A “proper community pub” is celebrating winning the Harrogate Advertiser Series’s Pub of the Year competition.
The landlord of The Empress next to The Stray at Church Square in Harrogate, Jared Hodgson said: “It’s absolutely fabulous to win, this award means a lot to us.
“We try to be the perfect traditional Yorkshire pub and we pride ourself on offering a proper meeting place for all the people of High Harrogate.”
With Claire Bainbridge as the ever-present manageress beside him, Jared is about to mark 10 years at The Empress, which is well known for its weekly Sunday carvery.
Jared said: “My huge thanks go to Claire and all our hard-working staff.
“We offer nice cask ales and a great Sunday carvery but to us it’s really about being at the heart of the community.
“We work very hard to provide a warm and welcoming home for all, whether it’s getting all the family together for Sunday lunch, popping in for a quick pint straight from work or grabbing a quick refresher while out walking the dog on The Stray.”
The Empress is also well known for hosting a wide range of meetings by local clubs, including rugby, chess, art, karate, Harrogate Brass Band and Harrogate Operatic Players.
It’s the first year the Pub of the Year has been held by the Harrogate Advertiser Series and the competition was voted on by readers through vouchers in the newspaper.
In general, the results reflected a preference for experience and tradition, as well as good quality food.
Runner-up was The Tiger Inn at Coneythorpe outside Knaresborough where the owners, the Gill family, are also celebrating their tenth year in charge.
Third place went to The Shepherd’s Dog on Otley Road in Harrogate which reverted to its original name recently under its popular landlords.
The Critics Choice Award went to The George hotel and restaurant at Wormald Green off the A61 near Ripon.
General manager at The Tiger inn, Chantelle Neal, said this family run village pub famed for its wood panelling and the 500 or so tankards hanging from its walls was “ecstatic” to win the runners-up prize in Pub of the Year.
Chantelle, who has been with The Tiger Inn for seven years, said: “We’re over the moon. This competition means a lot because it was decided by readers, not by any other means. We have a lot of regulars.
“The Gill family are second generation pubs owners and are celebrating their tenth year here.
“Everything is cooked fresh to order and our menu has everything from hearty steak pie to more delicate dishes such as sea bass.”
Third-placed Shepherd’s Dog is run by the Schofield family - husband and wife Mike and Donna and children Mollie and Harry.
In fact, Mike says he first came to love the pub as a regular aged only 18.
He said: “We’ve only been running the Dog for two years and we’re really proud to get this award.
“We like a nice, friendly atmosphere, have plenty of handpulled beers, a great beer garden and Sky Sports and BT Sports - and a big car park!”
In terms of food, the Dog recently linked up with popular town centre restaurant Deano’s Graze & Grill.
But Mike says he puts his success down to his customers.
“It’s the people of Harlow Hill who make the Shepherd’s Dog a special pub.
“It’s a fantastic award considering the amount and quality of the competition.
In total, there were 60 nominees from across the district in the Harrogate Advertiser Series’s Pub of the year contest.
Other names which featured in our top ten included The Coach and Horses, Harrogate; Hales Bar, Harrogate; The Old Bell Tavern, Royal Parade, Harrogate; The Pine Marten, Harrogate; Queens Head Inn, Kettlesing, Harrogate; The Guy Fawkes Arms, Scotton; The Bay Horse, Main Street, Kirk Deighton, Wetherby.
The George at Wormald Green is one of the more recent entries and put its success as Critics Choice down to its carvery - and its party packages with champagne and disco!
Owner Anna Cobley said: “We have all worked so hard to make this the best Carvery in the Area, it’s great to be recognised in this way”
“We’d like to thank everyone who has supported us since we opened.”
“We are really looking forward to our new restaurant menu which launches in January. We hope as many people as possible will come and give it a try.”
The overall competition winner, meanwhile, The Empress is in the thick of preparations for a series of Christmas events.
Jared said: “The Empress always throws a party on the Saturday before Christmas as a thank you to our loyal customers but we’ve got a lot more going on.
“The local children were in last week to decorate our pub and the Christmas tree. The Harrogate band are turning up next Wednesday for our Christmas Carols night and there’s Santa and his reindeer on Christmas Eve with presents for children.”