FINDING a dog-friendly pub to enjoy food on a Friday night can feel like a fruitless venture.

But Slingsby's Grapes Inn pips most when it comes to catering for your canine companion and providing quality cuisine amid a vibrant local atmosphere.

After taking our St Bernard on a scenic walk in the shadow of the Howardian Hills, we arrived to be shown to our reserved table at 6.30pm.

At nine-and-a-half stone, Coco isn't the most inconspicuous of four-legged guests and she had muddied her paws during our pre-meal hike, but the snug area, adjacent to the main bar with its four tables and slate floor tiles, proved the perfect setting for our party and fellow diners with dogs.

While the juke box plays timeless classics from the likes of the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and the Monkees, the Grapes is also full of fascinating antique artefacts with my favourite the Guinness Toucan.

Even the cutlery belongs to a bygone era whilst an open fire, burning even during our mid-June visit, adds to the inn's quaint charm.

With a dart-board included in the outside smoking area and a children's playground next to the car park, though, 21st-century pursuits are not ignored either.

The bar, where regulars congregated and the chitter-chatter gained in volume as the night progressed, boasted five draught lagers and four beers, including a Slingsby pale ale. Waiting staff, meanwhile, were attentive and friendly throughout the evening, even as the pub began to fill up.

For starters, there was a choice of just three dishes, but it was certainly a case of quality over quantity.

I opted for the cream of mushroom soup with homemade bread and was pleased to see it served in a generously deep bowl. It was also pleasingly hot, well-seasoned and creamy, while the bread was perfectly warm and crusty.

My wife chose duck spring rolls with salad and hoisin dip, which she rated highly too.The rolls were wide and packed with meat, whilst achieving a skilful crispiness without any grease and the sauce was satisfyingly sweet and thick.

A red onion, courgette and tomato tart was the other first-course offering with all three costing £6.95.

Next, I decided on chicken biryani for my main course.

As a general rule, I wouldn't normally eat curry in a pub, believing you're more likely to get greater authenticity in an Indian restaurant but, encouraged by the standard of the starters and the fact that it was Friday night, I gave in to temptation.

I wasn't disappointed. The spice level might have been a little on the safe side, but there was an adequate kick and, while the chunks of meat were small, they were plentiful and the rice was perfectly cooked.

Toasted almonds, meanwhile, were an inspired addition and the sauces served with the accompanying poppadom were first class.The cucumber raita was the best I have tasted, with a real thickness to it, and the mango chutney had good chunks of fruit in it.

My other half went for homemade steak and ale with suet pudding, hand-cut chips (mash was also available) and vegetables. Again, the standard was high as big chunks of tender meat combined well with good slices of mushroom and a subtle flavour of alcohol, as well as two delicious dumplings

The thick chips were crispy on the outside and nice and fluffy inside, whilst the creamy celeriac in a garlic sauce was a real highlight, providing an inventiveness that many restaurants can ignore when it comes to vegetables - they should never just be considered as a bland accompaniment.

Both mains cost £12.95, as did fish and chips, asparagus and pine nut risotto, and a hazelnut, grape, celeriac, apple and goats cheese salad. Scampi was available too at £13.95, with moules mariniere costing £14.95 and a 10oz sirloin steak priced at £22.95, while chilli-con-carne was available as a special.

For dessert, there were only four options but, given the calibre of the cooking, that seemed sufficient and enough of a dilemma. All the homemade puddings cost £5.95. I had Eton mess and the meringue was satisfyingly soft with a good dollop of cream and strong, tangy berries. Nikki's sticky toffee pudding topped it, though, as I was lucky to be offered a couple of mouthfuls.

The pudding was moist and the hot toffee sauce incredible, leading us to both agree it was probably the best example of a pub favourite that we had ever sampled. Quite simply, the opportunity to taste it should not be missed on a visit to the Grapes, although lemon posset and rhubarb crumble were on the desserts blackboard too if desired.

As we left through the bar, meanwhile, everybody made a fuss of our pet, proving the pub's hospitality - for all forms of guests - matches the quality of its food.