HELEN MEAD heads to Huby for dinner at a country pub

THE first thing I would say about The Mended Drum is that it’s wise to book in advance.

We arrived early one damp Thursday evening to find the restaurant almost fully booked. Needless to say, we did not get the table we would have chosen, beside the window.

“It’s steak and burger night, so we are very busy,” a friendly member of staff told us, before informing us of the various deals on offer, with a ‘mix and match’ package of two for £17.

We quickly settled in a corner beside a wood-burning stove in a fireplace serving two rooms. No doubt cosy while it is lit, we were quite glad it wasn’t, as we were already warm enough.

The L-shaped dining room in this country pub in the village of Huby north of York, isn’t spacious, but has a welcoming, rustic feel, with beams, wooden panelling, exposed brickwork, shelves displaying vintage crockery and various prints including pictures by LS Lowry.

On the next table sat a family with young children, tucking into healthy portions of fish and chips, and burgers. The youngsters had been crayoning, using a pot of crayons and colouring sheets provided by the pub – a nice touch. It was nice to see them proudly showing off their pictures.

We were asked what we wanted to drink. I asked for water, while my husband Andrew ordered a pint of bitter. I noticed before we went that the Mended Drum is York CAMRA Pub of the Year and has an interesting and varied selection of beers. Yet this was not mentioned – I would have thought this would be a point worth plugging.

For a starter, Andrew ordered garlic mushrooms in a creamy sauce with a homemade beer-bread loaf (£6.50). Served in an attractive earthenware dish, there was plenty of it, and it was, he said, delicious, with different varieties of mushroom in a tasty sauce. His only criticism, the dish could have been more garlicky.

However appetising the starters sounded – others included mozzarella salad and seared king prawns – I skipped this course to accommodate what I noticed were huge mains.

So huge that I struggled to eat my fish and chips (£12). The beer-battered haddock was more the size of a dolphin. But while substantial, and beautifully cooked with a lovely crunchy batter and delicate texture, the fish was lacking in taste.

It was disappointing, especially as it came with triple cooked chips, tucked neatly under the fish, which were crisp on the outside, fluffy inside and among the best chips I have ever tasted. My husband, who also had a portion with his meal, also raved about them.

A nicely flavoured mint pea puree and tartare sauce accompanied the dish.

Andrew opted for the drum burger (£12), an 8oz burger served with Cheddar cheese, gherkins, lettuce and beef tomatoes, those gorgeous chips and home-made coleslaw.

He tucked in with relish, commenting on the juicy meat, large slices of gherkin and “lovely creamy coleslaw with lots of red cabbage”.

Like the starter, it was all served on stylish earthenware.

Staff are friendly and it is obviously a community pub well-used by locals, with many people popping in and out of the bar, in an adjacent room with an open fire.

It’s an intriguing name for a pub: we were told that it was born from a run-down former pub The Star, which closed and was rescued from possible demolition to become The Mended Drum. It opened eight years ago. There is a sister pub, The Artful Dodger, on Micklegate.

The name Mended Drum comes from the Terry Pratchett Discworld novels – in the series, a pub called The Broken Drum fell on hard times and was then burned to the ground. It reopened as The Mended Drum.

Permission to use the name came from the author, who sadly died in 2015.

For pudding I chose lemon and lime cheesecake (£6.50). A crunchy biscuit base topped with creamy cheesecake, it was nice, but I struggled to taste lemon or lime.

Andrew’s Eton Mess (£6.50) – which didn’t look messy at all, but neat and pretty – was, he said, light and tasty, with huge juicy blackberries and raspberries and crisp meringue. He described it as “delicious and palate-cleansing”.

Portions throughout our meal were sizeable and filling, and our bill came to a reasonable £46.80.

One thing I need to point out, the prices on the website menu do not match those in the pub. Almost everything is cheaper on the website menu, for example garlic mushrooms are £5.50, fish and chips, £10, and the drum burger was also £2 less. This obviously needs updating.

There’s a children’s menu, and a selection of ‘street food’ options, including gourmet burgers and gourmet hotdogs. Staff are also happy to package up left-overs for diners who can’t eat everything to take home.

By the time we came to leave, foregoing coffee, the dining room was full, with people of all ages, from young families to retired people.

‘The Drum’ as it is known locally, has clearly hit the mark and is a popular spot.

The Mended Drum, Tollerton Road, Huby, YO61 1HT

T: 01347 810264

W: themendeddrum.com

Food: Satisfying 3/5

Service: Efficient 4/5

Ambience: Comfortable 3.5/5

Value: Good 4/5

Reviews are independent and meals paid for by The Press