Too posh for BYO?

Is this your bottle or the restaurant's?

Is this your bottle or the restaurant’s?

Imagine if you could go to a posh restaurant with your own decent bottle of wine and be greeted with a big smile instead of being shown the door? It might not happen now but it did in Sheffield once. Nearly all the top restaurants ran BYO and no one turned a hair.

Well, the trade press did as it was so unusual. Hotel and Caterer ran a story on it. Of course there were caveats: it only applied weekdays, not weekends, and you were expected to pay corkage.

It started in the mid-Nineties when Wayne Bosworth and his brother Jamie ran Rafters on Oakbrook Road to get bums on seats. Unlike other top restaurants Rafters opened on Mondays, not the most popular day of the week, closed Tuesday and re-opened on Wednesday. Monday opening (and BYO) was partly to compensate for not opening Tuesday, the day their beloved Blades often had a midweek home game at Bramall Lane!

With Rafters doing it, Wayne’s mate Cary Brown, then at Carriages (now Peppercorn) on Abbeydale Road South, felt he had to follow suit. Richard Smith, running what was then Smith’s of Sheffield, later Thyme, at Crosspool, wasn’t best pleased either but he did it. You could even take a bottle midweek to super-posh Greenhead House, as I recall.

The practice went on for a decade or so and then fizzled out, although you can still bring a bottle to Marco@Milano on Archer Road in the week. But I think the city’s upmarket venues are missing an opportunity. You can also BYO at No Name in Crookes, otherwise you’ll be thirsty.

The reason BYO is popular with diners is the heavy mark up on wines in restaurants, at least 250 per cent. We don’t normally volunteer to pay three or four times the price for a product we can get in the shops, so why with restaurants?

With some, of course, that is where they make the money rather than the food, or at least Heston Blumenthal claims. And the better places do have wines you can’t buy easily. I don’t object to a corkage charge, provided it is reasonable, because that pays for the glasses, the cleaning and the disposing of the empties.

But if you are keen on the right wine with food how easy is it to choose a bottle when two people are eating on opposite sides of the menu: red or white meat, heavily spiced or not? How often do you see half bottles on offer?

I used to run a regular feature on the Sheffield Star’s food pages listing the BYO places available and the corkage charge. Apart from the upmarket restaurants, the others listed were little bistros, Asian, Italian and Chinese.

For the restaurant BYO saves tying money up in stock. For the diner it means not having to fork out £15 for a bottle of house you know only cost the restaurant a fiver, if that. To a large extent it’s wine snobbery, the insistence that certain bottles go better with certain kinds of food, which keeps a wine list going.

Well of course that’s right but there are precious few occasions where the wrong wine will spoil the food, although the wrong food can spoil the wine! If I go to a restaurant it’s the food which is my first choice. If I’m going for the wine I’ll pick a wine bar. That’s what the Italians do with enotecas: great choice of wine, simple platters of cheeses and meats to go with them. Now how about that over here?

Incidentally, you can hardly complain about the wine if you BYO but I did once. I bought a bottle in France and took it to Rafters in Bosworth brothers days. It was awful – the wine not the food. So I bought a bottle from the restaurant!

Help, I’ve (almost) become a veggie!

Dried mixed beans - 10 different kinds

Dried mixed beans – 10 different kinds

This won’t make happy news for butchers but I’m not eating so much meat these days. It’s not been a conscious choice. It has just sort of happened. I don’t think that meat is murder (unless it’s halal). I have not become a born again vegetarian: I like my bacon sarnie as much as the next man. But, little by little, life has become a lot less meatier.

Instead of thinking first of chops, a stew, corned beef or mince or any kind of meat and two veg I’m planning a meal of pasta, beans, lentils, rice, vegetable curries and cashew nut stir-fries and any of a hundred other ways to make pulses and vegetables entertaining. After all, most of the world has to do it.

Now I love a chilli con carne but these days it is more often made with beans than meat. Look at those little jewels above this post, dried beans, rinsed and waiting to be cooked. Don’t they look beautiful?

They are black turtle beans, butter beans, red kidney beans, rose cocoa beans, black eyed beans, dublia beans, haricot beans, lima beans, pinto beans and mung beans. Reading the names off the packet on the shelf in Waitrose was like a poem.

A packet is far, far cheaper than a tin of mixed beans, which don’t have the same meaty texture when you cook dried beans yourself and, in any case, have to be rinsed clean of that gooey, sweet tomato sauce. And 120g of beans (for two) is cheaper than a pound of mince and you’ve got lots left in the packet for another day. Or two.

Yes, but you just have to get the mince out of the fridge, I hear you say. With beans you have to soak them overnight, then cook them the next day before you even begin your chilli. Not if you cook them, cool them, then pop them into portions in bags and freeze them until needed, is my answer. And I got that tip off the internet.

I’ll have cooked them until almost done before freezing and they defrost pretty quickly. Only trouble is they don’t look half as pretty as above when cooked! But mixed with vegetables in a chillied-up tomato sauce they don’t half taste good. After all, a proper chilli con carne is cooked with kidney beans.

I’ll still be down at the butchers for my bacon, sausage, pork belly and new season’s lamb chops – a couple of steaks if we’re feeling really flush – but not quite so often. It’s just that I’ve got another option in the larder and that can’t be a bad thing.

Who Said Pie?

Butler's on Broad Lane - a drawing by Patrick Smith

Butler’s on Broad Lane – a drawing by Patrick Smith

Last week the local newspapers carried a story about two Asian brothers jailed for12 months apiece and ordered to pay fines and costs totalling £182,000 after unauthorised building work led to a building collapse on Brook Hill, Sheffield, in 2013.

The structural engineering standards of the Indian sub-continent finally put paid to the building which had once housed the city’s most celebrated café –the fabled Butler’s Dining Rooms,

Memories fade fast. The Press reported it had previously been an Indian restaurant, which it had, but made no mention of the café there before that which for 80 years had been such an iconic part of the city’s eating scene.

Legends abound about Butler’s. It was here that Picasso, visiting the World Peace Congress in Sheffield, a Communist front, drew a dove of peace on a napkin. It was here they served the Desperate Dan cow pie, so big it was cooked in a metal tin the size of a baby’s bath under a glistening golden dome of shortcrust pastry. You knew when it was ready when the windows steamed up.

Butler’s stood across the way from the old Jessop Maternity Hospital and they say, although I cannot prove it, that men attending the fertility clinic would pop across for a helping of meat and potato pie for vigour before making a, ahem, donation.

It opened in 1910 and closed in 1993, so that’s a lot of pie, liver and bacon, toast and dripping and jam roly poly which went down the city’s collective gullet.

It was run in my time by Stephen Butler, son of the founder, and his wife Edna. Stephen almost always wore a white T-shirt with a picture of a Bisto-type Kid and the legend “Who Said Pie?” But this was the only gesture to the late 20th century.

The tables were Spartan, Formica-topped if you were lucky, and didn’t have cloths. One I remember was topped with a sheet of metal and riveted onto the wood below. It was as if the café was stuck in an aspic of calves foot jelly for on the wall was an RAC map of Britain before the motorways.

Stephen, used to journalists in search of local ‘colour,’ showed me around once, including the cavernous basement with ovens which had once belonged to a London hotel. They made everything themselves. You never heard the ping of a microwave here.

This was stoutly working class.The staff were locals, workmen, people partial to pie, journalists– the Independent commented on the ‘artisan ambience’ – and, every now and then, a self-made man coming back to rediscover his roots. You could tell that if there was a Rolls or Bentley parked outside.

That was until the city council painted double yellow lines outside in 1993. There had been a change in tastes – people were more likely to want a burger than pie – but it proved the death knell of the business. Trade dropped. Stephen sold it to an Indian restaurateur who, knowing its reputation, kept on the name as Butler’s Balti which was a smashing thing to do. It has since, and well before the demolition job, moved to new premises further down Broad Lane.

I ate there several times, either as a restaurant critic or for a story for The Star’s Diary page, now, sadly, no more. The food was basic but very, very good. I can still taste the pie and the roly-poly. I didn’t move very fast after lunch that afternoon.

As I wrote at the time if this had been France Stephen Butler would have been a local culinary hero and they would have pinned medals on his chest. The Cow Pie would have been a regional speciality.

But this is England. He retired and has, sadly, passed away. And isn’t it oddly, eccentrically British, that he is remembered in the name of an Indian restaurant?

Semolina makes you leaner!

Semolina kheer

Semolina kheer

They say the older you get the further back into your past you remember. Well, I’ve been recalling my old school dinners.

At this point you’ll probably be expecting a few yuks and horror stories but I remember them with great affection. The truth is I enjoyed my school food immensely. There were tureens full of baked beans, although they were smaller than the haricot beans used by Heinz and co. And heaps of mashed potato.

We also had a lot of semolina as well as tapioca and sago. Some people (my local Indian shopkeeper, for example) will tell you these last two are the same. They aren’t but they do look pretty similar. Sago is the pith of the sago palm while tapioca is the tuber of cassava or manioc.

You’d be hard put to find any of these in your local supermarket these days as they seem to have gone out of fashion, although I hear there was a piece in the Guardian which said that tapioca was back among the sandal-wearing classes. Birds do an instant semolina (just add water) but I guessed it would taste, well, yuk.

There is no difficulty finding these foodstuffs in Asian and Continental food stores, which is where I picked up my packet of semolina, at Pops, in Nether Edge.

My recipe for semolina pudding told me to heat a pint of milk and sprinkle in three ounces of semolina, stirring to dissolve. I added sugar to taste, a knob of butter and grated nutmeg, poured it into a buttered dish and baked for about 30 mins at 160C.

It was a dish I enjoyed alone. Semolina has a pleasant, slightly grainy texture. When my wife discovered what I was doing she went “Ugh, frogspawn!” “No, love, that’s tapioca or sago,” I told her, to no avail.

When I ate the leftover semolina cold the next day I was struck by how nice it still was. Then I recalled a post by fellow blogger Bistruti Mishra for skimmed milk kheer in her foodie blog https://happilyhealthyu.wordpress.com

This is made entirely in a pan on the stove top and takes about ten minutes. Kheer is an Asian dessert made by cooking rice, broken wheat or tapioca with milk, butter and sugar, flavoured with cardamom and decorated with nuts. I have eaten versions in the few Asian restaurants which do homemade desserts. As semolina is made from durum wheat it serves just as well.

I followed Bistruti’s recipe but found I needed more milk. She used skimmed, but then she is a stickler for ultra-health recipes. This is what she says of semolina kheer.

“Semolina is a great source of energy, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, and minerals. It is made from durum wheat, so gets digested slowly and helps you feel full for longer time and prevents from overeating. Semolina is a good source of two vital vitamins i.e B and the E group. Both, are essential for good immunity. It contains potassium that improves your kidney function.”

So in Bistruti’s case her semolina makes you leaner than with other desserts! I used semi-skimmed and reckon full or even cream would make this even more delicious, if fattening. Here’s the original Bistruti version.

You need:
250ml milk
100g semolina
½ tbsp unsalted butter
4tbs sugar
Pinch of salt
2-3 cardamoms, ground
nuts and raisins

Gently heat the butter and add the semolina, constantly stirring. It’s just like making a roux
Add the milk slowly, whisking continually to banish lumps, then the sugar, salt and ground cardamoms (I also added a little vanilla essence, which Bistruti does not). Cook gently for about 10 minutes, stirring all the time, then pour into a bowl to cool. I decorated mine with cashews.

It tasted great with stewed fruit. I whisked up the kheer to give it a silkier texture although it is still good as a somewhat solid slab of dessert. I reckon a good restaurant chef could have some fun with this dish.

Below is a picture of Bistruti’s kheer which looks a lot lighter than my effort. Now where’s that packet of tapioca – and I don’t even read the Guardian!

Bistruti's semolina kheer

Bistruti’s semolina kheer

The best ribs in town

Nancy Dallagiovanna at Bella Napoli

Nancy Dallagiovanna at Bella Napoli

When I was writing my food reviews for the Sheffield Star more than one restaurateur told me about diners who always ordered the same thing, month in, month out. I was a little scornful at this failure to try pastures new.

But the wife and I are guilty of just that when it comes to eating at the Bella Napoli on Abbeydale Road, Sheffield. I always have the ribs followed by the pizza Napolitana with extra anchovies, my wife has mushrooms and then the spag bol.

There is a very good reason. The ribs (£6.50) cooked up by chef-patron Nancy Dallagiovanna are the best in Sheffield, very possibly the finest in Britain and, who knows? the world. Perhaps that is a slight exaggeration but you gather I’m enthusiastic.

It is not just me who thinks this. They are the most frequently ordered dish at this tiny little 26-seater eaterie that takes up so small a section of the streetfront that even people who live nearby have failed to notice it. Drive by in the car or on the bus, blink and it’s gone.

Now by rights there should be a queue of rib-seeking customers (mainly men but not always) queuing out the door but the world is not like that so I shall have to tell you about them. I was in the other day and inquired if ribs were available. They were. They almost always are.

Nancy brings me the dish herself. She’s only just finished making them and says they always taste better the next day. I can’t wait that long because I am excited about getting my teeth into them.

But I have to wait a bit for the dish, which is as hot as a nuclear reactor, to cool down slightly or I’ll burn my mouth. I dip a little garlic bread into the sauce while I’m waiting.

The ribs are not a thing of beauty as you can see from the picture but that doesn’t matter. The taste is not particularly sophisticated but who cares? They bring instant and utter reward to a carnivore. They are meaty, with bits charred and caramelised, dunked in a rich and syrupy sweet-sour sauce. Those with delicate, fastidious tastes and eating habits may want to look away now.

Eating them is an intense, visceral, back-to-your-caveman-roots experience. I start as politely as I can with knife and fork but as the ribs cool I pick them up by hand. Oh the feeling as my teeth sink into the meat and slide along the bone, gently gnawing away! And they taste good, too. All too often restaurants serve up ribs which taste of nothing (or cardboard) and rely on the sauce to deliver the goods.

The barbecue sauce at Bella Napoli is the crowning glory of this dish. I’ve asked her what is in it but she won’t say. Tomato and sugar (or is it honey?), a little vinegar (or is that lemon?), a touch of fennel or aniseed . . . Nancy is not letting on. And why should she? It’s been the making of this little restaurant.

I’ve finished after burning my tongue and getting sauce dripping inelegantly from the corners of my mouth and I’m licking my fingers before dipping them into the finger bowl provided. There is no elegant way of eating spare ribs. On a good day you get segments of garlic bread to mop up the sauce rather than slices of baguette.

Nancy, from Venezuela, has run the restaurant for 13 years. Previously she and husband Vincenzo (whose recipe it is) previously had a place on London Road so the family has been cooking for the Sheffield public for over 25 years.

Bella Napoli is quirky. The red and white walls feature wall paintings of the Coliseum and a worried looking Roman centurion and photographs of Venice but nothing of Naples. You can bring your own wine (£1.50 corkage) but must pay by cash or cheque. In the week you can order off a separate menu, as my wife did, and get two courses for £10.95. But there’s a catch: it doesn’t include the ribs.

You may even have seen the Bella Napoli and Nancy herself (quite an actress) doing a spoof sketch for ITV’s This Morning claiming that Italian chef Gino D’Acampo is actually from Sheffield and learned his trade at the Bella Napoli. Log on to the restaurant’s website and watch it yourself. Then go and have some ribs.

367 Abbeydale Road, Sheffield S7 1FS. Tel: 0114 255 8367. Open Mon-Sat night. Web: http://www.bellanapolisheffield.com

Ribs at Bella Napoli

Ribs at Bella Napoli

Champagne with George – and a blessing from the Bishop

Eric and Elizabeth Marsh cut the 520th anniversary cake

Eric and Elizabeth Marsh cut the 520th anniversary cake

To Hathersage to celebrate the 520th anniversary of Eric and Elizabeth – and George. There’s champagne, free scoff and, entirely unexpectedly, a blessing from a bishop thrown in. Perhaps I’d better explain.

Eric is Eric Marsh and Elizabeth is his wife. You may know Eric from the Cavendish Hotel, Baslow, which he still runs for the Chatsworth estate, or the George Hotel, which he owns, in Hathersage. If you have a bob or two you probably know him from both.

It is 20 years, sort of, if you count the sales negotiation time, since Eric bought what he describes as a “rundown pub with rooms and a toilet with a condom machine” and turned it into a plush three star hotel. A fourth star is being negotiated. The George is “ like the Cavendish but without the view,” is his sales pitch for the hotel he refers to as his pension fund.

Now here comes the PR spin. If this was the 500th anniversary of the George it would have been built in 1515 and the furthest Eric can go back with the deeds is the 1700s. A couple of centuries have gone missing but Eric feels in his heart they are there.

So here’s the challenge he gave the 80 guests who had been consuming the Yorkshire fishcakes, smoked salmon sushi and tomato shots provided by head chef Helen Prince and her team and champagne courtesy of John Hattersley Wines of Bakewell: to bring him documentary evidence of the existence of a building on the site from the 1500s.

He’s offering a reward of either an overnight stay with breakfast in one of the 24 bedrooms or a case of champagne. “But not both,” he says hurriedly.

Eric, so far as I can tell the only hotelier in Britain who also flies and builds his own aeroplanes, has been in the hospitality business for 50 years. In the nicest possible sense, he’s a throwback to the days when the personality of the manager was as important as the hotel he ran, and not a faceless cipher behind a corporate name badge.

He encourages loyalty from his customers. As far as he can he greets each guest personally. I’ve seen him work a dining room greeting perfect strangers as old friends. And that old fashioned courtesy seems to work with the staff. Many of the 24 employees at the George have been with him, either at Hathersage or in Baslow, for years.

Another reason for the gathering was to ask some of his best customers to recommend the George to their friends in a new loyalty rewards scheme still having the i’s dotted and t’s crossed. But you can be sure it will live up to his mantra: “Success is proportionate to the effort involved.”

The George, as befits a venerable building, is full of steps and stairs and long corridors. We tour the rooms with Anne-Marie Milne, the head housekeeper, and admire the £200 a night honeymoon suite with four poster, a standard room and one of the £90 a night budget rooms. Rates will alter shortly to charge for room only with breakfast as an optional extra.

Eric Marsh is not unused to showmanship but even he is taken by surprise when one of his guests, a retired bishop, asks to bless the hotel and all who work and stay in it. So we pause, heads bowed, for what Eric admits is a first for him.

We leave with goodie bags containing a recipe for muesli and a jar of head chef Helen’s marmalade and a quest: to discover George’s missing centuries and rustle up some more guests for Eric.

PS: The George does a good Sunday lunch. Here’s my review from the Sheffield Star last year: http://www.thestar.co.uk/features/food-drink-cavendish-lite-george-an-annual-lunch-treat-1-6782479

Web: http://www.george-hotel.net

Head housekeeper Anne-Marie Milne and Eric welcome guests into the kitchen

Head housekeeper Anne-Marie Milne and Eric welcome guests into the kitchen

The George Hotel at Hathersage

The George Hotel at Hathersage

Alphabet soup on the Peacock’s menu

Rosy red roast rib of beef

Rosy red roast rib of beef

Ordering our Sunday lunch at the Peacock Hotel, Rowsley, I note that my starter is a (g), (ce) and (mu) and the main course is (g),(d),(ce) and (e). My wife can counter with a (g), (d) and (n), followed by (f), (d), (e), (n).

While most menus these days stick a helpful (v) for vegetarian or (gf) for gluten free after the dishes the Peacock has a whole alphabet soup of letters, 14 in total, from (c) for crustacean to the rarely seen (l) for lupin and (sd) for sulphur dioxide.

No dish seems to have more than four letters but I wonder whether the kitchen ever tries to go for, say, six or seven and shouts Bingo!?

The Peacock, perched cosily between the A6 and the River Derwent with the Wye just a fly fisherman’s cast away, is all history (over 400 years), honeyed stone, mullioned windows , smoky fires and wooden mice – the tables and chairs, carved by Mousey Thompson, have little rodents running up the legs.

Meals here can cost an (a&l) or arm and a leg, with mains between £24 and £32, so my reviewing days for the Sheffield Star saw visits restricted to relaxing Sunday lunches, chosen on rainy days with excellently cooked roasts bookended with a local pint and the Sunday papers in front of the fire. It brightened up a dismal day at the company’s expense.

These days we pay our own way and Sunday lunches are still (p) for pricy at £33 for three courses, coffee extra. On our Easter Sunday it was upped to £35 on account of the Lindt chocolate bunny perched on each napkin, so I suppose you could add (c) for cheeky.

Originally built as the dower house for Haddon Hall, the 15-bed Peacock is an independent hotel owned by Lord and Lady Edward Manners. It is a favourite with well-heeled fly fishermen, romantic couples and entertainers, from Dame Judie Dench to Keira Knightley, while Gary Barlow tweeted ‘fab for a weekend’ to his followers when he stayed here.

It’s also fab, Gary, for a Sunday lunch although for once it wasn’t raining. My roast rib of beef, just one slice, but as rosy red and tender as a blushing maiden, was glorious although another slice would have been (v) for value. I loved the crunchy-coated roast potatoes and what could have been pink fir apple potatoes along with a good Yorkshire Pudding and a good selection of vegetables. Be warned that they have a blow-your-head-off English mustard.

My wife’s hake was perfectly pitched, firm and flavourful, with broccoli and almonds and a little jug of hollandaise although why anyone needed to be told that hake is (f) for fish is a mystery. I didn’t get an (m) for meat with my beef.

The head chef here is Dan Smith although he was off on Sunday and sous chef Simon was in charge. The kitchen’s in safe hands Dan although my wife’s starter of blue cheese, mulled pear, beetroot and walnut tart with rocket and walnut salad needs pepping up. A little more cheese and dressing on the salad would do it.

There was plenty of pep with the piccalilli with my moist ham hock terrine, layered with yellow split peas as a pease pudding ,with a slice of toasted sourdough. Dandelion leaves as salad proved more exciting to read on the menu than eat on the plate.

It’s worth noting that the service here is (ex) for exemplary. It’s delivered with a relaxed friendliness and no starchiness, although we did spot the odd pair of white gloves on waiting staff hands, which is a bit of a throwback.

My dessert gave me (g) gluten, (d) dairy, (e) eggs and (n) nuts in the form of cubed lemon and olive drizzle cake with a zingy lime curd, frozen Greek yoghurt and sheet of meringue, which rounded things off nicely, as did the sticky toffee pudding (g), (e), (d) for my wife.

Coffee and chocolates can be taken for £4.50 in the lounge which also entitles you to read the free (ST) and (MoS) newspapers. For those who care about such things there is no music, not even from Gary Barlow.

We enjoyed our Sunday lunch at the Peacock and we’d list it as (p), (c) and (a).*

Web: http://www.thepeacockatrowsley.com Tel: 01629 733 518

*pricy, classy and atmospheric

FOOTNOTE: Not long after this piece was written the letters disappeared from the menu but you can still get one with the ABCs if you ask. I went back and had virtually the same meal and it was still as good.

Lemon and olive oil cake

Lemon and olive oil cake

The Peacock Hotel at Rowsley

The Peacock Hotel at Rowsley

Eric the Norman Conqueror

Piedaniel's Restaurant in Bath Street, Bakewell

Piedaniel’s Restaurant in Bath Street, Bakewell

My wife finishes her plate of crab risotto with a contented sigh. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a complaint about the food here,” she says. I nod. Me, too. Although we did think that portion of boeuf bourgignonne for our son-in-law one Sunday was a bit on the small side for a chap.

But it tasted so good it wasn’t worth more than half a grumble. We are at Piedaniel’s Restaurant in Bakewell for lunch after a morning’s shopping at the farmers’ market. We’ve been coming here, grumble-free, on and off, ever since it first opened in September 1994.

That’s because we like the place, the food and the fact that it’s always consistently good. There’s nothing worse than having a terrific meal one visit, a let-down on the next.

The restaurant, in a timbered house in Bath Street, is owned by Eric and Christiana Piedaniel. Eric is French, who trained in France, has cooked in London (Park Lane Hotel) and the Cavendish Hotel in next-door Baslow, and has spent the last 20 years giving Bakewell a taste of France. He’s from Normandy so for those who like his style of cooking he’s a Norman Conqueror!

When they took the building over it was hardly new to Christiana, who had worked there as a chef in the embryonic Fischers restaurant, now at Baslow Hall.

That crab risotto was ultra soft and creamy, sharpened with a little white Burgundy and given colour with chives. It could only have been cooked by a Frenchman. An Italian would have served that dish differently. My pork rillettes have been pressed into a semicircular cake, midway between soft and hard, and are served with toasted thyme bread and a balsamic dressed salad. It tastes lipsmackingly piggy.

The dining room is bright and airy with whitewashed walls and draped in shades of green. Large windows overlook the garden. Beams run across the ceiling. There is Sheffield cutlery.

Lunch is £16 for two courses, £18 for three (and also for dinner but not Friday and Saturday) and is a bargain. A very garlicky chicken casserole follows, with tarragon mash, and a vegetable tart, in essence a well-stocked quiche inside a pastry case made with sweet potato which gives intriguing results.

“It all seems very simple but you know that behind it all is a lot of skill,” approves my wife, enjoying her chocolate mille feuille with white chocolate sauce. “And I don’t even like white chocolate!” I, meanwhile, was very happy with my pear tarte tatin, the shortcrust, not puff, pastry, infused with fruity juices.

The first time we came here the dining room was full of hungry discontented diners. Service was very slow. There was just Eric, a chef who didn’t even have a can opener, cooking from scratch by himself in the kitchen. But when the food did come we were enchanted.

The place was called Renaissance then. Same place, same people, same chef. These days service is a lot slicker: from Margaret, who seems to have been there forever, and Ilona, the couple’s daughter.

Presentation is simple: don’t come here for a Picasso or Mondrian design on a plate. But if you want food a world away from fancy foams but concentrating on pure taste, you couldn’t do better than here.

Bath Street, Bakewell DE45 1BX. Tel: 01629 812 687

http://www.piedaniels-restaurant.com

Crab risotto

Crab risotto

Vegetable tart at Piedaniel's Restaurant

Vegetable tart at Piedaniel’s Restaurant