I’ve been wanting to go to Wortley Men’s Club for a good while now. It’s been the local CAMRA branch club of the year for the last five years running and received the accolade of National Club of the year in 2015. I’ve been told they run a decent beer festival in the warmer months too.
Those unfamiliar with S.Yorks geography and politics are probably thinking that Wortley Club comes under Sheffield CAMRA; the logical assumption for a place with a Sheffield telephone number, address and postcode. Like much of S35 & 36 Wortley is actually in the Metropolitan Borough of Barnsley and hence falls within Barnsley CAMRA branch area.
Getting to Wortley and back by public transport from Leeds is not simple and fairly lengthy, requiring precise planning and a lot of faith in the local bus operator, especially with the Monday to Friday 2 pm opening times and the infrequent timings, unless of course, one is just going for a rapid half like some pub tickers do.
On that basis, I was fairly pleased when Mother called to say that Father’s Birthday celebration would be held in The Wortley Arms, which is next door to Wortley Club, in fact they share the same car park cum access road.
Wortley is a fine little village, spoiled only by the A629 which runs straight through the middle of it. Wortley Hall is a splendid building and most of the premises in the village were part of the estate at some time. There’s also a very fine golf course, the historic Wortley Forge and the nearby Wharncliffe Crags beauty spot, so a family day out is a nice guise for a visit to the Club. In the summer of course, it’s fucking freezing between October and March when you get out here.
There even used to be a real live Earl (of Wharncliffe) who lived nearby, a proper character of some national notoriety, he used to call into my Dad’s pub, along with a lot of other local pubs, regularly and I’ve had some good times in his company. Sadly he passed away in 1987 and the 5th Earl is an American interloper.
I couldn’t remember the last time I went into The Wortley Arms? I had vague recollections of a cold and gloomy place decked out in that shade of red pub carpet that cloaked the floor of so many country inns. I was quite surprised to see that it had acquired a revolving door and gone a little bit upmarket, sometime in 2006 apparently.
Inside there are two downstairs rooms, a bar with a flagged floor to the left and a wooden panelled lounge complete with roaring log fire to the right. It’s obviously very popular and at 12.30pm the Sunday lunch session is in full swing. There’s no drinkers though, everyone’s eating or the few empty tables are reserved. Later, when we left, there were some casual drinkers in the bar and it was still busy. Pleasant waiters and waitresses are on hand to assist with every need, but it still feels like a pub. I wondered what it’s like on a Monday evening? In front of that fire place certainly has potential. A glimpse at the notice board also told me that they were maintaining the tradition of carol singing in local pubs on the run up to Christmas in the villages North of Sheffield , which is heartening to see.
There’s two real ales on, plus everything else you’d expect; the ubiquitous, round here, Bradfield Blonde and Stancil Barnsley Bitter which now seems to be a style brewed by two brewers rather than a specific beer. Is it the same as the original? I don’t know, I was a teenager when I drank the old Barnsley Bitter, which by that time was being brewed in Taddy by John Smith’s anyway. What I can say is the couple of pints of the Stancil version I had in The Wortley Arms were superb, easily NBSS 3.5 and the sort of ale meant to be drunk in quantity by lots of folk in lots of pubs. I’m not sure how much a pint cost, it all went on the bill. I didn’t even have to go to the bar neither and the service was excellent.
So was the meal, rare sirloin of beef, Yorkshires, roasties, mash, roasted autumn vegetables, the softest fluffiest kale and proper gravy. I’d categorise it as better than most Sunday dinners, not quite fine dining but not very far away, whilst still being a hearty comforting meal. The crab salad starter was even better, turned out it was a whole dressed crab, crab butter, homemade bread, new potatoes and a clever little salad; you’d pay a fiver or more for the crab alone in our local fishmonger yet the whole dish was only £8.50, I think the Sunday dinner was twelve and a half.
I can’t say enough about the food it really was outstanding, think gastro pub meets S.Yorks down to earth common sense with a touch of celebrity. I say celebrity because the fictional TV landlord at the next table seemed to enjoy his meal too. It’s not fair to say who it was, but Life after Football aka @Britainbeermat might be able to work it out?
I didn’t have a pudding, thinking I’d sort of sneak out for a swift one in Wortley Club towards the end. Thing is it’s rude to slink away when it’s your Dad’s birthday, so I stayed put and by the time it got round to leaving the old fella was starting to feel a bit tired, so we took him home. He’s allowed to do that, he is eighty eight after all. I’m sure there are people out there who would have a) sneaked off, or b) taken their Dad with them?
I hope to fulfil my ambition to visit Wortley Club one day. Don’t worry, I’ll get there, maybe to their beer festival. Thing is I wasn’t disappointed at all. I know The Wortley Arms is a food led pub, but it demonstrates that food led pubs can be very very good.
Verdict: excellent food and excellent beer in very pleasant surroundings that demonstrates different types of pub can be good as good as proper pubs.