When I was approached to write an article about the opening of Broadley’s at The Craven Heifer in July it was suggested that I might like to pay a visit and sample the food for myself. Unless there is a dedicated press event I like to give new ventures a short time to get into their stride and overcome the inevitable teething troubles before I call.
Here we are a couple of months later and I am on my way to Addingham after confirming that the offer was still open. The lovely village looked spectacular in the autumn sunshine, as did its bigger sibling, Ilkley. As a bonus it was my birthday so the world was a wonderful place to be. Little did I know that it was about to get even better.
I arrived at the beautiful country pub at 1.00pm as arranged and was furnished with a pint of hand-pulled Hetton Pale Ale which was taken to my table by the waitress, as was I. I was told that Matt Broadley would be a couple of minutes late as he was just finishing off the chocolate brownie mixture. I made a mental note that that was to be my dessert. When I arrive at a hospitality venue by appointment the welcome is always warm and friendly although sometimes the eyes and body language convey a different feeling, here it was obviously genuine.
The bar and the dining room are exactly what you would expect from a pub in an upmarket village, being tastefully furnished and decorated without straying into pastiche. It also had a mixture of seating types which is good as I am not someone who likes to eat from a high bench, although I know people who do.
When you are in a good pub time is not measured in minutes and hours, so a couple of sips from my pint later I was joined by the chef and manager of the restaurant, Matt Broadley. As I wrote in the original preview, the owners of The Craven Heifer, Phil and Karen Croft, asked Matt if he would be prepared to supervise the food part of the business as he has a celebrated bistro and wine bar in Ilkley which is the one they would always recommend to their customers. We had a really good chat and so this has turned from being solely an article on the pub to also being a interview.
We began by discussing the aims of The Craven Heifer and he told me that the main objective is to provide traditional pub fare to compliment the ambience of the hostelry itself. Although the names of the dishes will be familiar, the way they are prepared and served will probably not be, the ingredients being sourced locally wherever possible but given an individual slant. I asked what he would recommend and he immediately said ‘Bangers and Mash’. This is one of my all-time favourite comfort foods anyway, so that was that sorted.
Before he went off to work his magic, more of which later, I asked him about the tribulations of starting up a new enterprise immediately after the lifting of lockdown. He said that it was just one of the challenges which he faced since the beginning of the pandemic as, rather than close his Ilkley restaurant, he decided to adapt it and serve take-away food. Unlike other restaurateurs who took this option, he didn’t offer his normal menu but converted the output solely (pardon the pun) to fish and chips. For the first weekend’s trade he ordered fifty haddock which sold out on the Friday, and once in full swing he was doing five hundred portions a weekend. The position of Broadley’s in a town centre car park lent itself to accommodating a lot of vehicles so customers would register their order along with the make, model and number of their vehicle, and the food would be passed through their window. Eventually the time slots were at three minute intervals! As you would expect the dishes were up to the same standard as the main menu equivalent.
As well as the superchippy, he started the ‘Corner Shop’ which was a scheme designed to sell the food ordered from his suppliers to the public and deliver it to their homes. This was a ‘not for profit’ concern aimed at keeping in contact with those from both sides of the business. After a wide ranging chat Matt retired to the kitchen to prepare my lunch.
As you will see, everything is beautifully presented and of a satisfying portion size. I was asked if I would like any mustard or other condiment but I didn’t want to by mask the taste of the carefully prepared dish by adding any other embellishments. A wise decision.
The pork sausages are supplied by J B Wilkinsons in Ilkley and just right for this combination. They were a tad more seasoned than normal, not up there with the Cumberland or Lincolnshire varieties, just enough to hold their own with the creamy mash and rich onion gravy. Each banger was placed atop its own quenelle – that’s French for dollop – of mash and liberally drizzled with onion gravy.
Matt had told me about the sauce, which begins as 30 litres of liquid containing stock, 14 well caramelised onions and other stuff which he kept to himself, ending up as 4 litres of incredibly rich, but still nicely liquid gravy.
The peas and carrots were also a work of art. They were prepared with cinnamon, star anise, honey, orange peel and coriander. Boy, did they taste good. After all my years of eating out I am never sure as to how to tackle vegetables served in a separate bowl; do I pour them onto the main plate and, if so, why were they not placed there to begin with, or do I risk a table top full of greenery as the peas escape as I am trying to extract them. Being British I compromised. I wanted to taste them on their own without the influence of the mash and gravy so I sampled a few morsels from the bowl. The taste was sublime but I knew that my luck couldn’t last so I tipped the remainder onto my plate. This also made the presence of the star anise more obvious so I was not given a birthday surprise of a blast of that particular spice on its own. I should not have worried as, again, the flavours of the vegetables were more than capable of standing up to the main event.
Although my appetite had been sated I felt that I really should give the Gooey Chocolate Brownie with Warm Chocolate Fudge Sauce and Hazelnut & Tonka Bean Ice Cream a try. I am so glad I did, it was delicious.
This could have been the richest, heaviest dessert in the history of mankind but it turned out to live up to its name by being satisfyingly gooey, whilst staying on the right side of stodgy. The featherlight ice cream helped and the two sauces completed the ensemble by being somewhere in the middle of the other textures. The only thing which could have improved it would have been the addition of candles but should the appropriate number have been used, the ice cream would have melted instantly, the brownie burned to a cinder and the restaurant sprinkler system automatically activated.
After a black coffee, complete with small biscuit, just enough to add enough extra calories to make me resolve to diet until Christmas, I wandered back into the village for the start of my homeward journey, one which passed with my being in a lovely warm mood and thinking that adding another year to the already sizeable number I had already accumulated, was not such a bad thing.
Should you call and find that the combination of real ale and amazing food means that you don’t want to face the real world immediately then The Craven Heifer has seven beautiful letting rooms.
For details of The Craven Heifer please go to https://cravenheifer-addingham.co.uk/
A new version of the website containing more details of the menu is in the process of being updated and should be ready next month.
All photographs by Stan Graham