Review: Forgotten Harrogate pub back on form

Rejuvenated  with a wide offer - Harrogate country pub, The Knox.
Rejuvenated with a wide offer - Harrogate country pub, The Knox.

Somehow somewhere along the way The Knox Arms faded largely from view in the Harrogate food and drink scene.

But now it’s definitely back and it’s offering clear evidence that rumours of the decline of the community pub have been greatly exaggerated.

Now known as The Knox, under new owners local couple Simon and Katie Swannie the rejuvenated country pub at a quiet end of Bilton may have a shorter name but it’s massively expanded the range of what it offers.

Updated rather than radically transformed, the last 16 months or so months has seen the couple who live just yards from their own pub-restaurant, striving to tick every box possible in competitive times.

The aim is clear - to create the perfect enviroment amid its trendy brick and exposed wooden beams, cosy armchairs and comfy leather seats to entice a wide cross-section of people to return.

There’s a lot more to the pub these days than its hard won Cask Marque accreditation for quality beer (not forgetting its craft gins) or fish n chips in a basket, which is what I enjoyed on my visit.
Flanked by its own car park, picnic tables and a grassy area so expansive that this summer saw Simon and Katie hold a series of family fun events to fundraise for local charities, The Knox even hosted renowned stand-up comic Gary Delaney last week.

Good food and drink alone may no longer be enough but it remains the bedrock of what the new The Knox does so well - Sunday alone usually sees it handling 170 covers.

There’s nothing experimental or pretentious on the list, just proven crowd pleasers like pan fried sea bass, sausage and mash, steak and ale pie, The Knox Burger and that enduring British favourite - beer-battered, fish and chips (line-caught).

This a place, after all, that has just introduced a £6 lunchtime menu, including Roast of the Day, to complement its sandwich range to appeal to local community groups and the retired.

But The Knox’s chef is highly-regarded – she was formerly at The Old Bell in Harrogate – and it takes ideas like quality and sourcing seriously enough to get all its fish from Ramus.

Any traditional pub worth its salt these days offers and Early Bird Menu (The Knox does to most nights of the week) and a Steak Night (every Wednesday at The Knox with star of the show being the amazing Yabadabadoo 22oz steak challenge).

But who does a Sunday carvery these days in the Harrogate area?

And who has the good sense to run it not just at lunchtime but from noon all the way to 7pm?

The Knox does which is why owners Simon and Katie have presided over a revival of this forgotten pub’s fortunes which many people didn’t think possible.