-presented small swirls of cream combined well with the powerful Espresso Martini.

Possibly the most inspired choice, though, was my nine-year-old daughter’s Sticky Toffee Parkin with ginger.

Ruby had earlier enjoyed a good-sized children’s roast turkey main course for £9 and the seductive aroma of her pudding infiltrated my nostrils as soon as it arrived on the table.

I again managed to steal a spoonful and it tasted as good as it smelt, achieving that perfect almost burnt parkin taste.

Overall, we had certainly all enjoyed our food but, as for the title of Britain’s Best Sunday Lunch, we’d still advise the Observer’s critics to perhaps pay a visit to The Woodman in Bishopthorpe this year.

Our final bill came to £87.35 for two three-course meals, a child’s two-course meal, two large glasses of Merlot, a Britivic 55 and a fruit juice.

The Queen O’ T’Owd Thatch, High Street, South Milford, LS25 5AQ.

T: 01977 685096


Food: Flavoursome 4/5

Service: Friendly 4/5

Ambience: Relaxed 4/5

Value: Good 4/5

Reviews are independent and meals paid for by The Press