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

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