“Change your hearts or you will lose your inns and you will deserve to have lost them.
But when you have lost your inns, you may drown your empty selves, for you will have lost the heart of England”.
Hilaire Belloc (Writer and historian,1870 -1953). This and That – 1912.
In these times of uncertainty and a tough economic climate for businesses such as pubs and restaurants, all of us have seen some of our local favourites go to the wall.
How many of us have said in shock – ‘oh, the so-and-so pub has closed’, and then ask ourselves when the was the last time we actually went in?
Mea Culpa. Use them or lose them is the ethos that we all need to take heed of.
Say what you like about pub chains, they have saved many a local from a sad demise.
As interest in craft ale rises, the proliferation of local breweries and micro breweries in recent years has also been a very beneficial and welcome trend.
Some have gone on to acquire failing local pubs and to build them up by serving great food alongside their ales.
The Kings Arms, at Heath near Wakefield was taken over by local Ossett Brewery in 2011and it has simply gone from strength to strength. It’s reputation has gone far and wide through the quality of it’s food and beers.
The pub has an interesting and ancient history of it’s own, now preserved for future generations.
Heath village consists entirely of buildings from the 15th to the 19th century and sits in the middle of the vast open space of moor and parkland that is Sharlston Common on the outskirts of Wakefield in West Yorkshire. The row of Yorkshire stone former cottages the Kings Arms now occupies, was built in 1745. It is a very picturesque building.
On a hot summer’s day in 1841, Irish railway workers rioted when the beer ran out at the Cheesecake Inn at nearby Kirkthorpe (well, wouldn’t you?).
This pub was immediately closed and the licence transferred to the small inn at Heath so that they could sell alcohol. Thus, The Kings Arms was born out of this closure. Ironic eh?
From this small beginning, in the 1960’s, the pub was extended into adjoining cottages, coaching house and stable by a private landlord. Original features were retained where possible and oak panelling was salvaged from Irnham Hall in Lincolnshire to enhance these features.
The King’s Arms is now Grade II listed architecturally and is fascinating both inside and out.
Unusually, it is entirely lit by gas-lamps, which add to the olde-worlde atmosphere.
On entering, there is one of the smallest bars I have ever seen, catering for about four people at most. You are immediately struck by the dark wood panelling and stone flagged floors throughout, which take you back to a bygone age. The larger bar is a cosy place, and intimate rooms with real coal fires can be found by exploring various parts of the building.
The Gaslight Restaurant, run by chef Richard and his able team serves a predominantly English menu. The ingredients, as one might expect these days, are locally sourced and seasonal where possible.
The meals are prepared and cooked on-site. As well as in the restaurant itself, meals can be taken in private, wooden panelled and glass booths or in the small, modern conservatory, which is tastefully incorporated into the main building.
Starters range from £4 – £5-50, Mains from £10 – £15 and Desserts from £4 – £7 from the daily menu choices. Great value.
It was for the Christmas menu my party and I came however.
My opening salvo of prawn and crabmeat salad was a refreshing way to commence. My partner’s parsnip soup was a creamy, rich and warming starter.
Soon, my lamb shank, sitting on a cushion of carrot-speckled mash hove into view.
The bone needed no persuasion to part from the tender meat. Traditional roast turkey dinner across the table came with thickly sliced breast meat.
With the U.K. having opted for Brexit however, Brussels were not on the menu (oh yes they were), alongside baby roasted carrots and deliciously fluffy roast parsnips.
On to the desserts and my chocolate tart turned out to be two rich pastry cases of velvety smoothness that oozed decadence. They came with milk and white chocolate straws as well as an accompanying individual blackberry and raspberry, all on an icing sugar dusted slate.
Apple and winter-berry crumble with custard was declared to be superb, though the Yorkshire portions all round left us filled to capacity.
Deliciously filled moist mince pies and satisfyingly good coffee completed the meal.
At £25 per head, this was tremendous value and all of my guests left well fed and happy.
Ossett Brewery produce many fine ales. The three permanent stalwarts at the bar are Blonde, Silver King and The Kings Arms bitter. Contrasting and easy drinking ales. Not averse to or afraid of a little competition, there are four rotating guest ales from other brewers too.
Lager-philes are catered for with six kegs of the usual suspects as well as ciders and Guinness. The pub has a Casque Marque award for the quality of its ales.
There is a large beer garden for outdoor dining and drinking in the warmer months. An occasional music festival is held here too in the summer.
The Kings Arms is a great place for quality, intimate meals in a setting which is probably unique in the U.K.
Hilaire Belloc knew a truth when he saw it. This pub and restaurant is well worth preserving. Don’t sit on your sofa, go out and visit you local inn before it is too late.
Further details and menus may be found at www.thekingsarmsheath.co.uk.