EATING OUT: Putting award winning Sheffield pub to the test
Staff can make or break a pub, and at Fox House they can also secure national awards.
Manager Rebecca Aitken believes it is her wonderfully friendly team that ensured the historic venue won BBC Countryfile’s Country Pub of the Year earlier this year. “I think the pub is so popular because its so friendly”, she says. “We’re a very dog friendly pub and we always go out of our way for everybody and people feel that.’
I decided to pop in for tea last Thursday, to see how worthy it is of such a title. We fancied a treat and what better location as the sun sets? However, we weren’t alone in our thinking and had to grab a table in the bar area since everywhere else was fully booked.
A sign proclaiming Fox House’s recent win greets visitors as soon as you step through the door. However it really didn’t need such a boost. The truth is, confirmed by the barman, this place always gets busy as soon as the sun comes out.
There is something very special about a fairly large restaurant which is split into lots of cosy corners. It can feel like you’re the only ones there no matter how busy. The careful decoration and endless wood carefully remind you of the centuries of history which have unfolded here. It was built in 1773 and has been a favoured resting stop ever since.
You can’t help but think that location is a contributing factor to success even today. Fox House is only a few minutes drive from the outskirts of Sheffield yet you could be forgiven for feeling like you’re in the middle of nowhere. With Padley Gorge and Longshaw as the nearest neighbours, what’s not to like? However you don’t win national awards without being very popular among very dedicated clientele and that only comes with good food and great customer service. The team prides itself on making everyone welcome, including dogs, and is very good at it. They managed to satisfy my stroppy six-year-old and accommodate a large elderly booking at the same time, all with a smile. If Fox House feels like a local, and at times it does, it certainly doesn’t do it to the exclusion of first time visitors.
Even though the restaurant was full, our food didn’t take long to arrive and we dived right in. We started by sharing a sticky platter (£15.95) and stone-baked flatbread topped with garlic butter and cheese (£5.75). Ideal for a family with two young boys who like to try absolutely everything. My platter favourite was the calamari. The prawns and chorizo in garlic butter were delicious although missing one key ingredient - chorizo! We only noticed we hadn’t had it when discussing the food afterwards which is indicative of just how good everything else tasted. The stickiness came in the form of maple-glazed chicken wings and lamb koftas with sweet chilli sauce. All present, correct, delicious and devoured.
Both of boys had ordered pizza for their main course, one from the kids menu and one adults. Their faces lit up when they saw the very generous portions and they eagerly took hold of the pizza cutters.
Despite several healthy veg options, my littlest has opted for carb overload in the shape of chips and garlic bread alongside his Margarita. It was the biggest kid’s meal I’ve seen, at a reasonable cost of £5, and he was delighted. It was freshly made with wholesome, tasty toppings and very crusty crusts.
The size and amount of cheesy toppings, including Blacksticks Brie, mature cheddar, mozzarella and large slabs of brie, was just as generous for adults. It somehow managed to boast tons of topping, a big plus in my family, but without being overwhelming. The ideally crispy base smothered in delightful, carefully selected contrasting cheese. Truly scrumptious, to quote a popular musical. Delicious though they were we ended up taking more than half of both pizzas home in doggy bags, simply due to their size - and perhaps because we overdid it on the starters. You can’t argue for tea two nights on the trot, if only their dad hadn’t discovered the leftovers at lunchtime!
For the grown-ups the sea bass was beautifully served on crushed baby potatoes, topped with asparagus and nestling in a lobster and samphire sauce (£16.95). It delighted the tastebuds and had all the right textures.
I had the 8oz rump steak (£12.95) which was the only disappointing element. It was rather gristly, although fortunately offset by stunningly good triple cooked chips. This was the first time I ever really understood why any chip needs to be cooked three times. The blue cheese sauce was also good although incredibly rich, but then that is what you’d expect. You can add a kid’s pudding on for just £1 and the adult’s treats looked amazing. Unfortunately we were simply too full. Next time I might just skip straight to the final course and dive into the pudding tasting platter for £8.95. For that you get chocolate brownie topped with vanilla ice cream, Eton mess, treacle and pecan tart, vanilla creme brulee and home baked butter biscuits. I know plenty of people who rank Fox House as a favourite and it is worth a visit. Take my advice though, leave the car at home and hike there - it is the only way to get an appetite large enough.
The Fox House, Hathersage Road
Tel: 01433 630374