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The Craven Heifer, Addingham, West Yorkshire: hotel review

Themed hotels rarely work but this pub with rooms near Ilkley has pulled it off in style

    • The Guardian,

The Craven Heifer’s de Havilland room, named after pioneering pilot Amy Johnson

Like communism or an open marriage, themed hotel rooms sound fine in principle, but often turn out to be pretty horrific. The owner’s “concept” can easily ride roughshod over comfort, functionality and style. Which makes The Craven Heifer, a pub in the handsome village of Addingham, near Ilkley, pretty remarkable.

Its seven rooms pay homage to famous Yorkshire folk – and they do it with flair and conviction. In de Havilland, named after pioneering pilot Amy Johnson’s Gipsy Moth, the mirrors are rivet-edged, the chair looks like it’s been liberated from a cockpit and the “wardrobe” is an airbase-style metal locker. A reproduction wing hangs above the bed. Upstairs, in the dark, romantic Captain James Cook attic room, all oak floor, ancient beams and exposed stone, one wall is clad in driftwood, the ceiling in bespoke map wallpaper. A bottle of rum sits, ready, on a huge antique writing desk.

Occasionally, design trumps function: in the Henry Moore room, a towering unit that acts as desk, tea station and clothes rail is clunky. But generally, these big rooms are comfortable, luxurious even. They have iPod docks, down pillows, Teapigs tea and homemade biscuits. UHT milk and standard White Company toiletries are less impressive. Several rooms have freestanding baths at the foot of the bed.

Scottish ownership perhaps explains why the Heifer’s bar and restaurant have a certain Highland hunting lodge feel. Beyond the tartan, local memorabilia and two regional ales (Wharfedale Brewery’s Tether Blonde, £3.35 a pint, was daisy fresh) reaffirm that this is Yorkshire.

Led by chef Mark Owens, the kitchen is already demonstrating the kind of assured cooking (three courses for £23-£37, food only), which should see the Heifer sally forth into all the relevant guides. A main of roasted halibut, samphire and cauliflower is delicate, well-balanced and clever, particularly in its use of fennel seeds to bring a clean edge to the accompanying tiny, deep-fried fish cakes.

But is it OTT for a pub? Definitely. Multiple menus (10-course tasting, anyone?) and interruptions for canapés, breads and amuse-bouches, are fine-dining affectations that jar in this otherwise relaxed gaff. Likewise, some flawed conceptual grandstanding – an overly busy plate of apple crumble parfait, the “crumble” as thick and unyielding as an oat bar – is indicative of how this experience needs streamlining, to turn it into something truly great and specifically pub-fit.

Many visitors will walk off such indulgence in the surrounding dales or at Bolton Abbey. But with its independent shops and real ale pubs (The Swan is an unvarnished gem), you could wile away a lazy, boozy weekend in Addingham itself. You’ll certainly have somewhere memorable to stay.

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