Back to 1990 – how we ate then

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Reviews from 1990

WHENEVER, however restaurants finally re-open things will never be the quite the same again. But are they ever? Prices change, inevitably upwards. And so do menus and fashions.

But would we notice, I wonder, if we were blindfolded and whisked back in time to, say, 30 years ago in Sheffield and the surrounding area and given a menu?

Take it from me, we would.

With time on my hands I have been leafing back through my restaurant reviews for The Star in 1990, and it is surprising how interesting a year that was. The hospitality business is constantly changing but there was an awful lot happening in those 12 months.

It was the time when the city’s tastebuds were sharpening up and being alerted to new ideas and flavours, often by a bevy of young Made-in-Sheffield chefs. The city’s diners were beginning to realise there was more to life than fish and chips or a curry (although some never caught on).

Let’s start at the top.  Max and Susan Fischer had not long transferred their business from Bakewell to Baslow Hall, with some heartaches along the way,  and were proclaimed the Good Food Guide’s Derbyshire restaurant of the year.

Four months after they opened I tootled over to Baslow to sample the £25 a head TDH – squid ink salmon ravioli on a green herb sauce, venison with chocolate and raspberries, and Grand Marnier and orange mousse, and broke out in purple prose to comment: “Max’s food has a moody, demanding magnificence.”

The bill for two was £64.70, more than twice that at the week’s other review (I more often than not wrote two) at the Admiral Rodney pub.

Things were more light-hearted but no less skilled at Greenhead House, Chapeltown, the guide’s South Yorkshire restaurant of the year (and only entry). Neil Allen’s Anglo-French cooking crossed with English country house offered chicken stuffed with ham, salami and olives, based on a recipe from the Tarn, or fillets of beef with a truffle sauce. And there was the Beano annual and pocket bagatelle in the loo.

Making up the area’s top trio was Tessa Bramley’s Old Vicarage at Ridgeway, really Sheffield but technically just over the border in Derbyshire.

There was soon to be some serious competition.  At the Charnwood Hotel (now apartments), a new head chef had not long moved in to take charge of its two restaurants. “I have yet to sample the new Henfrey’s, now under the wing of style merchant Wayne Bosworth, but his food at the adjacent Brasserie Leo shows considerable panache,” I wrote.

In a faux-Parisienne setting you could eat baked marrow bones, salmon and crab terrine with a lobster sauce for £3.95, cod medallions steamed with ginger and, wait for it, pancake baked inside a soft meringue. There was to be much more to come from Wayne.

North of the city the Charnwood’s former head chef was opening at Hudson’s at The Rock, Crane Moor. For a shilling under £20 Cary Brown offered chargrilled smoked salmon or stuffed quail in puff pastry, then a soup or sorbet (those old country house hotel choices), best end of lamb with a kidney sauce, ending with an almond basket of  fruits with honey ice cream.

Then, as now, there was a financial squeeze and there were casualties. The excellent Arcadia, at Hillsborough, run by Rex Barker and Paul Betts, by far the best place ever in this suburb, closed, as did the equally upmarket Armstrongs in the city centre. Boss Roy Fellows blasted the city’s diners as “£8 bellyful merchants,” not without cause.

Yet Barnsley could sustain Armstrongs’ twin, of the same name, under the charge of Nick Pound, last seen running restaurants in London. And there was more gastronomic excellence when Max Fischer’s sous chef Michael Peano opened in town, to say nothing of Jim Gratton’s shrine to the Barnsley Chop at Brooklands. 

1990 Sheffield even had an oyster bar – briefly. Long before Loch Fyne  opened (and closed) a seafood restaurant in the city you could sample their wares at an oyster bar which opened at the Lyceum Theatre that year. Sadly, it didn’t catch on.

Sheffield’s hospitality scene always served up big portions and some didn’t stint on quirkiness, not least at Mr B B’s( now Otto’s)  on Sharrowvale Road, almost the city’s sole veggie restaurant, run by owner-cook Peter Wigley. He had revamped it from Singin’ Hinnies, the year before.

The £8 a head three course menu featured bulky veggie food but the most memorable part of the evening was when the waiter put his hand on my wife’s knee. Peter Willamett offered spiritual healing along with the chilli con coconut.

This was an era when hotel dining rooms held sway. The Hallam Tower Hotel might have had a reputation for posh food at big prices but £9.95 Sunday lunches were pretty standard fare. The main attraction was that for an extra quid diners could use the pool.

Its rival, The Grosvenor (now demolished) had Gary France as its head chef, who was to make more of a name for himself when he moved to the Harley Hotel with its sprung mini dance floor. While if you wanted to be seen spending money there was the Beauchief  Hotel with tournedos Rossini on the menu.

There were dinky bistros like Parkes and Four Lanes, Hillsborough, lovely little country places like the Millthorpe, in the village of that name, and the Lazy Landlord at Foolow. While Baldwin’s Omega on Psalter Lane was in its champagne and strawberries heyday.

For me, feeling my way as a reviewer, it was all exciting stuff. There would be more, much more, to come.

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And more!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter and Rob save the day for Maynard

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Rob Hattersley on the lawn at The Maynard

THE Maynard at Grindleford, which closed suddenly in October work forcing 50 couples to find a new wedding venue and putting 18 people out of work, is to reopen in January.

Award-winning new boss Rob Hattersley says it will continue in the weddings business and has made this offer to those left in the lurch. “I want people to feel they have a second chance of getting married here.

“I have already had one couple contact me. Within reason I will match the quote (people got from the old Maynard).”

He says the same goes for old staff who can reapply for jobs.

Mr Hattersley, aged 35, the son of Bakewell wine merchant John Hattersley, former proprietor of the town’s celebrated Aitch’s wine bar, has taken on the lease of the ten bedroomed hotel. He has set up a private limited company, Longbow Bars and Restaurants Ltd, to run the business from January 1.

He declined to name the new owner, saying he was “a very private individual.”

However I can reveal he is  businessman and roofing tycoon Peter Hunt of Ashford Hall, Ashford-in-the-Water.

Mr Hunt owns roofing and cladding business Coverworld, based in Chesterfield, as well as a number of other businesses and properties. He keeps a low profile but hit the headlines in 1997 when he bought Thornbridge Hall from Sheffield City Council, which had used it as an educational establishment.

He was not anxious to talk to journalists about his purchase then but I did manage to have a quick word with him when he attended the contents auction, at which he bought a number of books.

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Thornbridge Hall – one of Peter Hunt’s earlier homes

He sold it on five years later to  Jim Harrison, who was to found the renowned Thornbridge Brewery there, and his wife Emma, then boss of welfare-to-work A4e.

Mr Hunt did not reply to a request to comment on The Maynard.

Rob Hattersley, who was educated at Lady Manners School and took a BSc in hospitality management at Manchester Metropolitan University, comes to The Maynard (he is keeping the name but getting the hotel rebranded) with a career-long background in hospitality.

He has worked for the Revere pub group, the posh end of Marstons Brewery, and was until recently general manager of its flagship Farmhouse at Mackworth, Derbyshire, itself a weddings venue.

He announced on Instagram and Facebook that “I have big ideas to restore the life back into this iconic building with plans for the bedrooms, bar, restaurant and events.”

He told me: “I want to bring it into the modern age, doing things in a more acceptable way, making the food and drink more accessible. Everything I have ever done has all been premium.”

While he has moved away from the area (he worked for a time on cruise liners) The Maynard has always been in his heart. “We have had three family weddings there over the years. ” Although not his own. Rob is single.

He recently picked up general manager of the year in Revere’s annual awards.

Locals will be relieved The Maynard will continue as a hotel. There had been fears it would become luxury apartments, similar to others Mr Hunt owns, including the £300 a night Goldcrest at Stanton in Peak.

Not everything he does has met with local approval. He was in in a planning dispute over converting Bleaklow Farm, near Great Longstone,  into luxury accommodation. The farm was demolished but the new building was bigger than allowed by planning permission. Locals in the nearby hamlet of Rowland have protested about a 14 bedroomed “large country house complex.”

The Maynard is to undergo considerable refurbishment, something Peter Hunt will be experiencing at home. With a liking for big, historic buildings he moved on after Thornbridge to Grade I Jacobean manor house Holme Hall, Bakewell (a  location for the BBC’s 2006 version of Jane Eyre), before buying Ashford from banker and former High Sheriff of Derbyshire Jasper Olivier in 2009.

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Ashford Hall which Peter Hunt is having renovated

Grade II listed Ashford Hall, which stands in nearly 200 acres of prime farm land, is to be extensively renovated, subject to planning permission.  Work is expected to take two years.

The Maynard will be reopen considerably sooner, probably by the end of January.

 

 

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Peter Hunt’s Coverworld HQ in Chesterfield

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ian and Cary get social in Hathersage

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Cary (left) and Ian at their new venture

WHEN LOCAL businessman Ian Earnshaw feels peckish in London he can always pop into the Ritz Hotel for one of his favourite dishes, braised oxtail cottage pie.

Now very soon he’ll be able to do the same much nearer home in the Hope Valley. He’s bought a restaurant, the popular Hathersage Social Club.

He’s teamed up with his old pal, top chef Cary Brown, to take over and run the quirky little eaterie, a favourite with locals and tourists alike,  in the middle of the village. It was put on the market earlier in the year by owners Simon Couth and Lucy Wurstlin who created it out of a garden centre in 2013. They are taking on a new venture in Whitby.

“We have known each other for 20 years and mused about doing something together over the last ten,” says Ian, aged 55, who runs a highly successful fabrications business making staircases, balustrades and architectural metalwork, including the biggest single-span staircase in the UK. He lives near Cutthorpe.

Cary, who is 53, has made his name with a succession of restaurants including Carriages and Slammers in Sheffield, the Devonshire Arms at Middle Handley, the Royal Oak at Millthorpe and until recently  at Barlow Woodseats Hall.

Ironically, neither had set foot in the place, best described as esoteric, until Ian decided to buy it and rang Cary up to see if he’d come on board. Both, though, had heard good things about it.

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The Hathersage Social Club will get a new look

They are calling the venue Earnshaw & Brown @ Hathersage Social Club. Earnshaw & Brown sounds like a gentleman’s outfitters in Pontefract. “Or a soap maker,” laughs Ian over coffee at the nearby George Hotel. Both men are full of enthusiasm for the new venture which should open towards the end of October.

They are anxious to reassure customers that not everything they love about the place will be swept away. So while the old LP covers-as-menus may go in place of new ones featuring a cartoon of the pair of them, the famous waffles will stay.

“We don’t want to lose the fun part that has made Hathersage Social,” stresses Cary, adding that much of what they will be doing the previous owners might have intended if they had stayed.

For Ian, who says his passion is food and wine and cooking at home is his way of relaxing from a highly stressful job, it will be the chance to put into practice what he has learned from his years of eating out at all levels. He very much knows what he likes and can see things with a customer’s eye.

“Ian’s probably eaten at more Michelin-starred restaurants than you and me put together,” says Cary. Ian teases that he can beat his chef in The Battle of the Mashed Potato and can make a better salad. He keeps photos of some perfectly poached egg and impressive roast beef Chez Earnshaw on his smartphone.

Both men had decided on a ‘shop local’ policy for their restaurant but Cary was stunned when Ian came up with a deal for all the meat to be supplied by the Chatsworth Estate.

Earnshaw & Brown will be open for more of the week than previously, initially from Wednesday through to Sunday this year then throughout the week by next summer, offering, variously, breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, depending on the day.

That oxtail cottage pie will be on the menu, of course, as well as Cary’s signature crispy fried monkfish with chilli jam, plus classics such as calves liver, chicken Kiev, fish pie, lobster thermidor, Chatsworth Chateaubriand and steaks.

So traditional then? “You will read the menu but it’s not going to come out like you think,” winks Cary, no slouch at porcelain pyrotechnics. And there will be plates, not slates or boards. And no slicks or foams.

Admirers of Cary’s Sunday lunches previous at Millthorpe and Barlow Woodseats will be delighted to know they will continue at Hathersage.

The venue will also be aimed at families. “I’m astounded how even good quality places don’t give good quality food to kids,” says Ian, a father of four. “Our children’s menu, called ‘For The Next Generation of Foodies,’ will have the same ingredients as the adult menu.”

He calls himself “a details man.” And considering that it is very often the woman who decides where a couple will dine, one important detail will be to install separate toilets to replace the unisex loo at Hathersage Social. Cary will have a bigger, better kitchen, dining space will be converted out of the old cinema room upstairs and more covers will be provided outside in a series of phased redevelopments.

In the past Cary has had business partners who have left the lot to him but this time Ian will be pretty active in the restaurant, concentrating on keeping the cogs oiled, leaving his chef plenty of time to concentrate on the cooking.

Both seem to be relishing the project. Ian, not content with striking a good deal with Chatsworth, is still busy sourcing locally. Sourdough and duck eggs were mentioned. Cary, who has never needed much to light his blue touchpaper, says: “He is bringing the buzz out in me this time.”

*Due to open Friday, 18 October.

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Cartoon of the pair to appear on the menu, by Dave Howarth of Howarth McSwain Ltd

 

Two soups . . . and bare naked porcelain

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Main course lamb in my ‘lighter lunch’

THE soup sounded good, crab and fish. Possibly, I guessed, including coley, the cheapest fish as a special dish of the day in one of North Derbyshire’s priciest restaurants. One of my dining companions ordered the same.

“Two soups and please don’t spill it,” I joked. Our waitress at the Peacock Hotel, Rowsley, looked blank.

“It’s a very funny comedy sketch by Julie Walters as a doddery old  waitress.” She was English but we could see her asking herself : “Julie who?” Sometimes one feels very old. “Catch it on YouTube,” said my companion.

The soup, with no little fishy bits so more a bisque really, was superb, tasting overwhelmingly of crab and expertly seasoned. If you licked a freshly boiled crab shell this would be it – briny, tangy, crabby. The waitress didn’t spill a drop.

And it came with stuff to play with – tiny crisp croutons, a bowl of grated Patmesan and another of rouille. Lovely.

But then it ought to be. The head chef Dan Smith has been here since 2007, the kitchen has three AA rosettes and a three course ‘lighter lunch’ is heavy on the wallet at £24.25. If you want coffee it’s a hefty £5.15 more (with tiny chocolate) so it’s wiser to go for filter rather than espresso.

We are no strangers to the Peacock. When I reviewed for the Sheffield Star, mindful it would be out of most of my readers’ price bracket, I reserved it as an extra-special Sunday lunch: cheaper, not French or Modern British but bigger portions (the then hotel manager used to give the head chef a day off and do it himself).

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Crab and fish soup

I used the Peacock as a place to cheer myself up, choosing a wintry Sunday for a slap-up lunch and afternoon with the papers by a roaring fire, basking in the contentment that I would be fully refunded. I could manage that every four years or so. I last wrote about it here in 2015.

The Peacock, owned by Lord and Lady Manners, is part of the Haddon Hall estate, where they live. It’s a lovely old building, originally an 17th century manor house and a hotel since 1830.

In the dining room it is always fun to hunt the mice, tiny little creatures carved into table legs and chairs from the studio of ‘Mousey’ Thompson.

It’s a lighter lunch at a discount on a la carte prices because main course portions (but not starters or desserts) are half-sized. This does leave a lot of bare naked porcelain on view and lonely looking food. I know chefs these days like big half empty plates but as a diner I can never see the attraction. It’s rubbing it in: “Hey, ho, you’re not getting a lot!”

I had the slow-cooked lamb shoulder and if there was not muchof it, it was exceedingly good.  The roundel of meat, no more than two or three mouthfuls and dwarfed by the potato,  was soft and melting, the flavour deep and lustrous.

It occurred to me that one does not eat with relish in places like this because that implies eating heartily. I don’t think the Peacock does gutsy. Instead, one takes tiny mouthfuls and eats slowly, savouring the moment even more than usual.

The lamb came with a quenelle of olive oil mash, not seasoned enough for my liking, two skinned and roasted cherry tomatoes, a knob of goats curd inside a sheath of courgette and a lively slick of basil puree, acting as the sauce. Hoping no one was looking, I wiped my plate clean with some good bread. At least you get generous supplies of that.

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My fellow diner added a flower from his sweet so mine wouldn’t look so lost!

Two of us had Manchester tart. An old classic, it has somehow passed me by down the years and I don’t recall having it before. Think Bakewell Tart (not the Pudding) with coconut on top. I loved it.

Normally I would recount what my wife ate and give my opinion because I would have had a forkful or two (unlike some reviewers who merely ask for a verdict). Given the size of the mains it seemed invidious to do so. But she thoroughly enjoyed her chicken liver parfait and summer vegetable risotto. Like me, she had the tart. One of our guests ducked that “because it’s from the wrong side of the Pennines.”

This is fine, considered cooking with some well-judged flavours and a delight to eat.

They don’t rush you here. In fact, I was almost at the kitchen door before I found someone to give me the bill.

Those winter Sunday lunches always used to put me in a good mood and so did this summer Tuesday lunch. And, I wonder, did our waitress ever look up Two Soups on YouTube?

*The Peacock is in the middle of the village. Tel 01629 733 518. Web: http://www.thepeacockatrowsley.com

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What’s for lunch? The Peacock’s front door

 

 

 

 

 

Bakewell’s ‘Downton’ sold

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Hassop Hall Hotel, near Bakewell, has been sold and will close on September 29. It has been bought by a local businessman as a private house. MARTIN DAWES recalls a couple of visits for the Sheffield Star.

YOUR first glimpse of Hassop Hall Hotel, once through the wrought iron archway, could take your breath away. “It was like being in an episode of Downton Abbey,” said one overawed visitor on TripAdvisor, reeling from the atmosphere and the service.

If your next glimpse was of a male peacock there could be trouble. If in the mood it would either try to fight or mate with your vehicle. “It doesn’t like blue cars,” then owner Tom Chapman told us on our first visit.

Twenty years later, when we returned to dine again, the peacocks had gone. They were not providing the sort of welcome guests expect from a hotel. So had Mr Chapman, who died in 2013. “They were being naughty and Dad took them home,” said his son Tom junior who succeeded him in running the place with his identical twin Richard.

Hassop Hall, with its stuffy, Edwardian country house menus, seldom troubled the food guides. There was poached salmon, veloute of fish soup St Tropez (seen, as named, nowhere else in the world) and five roasts although the signature dish of duckling in a salt crust was worth having.

“Food for Americans,” sneered one visitor and if a little unkind was not entirely incorrect.

Hassop Hall, which is Grade II* listed, dates back to the Domesday Book but the present building, three storeys of honey coloured sandstone with seven bays, is from 1774. Some, like a Downton film set, is even more recent. The bar had been the garage and there were fake beams and heraldic emblems painted on hardboard. Legend has it that some of the oak panelling elsewhere came from Sheffield Castle

On our first visit we’d met Mr Chapman senior there as he greeted visitors. He sized up our worth in one look, smiled and asked “Anniversary?” We didn’t tell him until later when I gently pointed out my surprise at being served tinned peas. “We’ve not got round to nouvelle cuisine, petit pois,” he murmured.

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He never did get round to it. Six years ago it was still silver service, silver cloches and carving at the table for its £43 a head (more on Saturdays) dinners. But you did feel like a million dollars. It will have cost several more millions for the new owner to buy Hassop to convert into a private house. When the Chapmans bought it in 1975 to turn it into a hotel they were only the fifth family to be associated with the hall in 900 years.

I remember the main dining room as one of the nicest I’ve eaten in, baskets of fruit on each widely spaced table. There are three private dining rooms and 13 bedrooms, as well as a ballroom. The Green Room has a marbled Tuscan columned chimneypiece.

You need a bit of brass to eat there (rooms can cost over £300 a night) and a bit of brass to buy it. Locals will miss it. “It’s a bit of an institution for lots of folk but not really on my list. Honest but uninspiring fare,” said one observer.

Hassop has a rich history. In the 14th century the 11 month old heiress was sold by the king for 50 marks and resold for double that to the Plumpton family. A century later it passed to the Eyres, then the Leslies and in 1919 was bought by the Stephensons before Tom Chapman took over.

It’s another chapter in the hall’s long history. Who knows, perhaps the peacocks might return? But the new owner better not have a blue car.

The hall has been bought by John Hill, who owns a chain of nursing homes, and his wife Alex. They live locally. Mr Hill is said to be prepared to throw money at updating the ancient pile. According to local gossip, he paid to have power lines moved because they spoiled the view at his current address.

The Chapmans say the decision to sell was ‘a difficult one for us to make but we feel it is the right time.’

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Still lovely jubbly in Bakewell

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Eric Piedaniel, un chef Normande

“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.

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Brioche and duck butter pudding

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.

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The soused mackerel is served warm

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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Piedaniel’s mock-Tudor home in Bath Street, Bakewell