When I was asked to visit the old Black Horse Inn on Church St in Whitby to sample the “Yapas” – Yorkshire Tapas – and write a review, old memories started flooding back.
Times of old, when I was happily misspending my youth drinking and playing pool in the pubs of Whitby. The Black Horse was a favourite. It had a good jukebox and a pool room upstairs in which we would spend hours playing tournaments, smoking and swigging lager. The good old days.
But what I also remembered was the hunger that inevitably arrived after a few drinks, especially when meal times were delayed or even skipped. Turning to the ubiquitous bag of crisps, pickled egg or packet of peanuts was about as good as it got. Those of us who know Whitby well, may remember piling into the chippy after leaving the pub, for greasy chips, curry sauce and scraps, ravenously hungry.
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So I was pleasantly surprised when told that the Black Horse had introduced a menu of treats offering these tasty bites a la Yorkshire, to fill the hungry gap and to enhance the enjoyment of drinks from their exceptional range of ales and other libations. It is years since I have been in – life has other priorities now – but I was happy to go back and have another look. I was also impressed that someone had come up with the idea of introducing this Spanish idea of providing a small plate with an alcoholic beverage into what is one of the oldest alehouses in Whitby.
There are many opinions about the origins of tapas. Some say they were introduced because they are salty and it makes the customer drink more. Others say it was because in Spain drinks were covered with a small saucer to keep the flies off the sherry and bartenders would toss a few olives or a bit of cheese or meat onto the plate. My preference is the suggestion that during the Spanish Civil War General Franco, the Spanish leader, made tapas compulsory and free of charge in the bars in order to ensure the people got something to eat and didn’t just get drunk.
In fact, during Whitby’s history as a fishing town and one that was famous for its winkles, whelks, mussels and oysters, such snacks were often carried in baskets around the pubs and sold to drinking men for a small amount, to be eaten with their beer. This died out with pollution and the loss of biodiversity along this coast, although I think you can still get a jar of winkles here and there.
But at last someone has had the sense to provide a little something delicious of good Yorkshire fare, based on the Spanish tapa, to enjoy with a drink in the Black Horse. It is not a meal, although if you ordered enough of them it could easily replace one.
I took along an acquaintance and as we entered this most famous of old Whitby taverns, through the side door and into the back bar, I was immediately surprised at the warmth, ambience and colour. Gone was the bare simplicity of yesterday. Today this little pub reveals itself as an absolute gem tucked to the side of the cobbles of Church St.
The welcome was warm and it felt as if we had stepped into a sort of Dickensian, warmly lit, cosy old tavern. In fact, The Black Horse Inn dates back to the 1600’s but it’s interior was renovated in the 1970’s to restore its original Victorian style. However, the jukebox has gone and that would now spoil its charm. The chalk board menu above the bar listed character ciders, mixers and gins. The bar hosted good draught ales, locally brewed beer, Guinness – of course – plus Belgian white beer on tap. Craft bottled beers were also available.
My guest ordered the Belgian lager and I had a delicious mix of real pineapple juice and soda – one for the driver. The ‘Yapas’ menu was plentiful and varied – see photo. After much consideration and growing hunger pangs in the end we ordered four plates.
Homemade crab pate – possibly the best I have ever tasted, with little crunchy thins.
Olive and anchovy skewers which were beautifully presented and absolutely delicious. Brought in a pottery bowl with a fish tail – I thought that was a nice touch.
The Yorkshire cheese board was wonderful. Three very distinctive cheeses, none of which I had eaten before and all were delicious. Accompanied by a light ciabatta roll it was perfect and easily enough for two.
The mixed mini board came with chorizo slices, a chilli hot oil dip, a box of olives and more ciabatta. Every single thing we ate was delicious with perhaps the exception of the olives. They arrived sealed in a plastic box and although they looked plump and inviting, they tasted, well, plasticky. They were the only things I wouldn’t have wanted to try again.
Everything else was exceptionally good and with the general ambience, it turned into a delightful experience. Jane, who was working behind the bar couldn’t have been more welcoming, warm and friendly. She also showed me around upstairs where the former pool room has now been replaced by four ensuite bedrooms. Lovely accommodation in the heart of old Whitby.
So, I can recommend a visit to this singular, rare little pub and I would urge anyone to try the Yorkshire Tapas! One thing is for sure – we didn’t feel any need to go for dinner afterwards.
A final point of interest for some will be the special architectural and historical importance of the Black Horse Inn. You can read about this in the tavern where a brief history hangs on the wall.