The Gray Ox – Restaurant Review
By Matt Callard
The foodie grapevine – that interconnected, many-tentacled message system that grows by word of mouth and rumour, which takes in the blogs and the amateur web reviews, that spreads to the Twitterati and the Facebook groups, that finds its way into the local magazines and the national supplements and, sometimes, culminates in awards and fame and a slot on The Great British Menu – has been buzzing with excitement about The Gray Ox for some time now.
You see, really good gastropubs are surprisingly hard to find in urban Yorkshire. Or perhaps it is rather that there is a surplus of really quite average gastropubs. So many look promising, tempt you in with good locations and elegantly chalked boards that bandy around words like ‘local’ and ‘ethical’ as though they are a novelty and not a prerequisite, only then to disappoint with an array of culinary clangers too numerous to go into here.
“Generous chunks of very fresh fish and lobster”
But The Gray Ox, thankfully, is different – although we’re not exactly sure of its ‘country pub’ credentials, Liversedge hardly famous for its rich green pastures and with the M62 on the doorstep. Whatever, the interior at least carries the country pub theme off – and I’ll be darned if the foodie grapevine hadn’t just about rammed the place out this one rain-lashed Thursday evening.
There’s a welcoming old brass and dark wood bar inside and, it seems, a number of nooks and levels for a traditional pub dining feel.
And the menu looks great. Packed with big-flavoured meaty classics and not afraid of the seafood. There’s even a soupcon of the Mediterranean in there. No doubt a remnant of the chef’s past experiences in Spain. A Soup of the Sea starter (£6.25) contains generous chunks of very fresh fish and lobster. There is ample warm crusty bread to dip in. Perfect seasoning, along with a flavoursome Half Grilled Lobster with Cheddar Gratin (£8.95) it is a truly terrific opening salvo.
“They even de-pip the lemons in the G&T”
Both our mains dazzle. A Seafood Platter (£18.95) is much better than we landlubbers have any right to expect. Giant, delicately prepared prawns, half a lobster, soft queenie scallops and tender white fish. There’s some seriously good ingredient sourcing going on here. Although that is, of course, nothing without the expert kitchen work.
The star of the show, however, is all meat. The rather unattractively titled Pig Plate (£14.95) is, despite the name, a homage to swine. Creamy black pudding, juicy pork fillet, melt-in-your-mouth twice cooked belly pork and that fashionable newcomer to the trendy tables – braised pig cheek. The Pig Plate is a total triumph, the real deal. The whole hog, in fact.
Service throughout the evening is courteous, unobtrusive and prompt – despite the place being full – and, heck, they even de-pip the lemons in the G&T. Attention to detail too? You got it.
“A veritable king among gastropubs”
Our sweet tooth finishers are pretty good too. Particularly a Baileys and White Chocolate Cheesecake with Coffee Syrup (£5.25. It holds back just enough on the sugar and the alcohol for something surprisingly subtle. And although the shortbread biscuits that come with a Berry Pannacotta (£5.25) are a little flaccid we are, by then, too sated to care.
The Gray Ox is a ringing endorsement to the ever expanding, always truthful foodie grapevine that first whispered its name. It’s a veritable king among gastropubs, when so many are but pretenders to the throne.
The Gray Ox, 15 Hartshead Lane, Liversedge, WF15 8AL