There are spindle-back chairs, classic bentwood ones, chairs made of cast aluminium, and upholstered tub chairs. The wooden tabletops have legs painted blue, cream or green, or can be raised and lowered on antique cast-iron cranks. There are deep-buttoned booths, and high-backed settles in vintage prints. Floors are covered in patterned tiles or geometric carpet. It sounds like an unholy jumble – but it looks great.
We’re in the bar-restaurant of the King’s Head hotel, and I’m suffering extreme design envy. I know if I attempted such eclectic decor at home it would look like the work of a particularly ham-fisted toddler, but this Grade-II listed coaching inn on the market square in Beverley, East Yorkshire, is a masterpiece of harmonious mismatching.
Now part of the Revere chain, the King’s Head dates (probably) from the late 1600s. A local tells me that when the livestock market was in its heyday (it closed in 2002), this was where well-to-do farmers enjoyed steak-and-kidney pudding served on white tablecloths, while their farmhands caroused at the Green Dragon across the square.
A revamp last year underlines the cut-above feel: the bar was moved and enlarged, so a drinks menu that includes craft ales (of course) and well-priced wines could be widened to house a cocktail station. I find it hard to choose between Gin & Juice – with elderflower cordial, lemon and apple juice and blackberries – and Bison Berry – vodka, Tuaca, blackcurrant liqueur, cranberry juice, vanilla and lemon (both £6.95). There’s a Josper grill for cooking well-bred, well-aged beef from a farm near Leeds, and a wood-fired pizza oven.
Our bedroom reinforces my feelings of design inadequacy, with its clever mix of steampunk and industrial chic: oversized houndstooth-check carpet, vintage film spotlight, huge gilt mirror leaning against a wall, and metal pendant lights instead of bedside lamps. Husband isn’t sure about the big white-feather ceiling globe, but I like this bonkers touch. We’ve a freestanding bath and a separate shower in herringbone brick. I won’t copy any of this at home, but it’s a fun space.
The King’s Head may be one up from a boozer, but can still get noisy on Saturdays – overnight guests are offered earplugs. We’re there on a peaceful Sunday, though, and sit for ages at a bay-window table downstairs, watching comings and goings on Saturday Market, the town’s main square (Wednesday Market is to the south, near the Minster).
The menu, when we get round to ordering, is not as eclectic as the decor: steaks (from £15.95), burgers and pizzas (one with confit garlic, smoked mackerel and prawns does sound unusual, however), and starters of the chicken wings, sweet potato falafel, glazed mini sausages variety. But, as our wise local said, there are fine-dining options elsewhere in Beverley. We enjoy mains of spatchcocked piri-piri chicken (£10.95) and fish and chips (£9.50 – fish, usually haddock, is always a good bet near the Yorkshire coast), and the triple-cooked chips are moreish. A shared crème brûlée is as good as any we’ve had in France.
We’re still feeling well-fed when we go to breakfast next morning, but anyone hoping for a sumptuous spread would be disappointed. My smoked salmon and cream cheese muffin is fine, and the bacon I pinch from husband’s full English is delicious, but there’s little to go before or after it, just boxed cereals and a basket of oranges and tasteless apples. A place that can craft a killer cocktail could surely run to granola, compote and croissants.
But no one could be disappointed with the service: breakfast staff are as delightful as those who welcomed us the previous day and went out of their way to help us bag a space in the car park and a good table (they’re like this with everyone, I’m assured). If only they could offer someone to come and sprinkle some design magic on our dining room at home.
• Accommodation was provided by the King’s Head, Beverley, 01482 868103, kingsheadpubbeverley.com, doubles from £80 B&B
Ask a local
Julian Minshall, editor, Just Beverley magazine
The White Horse (22 Hengate), known as Nellie’s, after an elderly barmaid, is a warren of stone-floored rooms with gaslights, lumpy seats, open fires and local characters sipping pints of Sam Smith’s mild.
Walk from the Minster on the south side of town (begun in 1220 AD) and head through the Georgian Quarter to Saint Mary’s church and the North Bar, Britain’s only surviving brick-built town gate. A converted chapel, opened in 2014, East Riding Theatre (eastridingtheatre.co.uk) stages quality, professional productions.
This area is cycling heaven: hire a bike from Minster Cycles (01482 867950) and experience some of the route of the Tour de Yorkshire, which started in Beverley this year. Beverley Race Course offers an exciting day out, with horse-racing events from April to September.