The fabulous private country house, Ledston Hall, dates back to 1540 and stands unobtrusively to the rear of the lovely village from which it takes it’s name.
It is a short walk from the RSPB reserve at Fairburn Ings in West Yorkshire.
Early occupants of the Hall, the Witham family, had a young son, William, and when he fell seriously ill there was panic stations above and below stairs.
One of the maids, Mary Pannell, was known to dabble in herbal medications and it was to her that the family turned in their desperation for help.
Mary cooked up a potion for rubbing on the child’s chest, but in the midst of all the confusion and consternation, William’s mother gave him it to drink. William died soon afterwards.
An investigation followed and in 1603, Mary was found guilty of witchcraft at York and hanged. Her body was returned to Ledston where it was burned as a witch at the top of a nearby hill. The hill still bears her name to this day.
There are reports that her ghost has been seen around Ledston many times, leading a horse through nearby fields and streets.
Whether this was the origins of the name of the village pub, the White Horse, is a moot point. This particular building was constructed in the 15th century and may have borne the name prior to Mary’s ill-fated exploits. Still, it is nice to romanticise a bit.
Some of the villagers still refer to the pub by it’s local name, Mary Carr’s.
It is thought that this dates from the name of the last landlady to run the pub independently before the premises were taken over by a brewery.
Thus, the pub has served it’s residents and visitors quietly for around 500 years.
The village itself is rather up-market, with the majority of houses being detached and constructed from local limestone, as are the original buildings. The tree lined main street, many of them cherry trees, make it look very beautiful, especially in Spring and Summer. It is quiet and sleepy.
The pub has served it’s community well, but has never had much of a reputation for food.
Former lecturer Peter Higginson refurbished the pub in late 2015 and operates it under the Enterprise Inns banner. Far removed from any chain-like pub in appearance, the update retained that independent and old Yorkshire feeling. It still has stone flagged floors, exposed interior stone walls and an old fashioned black-lead oven and open fireplace.
There are four separate, cosy dining rooms, all decorated in stylish, muted colours.
There is a larger, more open area around the bar with bench seating and more tables.
An external open decking area to the side of the pub and bench tables immediately in front of it cater for outdoor drinkers in warmer months.
There is a large car park to the rear of the pub.
On entering the bar, you feel right at home immediately, which is always a good sign.
This is a superbly thought out, relaxing place to spend a lazy lunch or a convivial evening.
The bar boasts two lagers, a Belgian white beer, a draught cider and three real ales, which on my visit were Black Sheep’s Golden Sheep (Yorkshire), Moorhouse’s White Witch (Lancashire)and Skinner’s Betty Stogs (Cornwall). There is a current Cask Marque award for the quality of the beers, and well deserved it is too.
For those discerning palates with a taste for the nuances of juniper and quinine there is also a surprisingly varied gin and tonic menu.
The dining style is fine, modern British which utilises seasonal, local produce.
The menu changes fortnightly to reflect the availability of such produce.
It is rapidly gaining a well deserved reputation for great food and is building a loyal following from far and wide, as well as for the lucky villagers.
Simple weekday lunches range from £5.50 to £10.50, whilst on Sundays from noon to 6pm, more substantial meals are one course for £14.50, two for £19.50 and three for £23.50.
These prove to be very popular, but it was for the highly rated evening meal that my party and I were keen to sample, having heard and read so many good recommendations and reviews locally.
The a la carte menu is £6 – £8 for starters, £10.50 – £17.50 for main courses and £5.50 – £7 for desserts. Great value for such quality food.
We opted for the Mary Carr Set Menu however, with three choices of starter, four mains and three desserts. Two courses are £16.95 and three courses an amazing £19.95.
Twin pats of chilled plain and chilli butter melted into the thick, warm, home-made slices of Betty Stogs beer bread, supplied as a complimentary appetiser.
The pile of BBQ pulled brisket which arrived as my starter was set in a bowl of puffed corn and corn relish. Delicious indeed. Mushroom soup and potted shrimps with pickled cucumber and crisp breads were also well received by my dining guests.
My main course of slow cooked lamb shoulder came with whole baby turnips, broad beans and buttery Jersey Royal potatoes. The lamb was succulent and not fatty. Simple, but so very well accomplished.
Around the table, tomato and chilli crusted Coley with rocket salad and Jerseys and the twice baked goat’s cheese and dried tomato soufflé with vegetables were also huge hits.
For me, dessert was strawberry and black pepper millefeuille with white balsamic pistachio, a visual and tasty treat. Pecan pie with a quenelle of salted caramel ice cream was good, but a little over-baked for one guest’s taste.
One small tip, if you see Duck Egg and Soldiers as a dessert choice, take it!
This is a large egg shell filled with Italian meringue for the ‘egg-white’, creamy lemon curd for the ‘yolk’, and accompanied by shortbread fingers for the ‘soldiers’. A macaroon and raspberry crumbs complete this visual and oh so tasty treat . Simply outstanding and very inventive.
The food is so beautifully prepared and presented, each course would grace the cover of any magazine. The tastes are sublime.
All the staff were enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the dishes and were able to comment on them from personal experience, a great sign of attention to detail.
At various times throughout the year there are culinary events ranging from wine and beer sommelier nights, cookery workshops and BBQs, amongst other seasonal events.
Chef Director Peter was in action giving a cookery demonstration to the assembled throng at Leeds Food Festival in June and he was very well received.
What a fantastic place. Great pub, good company, superb food, and once outside, as I said to the lady leading the white horse down the village street, the several beers I sampled were on top form too.
The pub is closed on Mondays.
For further details go to “www.whitehorseledston.co.uk”:http://www.whitehorseledston.co.uk