Shoulder Of Mutton is at the heart of Middleton Tyas, a picturesque village not far from Richmond, North Yorkshire. It’s also an old-timey inn, dating back to the 18th century, and, unsurprisingly, the food is as traditional as it gets. Expect hearty plates of locally sourced meat and veg designed to fill the belly of locals after a hard day’s work.
The venue is a treat, all higgledy-piggledy angles and old-fashioned accoutrements. The staff are cheery and friendly… to a point. The bar manager scoffs brusquely at the very idea of a drinks menu – preposterous! Don’t expect any signature cocktails here. So far, so rural, but how about the food?
Happily, the quality is superb. The moules marinières is as good as it gets, with plenty of thick, soft mussels resting in a gentle sauce made from cream, white wine and parsley. Not many pleasures come close to that of slurping said sauce from a mussel shell, but dipping the accompanying crusty bread roll in it and taking a big bite comes very close.
Best scotch egg in the county, if not the country
According to the local grapevine, the homemade scotch egg is Shoulder of Mutton’s greatest dish, and rightly so. It’s a huge boulder of a starter, with a thick, crunchy coating that gives way to soft, salty pork and an egg in the centre that – round of applause – manages to have that all-important soft, runny yolk, without even a hint of sloppy white albumen. Every part of it works in tandem, including the delightfully fiery tomato chutney and the crunchy-yet-slender onion rings that hang on the top. Best scotch egg in the county, if not the country.
The main courses maintain this standard. Not many UK restaurants cook a confit duck as good as this – it’s all about using the acidity of the sweet redcurrant sauce (aided by a liberal amount of port) to cut through the fat of the duck. The skin is crispy, the meat is soft and delicious, what’s not to love? True, the soft, creamy mash won’t do any good for your BMI, but your tastebuds will thank you.
But the star of the show comes from the specials board, and these truly are specials, not just offcuts that need to be used up. The ox cheek bourguignon is the perfect dish for early autumn, all dark, heavy flavours: rich, salty and gloriously beefy. It comes with a pile of smoked bacon lardons and soft buttery onions dumped on top, and a mouthful of those, plus the ox cheek, plus some of that buttery mash, is probably the closest thing to gastronomic heaven in North Yorkshire.
Sadly, their legendary pie is off the menu tonight, and despite the venue’s name, there’s no sign of mutton (or lamb) on the menu, shoulder or otherwise, due to its current high cost.
Minor gripes aside, Shoulder of Mutton is a grand place to dine, and it’s hard to deny the charm of a menu that could date back decades, or even further, and still wow the senses. For fans of traditional fare – especially if you’re the kind of person who uses the word ‘fare’ – it’s a must-visit spot in this beautiful area of the North.