Beer and pub column

TIME was against it. A mix-up over a story had delayed me at the office, and now I was cutting it fine.

Winding my way out of York, over the ring-road and out into East Yorkshire, I toyed with changing plans. The kitchen at The Melbourne Arms closed at 8pm, I had been told, and the car clock was showing no mercy.

I nearly stopped at The Grey Horse at Elvington instead, briefly considered settling for the fish and chip van opposite, and then very nearly pulled in at the fantastic St Vincent Arms at Sutton-upon-Derwent. But in the end I stuck to plan A, and I’m glad I did.

The Melbourne Arms in Melbourne (formerly The Cross Keys, until 2003) will be familiar to many of you, but my visit on Wednesday night was my first.

I’d gone more in hope than expectation, following up a third-hand recommendation. The place had changed hands 16 months ago and was reportedly on the up again, so it seemed worth a visit – and indeed it was.

Karen and Matthew Lazenby, mother and son, are the new-ish managers. They took over here in September 2015, having run the catering at Swallow Hall Golf Club between Crockey Hill and Wheldrake for the previous five years. They enjoyed it there, they said, but trade was centred around weekends and fell away in winter, so they wanted something with more consistency.

They had lived in Melbourne, Matthew growing up here and attending the village primary school, so when the lease at the local became available they jumped at the chance to move into the pub trade.

It’s a large pub with a commanding presence on the village main street. Karen is manager and tends to run things front-of-house while Matthew, who trained at York College and spent several years at The Plough in Allerthorpe, runs the kitchen.

They also have a great team working with them, says Karen.

York Press:

"It has been going very well," says Matthew. "We have been very happy. We've done quite a bit of work, painting and cleaning it up; it was a bit run down, so we spent quite a bit of money, and the village is supporting us very well.

"We had been at the golf club five years and it was very good for functions and Sunday lunches, but through the week we were catering only for the golfers and we wanted somewhere a bit more consistent. We are both really enjoying it here."

Karen says that more or less as soon as they took over, the villagers had got behind them.

"We have been busy ever since," she says. "It's like the whole village and surrounding area was waiting and hoping for someone to make a go of it here."

Matthew says the pub's owners, Admiral Taverns, been very supportive so far, and Karen says they are looking into further plans for the business, opening up a fireplace at one end of the building, and possibly opening at lunchtimes and for afternoon teas in the summer, to cater for local walkers and people using the Pocklington Canal, which passes behind the pub.

In the meantime, it's still very decidedly pub grub. Karen says they've been very popular for Sunday lunches, and they're doing a decent midweek trade.

Having made it in time, I ordered the steak and ale pie with chips and a pint, alas, of coke since I was driving. Real ales on the bar, for those more fortunate, were Hobgoblin, Hobgoblin Gold, Timothy Taylor’s Landlord and John Smith’s cask, with other options including Amstell, Guinness, Foster's and Stowford Press.

The pub's opening hours are:

  • Sunday: noon to midnight - food served noon to 5pm
  • Monday: 6pm to 11pm - no food
  • Tuesday: 4.30pm to 11pm - food served 4.30pm to 8pm
  • Wednesday: 4.30pm to 11pm - food served 4.30pm to 8pm
  • Thursday: 4.30pm to 11pm - food served 4.30pm to 8pm
  • Friday: 4.30pm to midnight - food served 4.30pm to 9pm
  • Saturday: noon to midnight - food served noon to 2.30pm and 4.30pm to 9pm on Saturdays

There's an open mic night on the third Thursday of each month.