The entrance to The Yew Tree Inn proudly lists the various awards they have won in recent years. Rural Pub of the Year? Check. Cheshire Pub of the Year? Double check. Cheshire Dining Pub of the Year? Double check again. There’s more, too. Prior to our visit they were recently awarded their first AA rosette, had another mention in the Michelin Guide, and secured a place in the Top 50 Gastropub list. All of this points towards a rewarding lunch as we work our way back to Birmingham after a long weekend in Cheshire. Yet I’m sceptical of these awards. I know all too well that the best man doesn’t always win after losing out on a Food Bloggers award last year to a discount card that could be described as a blog if you took the boundaries, tied them to the back of a car, and drove them off a cliff. I’m not saying that these awards are not important, because they clearly are, but what I am saying is that there are many factors other than the worthy winner, such as popularity and PR intervention. And I say all of this fully expecting to win said award this summer.
Now lets move away from my ego and back to the pub. Is it worthy of all of these accolades? No. Not by a long shot, based on my visit last weekend. It started well enough with chorizo croquettes from the snack section. The outer was crisp, the filling full of the spicy sausage, with a chilli sauce that clings and heats. These are worth four quid of anyone’s money. A ham hock terrine starter was rustic and comforting, the meat chunky, with the occasional bite of carrot set within the aspic jelly. It works well with a not overly pickled piccalilli.
We also like the wellington of roast vegetables, the ratatouille covered in an upturned field mushroom and lattice pastry. It is the kind of vegetarian cooking I admire, a change from the usual half-arsed pasta offering, and enough to make an ex non-meat eater turn the protein down for a day. And she was pleased, which is more than I have managed this year.
And then it all falls to pieces. A stone cold pie takes an age to return to the kitchen. When it returns it is passable, but not much else. The beef is a touch tough and considering that the word ‘pepper’ makes a third of its description, it is woefully under seasoned. A hockey puck masquerading as a beef burger has an odd soggy texture throughout that breaks down the brioche bun it sits on. It’s tough going, though we take solace in the bacon and fried egg being decent. I bet they do a good breakfast here. Chips on both dishes had the back note of fat and were far from crisp.
We order a hot chocolate and salted caramel because the next tables reaction as it oozed across their plate merited one. Ours was overcooked by several minutes and ended up more akin to a Rolo than the liquid dessert expected. I assume that the wedge on top of this was honeycomb. I assume this because my teeth would let me nowhere near it, in the same way they couldn’t crack the spun sugar decoration on top of a rhubarb and orange tart. In that case the pastry was good, the filling bland. We should have seen the signs and quit long ago. We only have ourselves to blame.
Service was pleasant, though slow and there is no apology offered in any way for the cold pie. The bill for the sits around £30 each, hardly a fortune, yet still disappointing given the expectations. And there lies the problem; rightly or wrongly these accolades do come with expectation, expectation that they fell well short upon. I could list a dozen pubs nearer to home more deserving in my opinion. But that is all subjective. What matters is we had a lunch that was littered with errors, where nobody left satisfied. And that simply is not good enough.