The Hinchcliffe Arms, Cragg Vale, Hebden Bridge

By Jo Cooksey

Escape to Yorkshire

It’s been very quiet in Ancoats recently and we finally worked out why. No Rob Owen Brown. Our pal, Chef Rob has moved…I hardly dare say this…to Yorkshire. Gasp! A Manchester lad through and through but having seen the idyllic hidden valley he and his lovely little family are now living in I can’t say I blame him.

Once described by Jay Rayner as ‘the real thing’, Rob cut his teeth in such venues as The French at The Midland Hotel and latterly at The Mark Addy, before it suffered a devasting flood. He built a reputation as a chef who uses everything of the beast; from nose to tail and his recipe book, called Crispy Squirrel and Vimto Trifle bears testament to that. Having spent the last few years freelancing and doing dining pop ups Rob was quite happy with his lot and wasn’t looking for a new restaurant venture. But all that changed when he was approached by JW Lees and asked to look at The Hinchliffe. He did and as they say the rest is history. It was love at first sight.

The Hidden Valley

As Easter approached and we were trying to think of somewhere to go for lunch on Easter Sunday we had a lightbulb moment. Let’s go to The Hinchcliffe. So, we jumped in the car and off we pootled over the moors. It’s a very picturesque journey, though I would recommend using Sat Nav as you approach Cragg Vale because if you blink you will miss the turning. As you drop down the windy road, past the church, you are struck by how pretty the valley is. The pub itself nestles in the bottom by a babbling brook.

As we entered we were met by Rob’s right-hand man of many years, Kieran, who in turn introduced us to James, another old friend and ex-colleague of Rob’s, who was mucking in for the day. The interior of the pub is gloriously vintage and cosy, with working fireplaces, heritage colours, tartan fabrics and carpets and tongue and groove paneling. It and Rob were on the tele recently, in the last episode of BBC2’s ‘Home In Time For Tea.’

Seasonal and Fresh

Now Rob’s food is often described as gutsy and what you can always guarantee is whatever he serves up will always be seasonal and as far as possible locally sourced. He enjoys a good forage, so ingredients might be from just up the lane. If not local it will be the best of the best, such as Morecambe Bay shrimps, not a bag of frozen from Tesco. On the menu at The Hinch, as it is known, there are always pub classics like fish and chips, a pie, a burger and sandwiches but then there is an ever changing a la carte menu and a Sunday Roast that will put hairs on your chest. James explained that you can either have a plate of Sunday dinner or you can have a sharing platter of Sunday dinner. This includes a choice of three of the four roast meats on that day plus all the trimmings and only £15 per head. Guess what we went for?

In the meantime, there were starters to be had. I did consider the ‘Soon To Be Famous Craggy Egg’, consisting of black pudding and sausage meat wrapped around a pickled egg, then rolled in crumbled pork scratchings. Think Scotch Egg on steroids, plus this is served in its own little treasure chest. In the end, I settled on the Black Pudding Potato Cake with a soft poached hen’s egg and tarragon butter sauce. Ooo this was bliss. Plenty of black pud with the potato, the outside was very crispy and the tang of the tarragon sauce complemented it perfectly. I was very happy with my choice, as was my daughter with her Goat’s Cheese Crumpet with a Honey Dressing.

Blimey, That’s A Big ‘Un!

It was Sunday Roast platter time. By ‘eck it were ruddy huge. We took a deep breath, a large swig of the very pleasant Malbec we’d ordered and got stuck in. The three meats we had were some very juicy pork, complete with amazing crackling, beautifully pink beef and a capon. Plus, there were roast potatoes, roast swede and baby carrots, kale, cauliflower, stuffing and Yorkshire Puddings. There was even extra gravy on the side, which I love. James did tell us that there would be no pudding if we didn’t finish everything and we did try our best but in the end it beat us. They certainly don’t stint on the portions.

James relented and bought us the dessert menu, although to be honest we had to have a little rest before indulging. I went for Rob’s famous Vimto Trifle, which I love and Frankie had the Steamed Chocolate Pudding with Custard. This also came with extra custard on the side. Both puds were perfect and along with a latte were an excellent ending to a magnificent meal. The only problem now was we had to drive home, when all we wanted to do was curl up in front of the fire and have a snooze.

The pub was packed so we only saw Rob briefly but the food made up for that. Will we go back? Do you really have to ask? Of course we will and we highly recommend that you pay a visit too.

We paid for our meal at The Hinchcliffe and as always, the review and opinions are our own and unbiased.

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