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:


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

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

Crab risotto

Crab risotto

Vegetable tart at Piedaniel's Restaurant

Vegetable tart at Piedaniel’s Restaurant