Great service, gorgeous meat, glorious Yorkshire puddings make top Father’s Day treat
Six months into the food reviewing job and not a whiff of a Sunday lunch - Sunday dinner to you and me. Something needed to be done.
Father’s Day seemed the perfect opportunity to be treated by the kids, have a ride out into the Peak District and get a decent roast under our belts, so to speak.
Happy days – what could possibly go wrong….
Apart from traffic jams, no phone signal to consult Google maps for an alternative route or to phone the Devonshire Arms at Baslow to tell them we were going to be late.
No, not us… though things were beginning to get slightly edgy when, just in time, we got signal and were able to warn our hosts of our late arrival.
They were charm itself and when we finally skidded through the door, they laughed off our 10-minute tardiness saying: “We didn’t expect you for at least another half an hour. Come and sit down, your table’s waiting. We’ll get you some drinks”.
We were in the rotunda annexe which is a fairly large space made to feel bigger because they haven’t tried to cram too many tables in.
It used to be the home of the Cat’s Whiskers night club apparently, which conjures up black and white images of Terry Thomas getting out of an open-topped sports car in a caddish swirl of cologne and cigarette smoke…
Back in the real world we decided on the seafood platter starter between us which looked almost as good as it tasted – and had the biggest, juiciest prawns you’ll see.
Along with those came prawn cocktail, smoked mackerel pate and smoked salmon.
The pate was rich, smooth though with texture, and very good, the giant prawns a succulent delight.
The smoked salmon was excellent and the prawn cocktail served in a kilner jar on a bed of lettuce and with thick-sliced granary bread.
For main course I went for beef, the others for lamb and pork.
Apparently it takes two days to make their gravy. Time well spent in our view.
“A lot of people don’t make proper gravy at home so we try to give them the real, old fashioned thing,” said Froggatt-raised David McHattie who owns and runs the place alongside partner Samantha – with many years between them in the pub and catering trades.
“We buy in bones from the butcher especially for the gravy and roast them and have a stock pot on the go all the time in the kitchen.
“We roast seven to nine lamb joints, two to three whole pork strip loins and two or three whole beef strip loins every week and collect the meat juices.
“Gravy is important.”
The gravy is thick and meaty and packed with flavour, everything gravy should be.
Local vegetables are served with it, in this case green beans, broccoli and peas all a rich spring green in colour and with lots of crunch.
There’s also beautifully flavoured roast potatoes, braised red cabbage, sweet potato and swede mash - plenty of it and all top notch.
So what about the meat?
All slow cooked overnight and locally sourced from Moss Valley Meats and from Price and Fretwell in Tibshelf, Derbyshire.
The fish – and those huge prawns - are from William Howe, Maltravers Road, Sheffield.
The beef came in two large, thick slices with a good dousing in that magical gravy. Pink, tender and full of flavour, it’s what Sundays were invented for.
The lamb and pork were equally excellent examples, the latter coming with salty crackling and each presented with a billowing, golden Yorkshire pudding as big as your great aunt’s hat and even more tasty.
Equally impressive was the Lebanese Cabernet/Shiraz blend, a deep fruity red with backbone and character –quite a find. See Top Tipple column, right.
Among fellow diners overdressed walkers rest their fearless explorers’ bones, mothers flicker tense, indulgent smiles as grandads over-fuss with grandkids while plates of food, most sprouting one of those gorgeous giant Yorkshires, are hurried aloft between kitchen and table.
It’s a busy, friendly place with a big staff whose first reaction is to smile.
Oddly this isn’t annoying, it’s actually very appealing and makes a difference.
“When we came here in 2012 I think six people worked here.
“Now it’s around 40,” adds David.
“We think service is important.
“Sundays are a big day for us and Father’s Day especially when we might serve 400 to 500 meals.”
This is a man who knows all about big days, or soon will.
David will be 50 in a couple of weeks and on July 19 is to marry Samantha in Parma, Majorca.
Good luck to the pair of them.
You see signs outside pubs across the region offering bargain Sunday lunches and no doubt you can get cheaper at dozens of places, maybe hundreds.
But for quality, service and flavour I doubt you’ll get a better one than this.
And, oh, that gravy.
For two of us, a starter, main course and dessert with half a bitter and a large glass of wine came to £57.65.
Star rating out of five:
* The Devonshire Arms, Baslow, Derbyshire, DE45 1SR
* Open for food seven days a week, noon until 9pm – and it does get busy so it’s best to book
* Tel: 01246 582551