The Hotham Arms has great potential, writes Dave Lee, but destination pub diners need greater incentive to go out of their way to eat there.

Hotham Arms
Food60%
Drinks Selection60%
Atmosphere 60%
Prices80%
65%Overall Score
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Hotham Arms exterior

Why the Hotham Arms isn’t held in the same regard as other great Wolds pubs such as the Pipe & Glass and the Star at Sancton may be a mystery to some. It has everything required to be a hugely successful destination pub (large old building in a relatively well-off village with a beautifully-appointed treasure trove interior) but it seems to have been largely overlooked by everyone outside of Hotham for the past 20 years or so.
The reason for this, of course, was the undeniably divisive (though gleefully-curated) character of owner, host and sometime-chef Joe Parkinson. Joe passed away earlier this year and, while many revelled in his gloriously unpredictable blunt Northern ebullience, it rankled with others. He ran the Hotham Arms for almost 20 years and turned it into a place where, if you played his game, you could occasionally have the best night of your life, but if you wanted a simple meal without Fawltyesque drama you would probably leave aggrieved, unlikely to return. Incidentally, if you think all this sounds somewhat disrespectful, ask anyone who knew and loved him and they will probably agree with every word.

King Scallops

In his time, Joe played both willing court jester and generous prince to a loyal crowd of regulars and built a remarkably attractive dining space. But he also left a pub that is off the radar of many diners of the Riding. It is, though, a serious gem, waiting to be shaken back into the big time.
Whether new tenants Kevin and Sue Deakin are the folk to do this remains to be seen. Neither has worked in the catering industry before (she’s an ex-nurse, he ran an engineering firm) but they have long been part of the Hotham Arms crowd and are keen to see it flourish. They are hugely reliant on their newly-assembled team – who seem perfectly competent – so here’s hoping all turns out well.
If they can produce a menu filled with the quality of the food we sampled from the starters, they will do very well indeed. The seared asparagus was spot on and came with a gooey-centred scotch egg, a razor-sharp shard of Parma ham and a relatively under-performing red pepper puree. Even better were the king scallops, which were served on mash and wrapped in more Parma ham, but what made it a stand out was the delicious tarragon sauce.

Crispy Cajun seabass

Starters, then, were superb but the rest was very ordinary indeed. This was partly because, where every starter option was very appealing, the options for mains were disappointingly perfunctory. Kevin and Sue happily insist that they want the Hotham Arms to be a destination pub, but the majority of the menu contains nothing to entice punters to drive 30 minutes or more out of their way.
The menu contains no detail of the origin of ingredients and dishes are proffered up under the blandest of titles. The menu is under-written and titles like haddock and chips, or Mediterranean chicken breast, tell you nothing of the provenance that will encourage folk to come here. It’s the kind of rookie error that those new to the catering industry might make and it’s something that needs addressing quickly if the Deakins’ dreams are to come true.
For the record, we had meat pie and mash and rib eye steak. Both were OK but no better than you could find in any pub anywhere. The same was true of desserts. The choice is mundane with a chocolate mousse and sticky toffee pudding.
Clearly, much of this sounds fairly negative but there are many positives to a trip to the Hotham Arms. As mentioned earlier, the interior is an absolute delight. A huge sweeping circular bar, an intimate private dining room, a wonderful lodge-style dining space and even a covered patio area outside replete with pizza oven and barbecue for summer days.
Prices, too, are about right. We spent roughly £90 for three courses each and a couple of drinks, making it slightly cheaper than similar pubs in the vicinity. There is much work to be done, though. There’s no shame in producing good pub grub, but the Hotham Arms risks languishing in obscurity unless people are given a very strong reason to go there. The change of management will undoubtedly encourage people to give the place another try but, if they don’t find the experience more rewarding, it’s unlikely they’ll return again and again.
20 Main Street, Hotham, East Yorks, YO43 4UD. Tel: 01430 422939, www.thehothamarms.co.uk. Food served: Wednesday-Saturday, 6.30-9.30pm; Sunday, 12-3pm.

About The Author

Catherine Scott

Catherine Scott is Associate Features Editor for Yorkshire Post Newspapers. A self-confessed foodie, she is also a judge of the Deliciousyorkshire/Yorkshire Post Taste Awards.

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