Yorkshire Life Luncheon - Ring O’ Bells, Thornton, Bradford
PUBLISHED: 16:04 25 April 2013 | UPDATED: 20:05 02 November 2015
Guests enjoy the high life at the special hill-top restaurant Ring O’ Bells in Thornton
Ann and Clive Preston have been ringing the changes at the Ring O’ Bells. With a new head chef, a new general manager and a new menu, they’re obviously not ready to rest on their laurels after more than two decades at the helm. ‘We’ve been running the family business now for 22 years,’ said Ann. ‘And we’re still as passionate and committed to serving top quality, locally-sourced food as when we first opened.’
The Prestons were both high-powered executives when they stumbled on the Ring O’ Bells, which sits majestically on the hill-top overlooking the village of Thornton, west of Bradford. He retained his job in the retail sector, but she gave up an international sales role for Proctor & Gamble to take a punt on a new career.
But it was a gamble that paid off handsomely. In the last two decades, the Ring O’ Bells has been showered with awards, praise and plaudits and, perhaps even more importantly, has established an enthusiastic fan-base of regular customers who come back again and again to enjoy the quality, locally-sourced food and honest good company.
The bar area is a warm, welcoming space full of character, enhanced by original oak panelling and beams, while the dining area is bright, open and colourfully decorated with artwork by Yorkshire painter Ian Middleton.
The Ring O’ Bells has a real sense of history about it. The bar was originally a Wesleyan chapel and meeting room – the graveyard is behind the car park if you care to look – and the restaurant itself was two mill cottages.
It’s now a place of laughter, conviviality and fun, but it’s easy to picture the solemn line of worshippers plodding up the steep hill from Thornton all those years ago. That’s if they weren’t waylaid, of course, by the Reverend Patrick Bronte, vicar of St James, whose children were born and raised in the village before resettling in neighbouring Haworth.
A warm, hearty welcome from Ann, Clive and their staff, many of whom have been with them since they took over 22 years ago, soon dispels any thoughts of dour chapels and sour priests though.
And the incredible aromas emanating from the kitchen of new head chef, Grant Hamblin, immediately diminish any thoughts of abstinence too. Formerly of the Devonshire Fell in Burnsall and the Angel Inn at Hetton, he’s a young chef with talent to spare.
‘He’s a young man keen to make his reputation,’ said Ann. ‘He shares our deep passion for serving seasonal, fresh produce and has introduced a more modern style of cooking, which is reflected in our new a la carte menu.
‘He has retained some of our famous traditional dishes though, creatively teaming them with his new exciting ones.’
Keen to sample Grant’s new menu, our guests tucked in enthusiastically to a cleverly constructed smoked salmon dish that was elevated well above the ordinary by a vodka and beetroot cure that left each slice delicately fringed in raspberry red.
Next came a dinky espresso cup of rich, earthy soup, followed by a hearty main of slow-roasted belly pork accompanied by a black, apple-speckled disk of the best black pudding Yorkshire has to offer.
Finally, Grant gave tradition another tweak with a mock crème brulee of heart-stoppingly creamy rice pudding under a crisp, glassy caramel circle topped with a palate-sharpening apple and mint compote.
All agreed it was a delicious introduction to a promising new talent. But the head chef is not the only fresh face at the Ring O’ Bells. Bradford-born Stephen Gilroy has also joined the team as general manager after working in some of Manchester’s finest restaurants. He has a keen eye for detail and is working hard to attract new customers with a fresh approach to service.
‘People might think they know what the Ring O’ Bells is all about,’ said Ann, ‘but we’re encouraging everyone to come and take a fresh new look at us. We have a new head chef, a new menu and a new general manager. The only things that haven’t changed are our passion for fresh, local food and the warmth of our welcome.’
To find out more about the Ring O’ Bells at 212 Hill Top Road, Thornton, Bradford, BD13 3QL, call 01274 832296 or visit theringobells.com.