“LOVELY jubbly,” I say as I hand back the menu and wine list to our waitress. I catch my wife giving me a look. “That’s the third time you’ve said it since we got here.” That was only five minutes before. The woman at the next table is amused.
I don’t know whether I’m turning into Del Boy Trotter from Only Fools and Horses but he could very well try out some of his fractured French – ‘Mange tout, mange tout’ – at Eric Piedaniel’s eponymous restaurant in Bakewell because the chef-patron is from Normandy. But that was a long time ago. He and his wife Christiana have been in the mock-Tudor building in Bath Street for the last 23 years. And we’ve been going there on and off for all that time.
I’m not sure what the French for lovely jubbly is but we always get it at Piedaniel’s. Here is a chef who cooks accurately and simply and is dependably consistent. We drop in for Friday lunch and have a meal full of surprises.
I am quite content to stay on the TDH until my wife discovers the baked brioche and duck butter pudding (£7) on the carte and I am so intrigued I have to order it. It’s a new one on me. Think bread and butter pudding with the butter replaced by layers of shredded duck confit. The dish arrives as a square-shaped section, the brioche and duck quite compressed, and my tastebuds are in some confusion as sweet meets savoury head on.
It seems to make sense by the fourth mouthful, aided by a fine Madeira sauce. Yes, I’m won over. Christiana says it’s very popular as customers are intrigued, like me. But where did it come from? In his kitchen later Eric, aged 52, says he thought of it when there was brioche and confit in the kitchen at the same time et voila. Simple as that.
Meanwhile my wife is getting very excited about her cheese charlotte. No, we haven’t heard of that either. It turns out to be whipped mousse of goats cheese, Roquefort and something else which arrives at the table with an Eifel Tower of rocket and celery batons perched on top (£4). It is beautifully light and zingy, crisp and fresh and decidedly cheesy.
Our first visit here was in 1994, shortly after it opened. Eric, previously at the Cavendish Hotel, Baslow, had not checked his new kitchen was properly equipped. He didn’t have a tin opener to open a can of olives and had to use a chisel. On our night the full restaurant was in near mutiny because he was cooking unaided, the wait time was long and Christiana was not around to soothe uppity patrons because she was having a baby. We nearly joined the mutineers until the food arrived but were captivated by his style and culinary elan.
I’m due for a second surprise with my TDH main (all are £12), two soused mackerel fillets on warm crushed potatoes. I had only previously had soused fish cold but this warm in a vinegary sauce. Again, it takes me a couple of mouthfuls to be won over. Sue has an asparagus and vegetable tart which turns out to be a filo basket with a superior tomato sauce.
For the last eight years Eric has been cooking with Eleanor, from Bulgaria, as his second chef. “She came to do the washing up and we found she was a trained chef,” he says. He now also had a tin opener.
We have never had a grumble here and we’re not going to have one now. Sweets (£4) are classically simple but beautifully executed: a shimmering crème caramel and a light steamed chocolate sponge with a proper (but not Bird’s Eye yellow and thick) home made custard.
As we go back into the lounge for coffee I can’t help telling the woman at the next table that it has all been lovely jubbly. She nods in agreement.
The bill, which we paid ourselves, came to £64.70.
Piedaniels is at Bath Steet, Bakewell, DE45 1BX. Tel: 01629 812 687. Web: http://www.piedaniels-restaurant.com
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