Would-be chefs given great insight as top professional takes them under his wing.
Village pub cum restaurant The Spencer Arms is in the chocolate box village of Cawthorne in Barnsley, close to Cannon Hall.
It was my first foray into what promised to be above average dining with a foodie friend who is no mean cook himself.
We walked in to a warmly lit room a little early and hit the bar. The eighteenth century building is quietly modern inside, blending pub and restaurant, old and new, stylishly and successfully.
Music was unobtrusive and there was a background hum of chat as we chatted over drinks at a candlelit table.
We were not offered ‘grazings’ from the menu but my companion spotted them and flagged a waitress to ask for olives. They came and were approved... very tasty.
Later, when starters arrived, first impressions were favourable.
My piled-high mushrooms and truffle with ‘parmesan emulsion’ and chunky toast was scrummy. The smoked and poached salmon with prawns, lemon and dill was savoured across the table, with mention of top notch crusty bread (he makes his own and is fussy).
On to the mains; my tandoori sea bass came cooked to perfection with crispy skin. The cumin spiced chickpeas and celeriac were good too. I cleared the plate.
My companion opted for ‘red deer with blackberries’, a ‘Round Green Farm’ 8oz venison haunch with roast potato, baked orchard apple puree, mushrooms and blackberries.
It looked and was succulent, but for him the meat was undercooked. He had not been asked how he would like his deer, and that was the only gripe during the evening.
By the time of third course (fourth if including olives) we were feeling full, but felt we had to sample the sweet stuff.
Pumpkin pie looked nothing like pie, but came beautifully presented. It was a melt in the mouth experience and there were ecstatic murmurings from across the table. My friend told the chef it was the best dessert he had ever eaten!
The ‘mini delights’ were treats I sadly could not finish, but included a shortbread, ginger crisp, pumpkin pie and a delectable mille feuille. Chocolate truffles were chilled a little too hard.
Waiting staff were cheerful and very young. The Spencer Arms links with Barnsley College and offers both placements and apprenticeships. Head Chef Ben Atkinson has a passion for encouraging students in the industry.
Our food bill totalled £71.35, for four courses, all thoroughly enjoyed. Drinks can bump up the cost - a 250ml glass of good Shiraz house wine was £7.60. All in all we were happily replete.
Star rating out of five:
Three more to choose from:
The Milestone, Green Lane, Kelham Island, Sheffield Rowleys at the Prince of Wales, Baslow, Peak District The Chequers Inn, Froggatt Edge, Hope Valley