The Plough Inn, Hathersage, Derbyshire Restaurant Review
If there's one thing guaranteed to prise me from my post-work lethargy on a rainy and cold summer night it's the prospect of a tasty meal that someone else has cooked.
The notion seemed even better when my daughter and I caught our first glimpse of the 16th century Plough Inn in the pretty north Derbyshire village of Hathersage, sitting by the side of a B road ready to tempt hungry drivers taking the scenic route to Sheffield. It's raining, so we scurry inside without stopping to admire the hanging baskets, but we do notice the full car park which mid-week on a rainy night is encouraging.
Inside is warm and inviting, with drinkers and happy diners enjoying the bar menu, which includes favourites such as fish and chips with mushy peas, roasts and lasagna. We are ushered through to a separate dining room behind the bar, white walled and beamed, the tables laid for a slightly more upmarket experience with white tablecloths, sparkling glassware, silver cutlery and fresh flowers. Menus and the wine list are swiftly brought by elegant waiter Patrick Jenner and we settle down to browse. The menu suggests seven starters, including a soup and a vegetarian option, which are modern without being too challenging for the average tastebud. While we're wavering Patrick brings an amuse-bouche of a tiny crisply melting pastry tartlet filled with mustard-imbued salmon. My daughter's eventual choice of Serrano ham with gazpacho jelly and almond salad (�6.25) arrived with corrugated piles of the tangy pink meat and a glistening red tower intensely flavoured with the iconic Spanish chilled soup. Slivers of almond, toasted golden, were flecked through the salad leaves which accompanied the dish and provided a distinct contrast of both taste and texture. A clean plate signalled her approval.
My own starter was a ring of enormous and juicy king prawns served warm on a bed of minutely diced and gingered fruit that included melon, a favourite combination. Fris�e lettuce was a frilly garnish to the dish, which cost �7.25. Alternatives included pressed ham hock and pease pudding terrine with apple compote at �5.95, which I thought sounded a terrific combination but a little filling for the feast to come, and duck breast in Chinese spices with Asian and noodle salad (6.95) - which I overheard the lady on a neighbouring table declaring to be perfectly crisp on the outside while pink and succulent within - or a fig, shallot and blue cheese puff pastry tart with wild rocket at �5.75.
There is a choice of four fish main courses, five meat and poultry and two vegetarian dishes - one of which, asparagus and lemon risotto at �10.95, almost tempted me. Now enjoying our wine, a most delicious Waipara Hills 'Marlborough' Sauvignon Blanc 2006/7 from New Zealand - rich, fruity and with a lemony tang - we looked forward to our own selection. My daughter had chosen slow roast belly pork with rosti potato, leek tagliatelle and sweet mustard dressing (�13.95). The tender circlet of lean meat had a piquant stuffing in its centre, flavoured with fennel, and was perfectly complemented by its well-cooked accompaniments. I'd chosen halibut poached in red wine with braised baby gem lettuce, turned potato and horseradish crme frache, and at first I thought I'd mistakenly been served a steak. Cutting into it, however, brilliant white creamy-textured fish was revealed, delicately flavoured and expertly cooked. We were served a selection of vegetables and we'd also asked for spinach which was produced just wilted, as it should be. I managed a peep at the next-door lady's choice, a sirloin of Welsh Black beef with chunky chips and pepper sauce (�17.95), where a stack of 'Jenga'-style fries jostled for space with a succulent-looking steak. Carnivores could have chosen rack of venison with potato, black pudding, shallot saut� and redcurrant jus (�18.95) or a lamb chump with a salad of fves, peashoots and mint with a red wine syrup at �13.95, while for fish lovers there was seared scallop with plum tomato and red onion tart tatin (�17.95) or swordfish with chunky chips, spinach and pine nut salad, and green olive salsa at �14.95.
Not quite beaten, we moved on to the pudding menu. My choice was lemon pannacotta with summer fruits, while my daughter somehow managed to almost finish her toffee and vanilla parfait, which while refreshingly chilled was still slightly firm in the centre, the one small quibble we had. Fortified with coffee served with a chocolate for the journey home, we had a quick chat with owner Elliott Emery. We certainly had compliments for the chef, Robert Navarro from Nottingham, who has devised an innovative menu that can't fail to please. Which, in these times of belt-pulling-in and cutting back, must be half the battle.
The Plough Inn, Leadmill Bridge, Hathersage S32 1BATel: 01433 650319
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