The Whitby Gazette’s first-ever pub of the year winners can be exclusively revealed after hours of “research” from its lucky panel.
Following a flood of nominations by post and email, the judges, editor Ed Asquith, sports editor Duncan Atkins and chief reporter Emma Spencer visited the finalists in both categories of our new competition, town and rural.
We were looking for quality and range of beer, the pub’s atmosphere, clientele mix, value for money and its overall star quality.
The first mini pub-crawl took us around the Whitby town pubs, where we bought drinks in the Duke of York, The Angel Hotel, The Elsinore and The Station Inn - the four most nominated by Whitby Gazette readers.
After much deliberation over the scores, the Duke of York emerged as the winner of the town pubs’ gold award, just nudging out the Station Inn into silver.
The Duke’s stunning vistas of Whitby harbour gave it a helpful head start but we were also impressed by the range of ales, atmosphere and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to friends.
Greig and Laura Cowie, who manage the Duke of York Harbour Inn in Church Street, said it celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.
The pub has been run by Laura’s family since Lawrence and Una Bradley took it over and it is believed to be the first to serve all day pub food.
Greig said: “We are shocked and surprised at winning, and very proud, especially as it was decided not only by public votes but by mystery customers.”
Laura added: “We’re also proud because there are lots of other good pubs in town. We are very pleased for all our staff too.
The Duke has 23 staff and uses local produce for its menus. “It used to be an old fishermen’s pub. My dad’s concept was to expand the food side, and when he started he had to use ice cream tubs for the takings.
“Over the past year, we’ve tweaked a few things like the menu, and we use all local seafood from suppliers like Dennis Crooks, Breckons, Billy Wilson and Sandgate Seafoods.”
The pub plans to develop a bistro to cater for out-of-season trade.
Monday night saw the trio head up to the rural pubs again nominated by our readers, with the tour starting at The Hart Inn, Sandsend, taking us up the east coast to the White Hart at Mickleby, The Fox and Hounds at Dalehouse and finally, inland across the moors to the Duke of Wellington at Danby.
Gold medal for the rural pubs goes to The Fox and Hounds for its great value, ambience and general experience, pipping the Duke of Wellington into silver.
The Fox and Hounds’ Irene and Bill Ward, have run the freehouse pub for 15 years. They said: “We have tried to update it with ruining it. We introduced sofas and lampshades in the back bar room to make it cosy.
“We like it to be old-fashioned; no telly, no gaming machines, and the music we play is generally from the 60s.”
On being told they were the winners they said: “We couldn’t believe it. It’s wonderful. It feels like our work over the past 15 years has been worth it.”
The pub sponsors barmaid Beth Mead, the 18-year-old from Hinderwell who plays for FA Women’s Premier League champions Sunderland, and has raised £7,000 for St Catherine’s Hospice and £9,000 for Dalewood Trust to help disabled people.
Customers include holidaymakers who return year after year.
The Hart Inn beer garden was a delight while the White Hart embodied community spirit with its darts and quoits night plus folk music.
Duncan said: “Pubs are facing challenging times so the idea of the competition was to promote their importance and value to the community.
“It was a privilege to be on the panel, visit some great new places and meet some new people.
“We are so spoilt for good quality boozers, some with stunning views, and I am already looking forward to next year’s challenge,
“Many thanks to everyone who nominated, we had a terrific response.”