HAVING spent most Easter weekends of my adult life on hockey tour (although sadly not the last two for obvious Covid reasons), the failure to perform our team’s favorite event this year provided the opportunity to experience normal bank holiday activities, away from the sports grounds of sunny Bridlington.
Good Friday saw a seaside trip to Seaton Carew (entering there before hordes of tourists after this week’s TV dramatization of the infamous story of the canoe man), and Easter Monday involved searching for a new fence panel to finally repair the damage caused by last year’s storm, followed by lunch at the new Wetherspoons in Northallerton.
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Confession time. I’ve been to a lot of Wetherspoons over the years, but usually not to eat on purpose. The eating somehow happened out of necessity or by accident while there were a few drinks, which meant the quality of the food, or otherwise, was hard to judge.
A previous meal at Northallerton’ Spoons, The Buck Inn on the High Street was quite disappointing, but notable for being my first experience ordering through the mobile phone app – brilliant during Covid, but very impersonal in what is, after everything, supposed to be the hospitality industry.
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Monday lunchtime it was pleasantly busy with a wide range of customers, mostly eating, from young parents with newborns to large family groups of all ages. It’s a spacious venue, with plenty of seating, both indoors and outdoors, and has been fitted out in traditional Wetherspoon style, with a nod to local history. Where else could you find local luminaries such as Gertrude Bell, footballer Michael Dawson and mountaineer Alan Hinkes all celebrated on the same walls?
Inside The Buck, Northallerton’s new Wetherspoons venue
The menu is an absolute monster, and diving into it isn’t for the faint-hearted, or those who haven’t brought their reading glasses, with multiple options for most dishes, or offers to include drinks. It was also my first experience of the new public health rules that forced restaurant chains to add calories to their menus, and my god, that’s terrifying. I’m not sure what this will accomplish, other than scaring away customers who already have a difficult relationship with food. Any sane person should know that an “ultimate burger”, for example, which includes bacon and cheese, and is served with fries and onion rings (total: 1,703 calories), is not all eaten days.
My sister and I ordered nachos with cheese, guacamole, salsa and sour cream to share as a starter (£4.90, 627 calories), from the wonderfully friendly guy behind the bar, who called me “ma’am” throughout our conversation, which, while still so polite, made me feel like I was about 1,000 years old. Usually the nachos also came with chili peppers, but there were none, which in this case was fine with us. The presentation left a little to be desired, but the salsa had a nice heat to it, and overall it was better than similar dishes I’ve had elsewhere at specialty Tex-Mex restaurants.
Nachos with salsa, sour cream and gaucamole
The service was pleasantly quiet, giving us plenty of time to peruse the reading material on the table, which consisted of a heavy, glossy Wetherspoons magazine, plus another rather odd in-house publication, declaring itself a special edition of “Wetherspoon News “. With the front-page headline “Does the Truth Matter”, it was dedicated to publishing corrections and apologies from various national news outlets related to the company’s coverage during the Covid pandemic. It was a bit heavy for a leisurely bank holiday lunch so it was a relief when our mains arrived. I had ordered a “classic” 8oz sirloin steak with chips (£9.15 including a soft drink, or £10.45 with an alcoholic drink, 1,055 calories) even though I neglected to opt for the gourmet version which for £2 more would have included peas, tomato, mushroom, three onion rings and steak sauce (1,309 calories).
Sirloin steak and fries
I had asked for my steak to be semi-cooked, and it was cooked really well, without even a hint of pink, although it was quite juicy. The fries were the highlight.
Claire’s grilled chicken breast burger and fries (£6.45 with soft drink, £7.75 with alcoholic drink, 1,031 calories), had good flavor and the chicken itself was well cooked, but it could have been spread on the bread, or maybe a dollop of mayonnaise to make it less dry as a packet.
Chicken burger and fries – a hearty portion
The dessert options looked tempting, though mostly quite unhealthy (hot cookie dough sandwich with ice cream, 845 calories!), but the generous portions meant we had little space, so we opted out. . The bill, which included a soft drink and a pint of lager cooler as part of the meal deals, was £21.80.
Is the Buck Inn a place to visit in search of a high class restaurant? Clearly not. But in these trying times, with so many people needing to put on some extra pounds, being able to eat a nice two-course meal with a few drinks, in lovely surroundings, for under £22 is nothing to sniff at. It won’t be for everyone, but for a cheap holiday lunch between garden centers and DIY stores it was perfectly acceptable.
The Buck Inn
237–238 High Street, Northallerton, DL7 8LU
Open 8 a.m. to midnight, Sunday to Thursday, 8 a.m. to 1 a.m., Friday and Saturday
Ratings (out of 10): Food quality 6 Service 7 Environment 7 Value for money 10
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