It’s always great to welcome an old friend back – especially when they look this good.
The Inn at South Stainley is the latest in a long history of different guises and names for the long-standing pub-restaurant sitting prominently just off the main road between Harrogate and Ripon.
Not all the previous incarnations have been successful since the days when the Red Lion was a popular favourite.
At one point it was better known for its children’s ‘fun factory’ approach than for food or drink.
After a six-month, £1.5 million refurbishment, The Inn at South Stainley off the A61 still retains its family-friendly atmosphere but the emphasis is now on being a good quality dining establishment.
And it’s clearly had far more than a bit of sprucing up.
There’s been a radical reconstruction with a wall taken down here and a bar moved there - as well as the introduction of stylish ‘country contemporary’ décor complete with paintings of rural pursuits and a nice fireplace.
Now in the hands of general manager Ian Pilchard, the resulting ‘new’ country pub-restaurant offers a major step up in the quality offered.
As spacious as ever, there’s plenty of different spots to pick from in the extensive dining room, not to forget a garden area, a major function suite and, oh, did I mention it has 12 bedrooms, too?
It’s just as well it’s so spacious, the Sunday I was there it was packed.
The menu offers a good range of pub classics, complete with a serious robata grill and a pizza oven.
But there’s also a wide range of world dishes and the scale of its impressive ambition is evident in its locally sourced game dishes and a wide-ranging seafood menu much trumpeted by new owners the Seafood Pub Company .
The menu warns that once renowned fish monger Chris Neve’s catch of the day has gone, it is gone.
The note didn’t lie, for the Sunday I popped in the blackboard had a long chalk mark scrawled through almost every fish dish as early as 1.30pm.
Not that things turned out badly. Everything my party tucked into went down well, especially the Sunday roast, though I took the easy - but delicious - option with the Inn Burger.
Two weeks ago The Inn featured in The Guardian in its top New Year getaways: 25 great hotels, pubs and cottages.
A well deserved accolade.