Food review - The Tickled Trout, Barlow

The Tickled Trout's pizzas are thin, crispy and delicious

The Tickled Trout's pizzas are thin, crispy and delicious - Credit: Chris Mapp

An award-winning gastro pub and restaurant with a fine reputation, Nathan Fearn discovers the proof is, quite literally, in the pudding

Channelling my inner Jay Rayner, I stride into the Tickled Trout in lovely Barlow to discover whether all the good reports I have heard about this gastro pub and restaurant stand up to scrutiny. 

Spoiler alert – the Tickled Trout definitely stands up to scrutiny.  

I must admit I had positive pre-conceived ideas about this lovely place, located four miles north west of Chesterfield and immersed in rolling countryside. 

That’s because the Tickled Trout’s website certainly says all the right things to someone passionate about their locality. 

‘The Tickled Trout – Deliciously Derbyshire’ it proudly proclaims and this statement is backed up with a revealing map which shows exactly where all the produce used in their extensive menu comes from. 

All ingredients are locally-sourced other than the fish, which comes from Cornwall.  

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As Chris Mapp, the restaurant's owner and chef, rightly points out when we arrive – we don’t lack much here in Derbyshire, but the sea is one notable exception. 

Chargrilled halloumi sticks with Vietnemese dressing

Chargrilled halloumi sticks with Vietnemese dressing - Credit: Nathan Fearn

As my wife and I take our seats we’re informed by one of the Tickled Trout’s welcoming and friendly waitresses that everything on the menu is available apart from the fish pie, which is still in the process of being slow cooked. 

Chris explains that the restaurant only uses the finest fish, caught sustainably in arguably the fishing capital of the country – Cornwall – by local fishermen and women.  

If the catch on any given day isn’t plentiful, which can be affected by a number of factors such as the recent inclement weather, it can influence the amount of fish available – and there’s never any question the restaurant would settle for downgrading by sourcing a lesser quality of fish from elsewhere. 

I scan the bar area and note the wide variety of cask ales, gins and the likes available.

With my wife pregnant and myself on a one-year alcohol abstinence for charity, we’re unfortunately not in the market to sample these delights but there are plenty of non-alcoholic options. 

We’ve chosen a Tuesday lunchtime to visit and the atmosphere is warm and relaxed and I find my eyes drawn to the fire and snug-looking chairs and sofas at the other end of the premises that look tailormade for a cosy Friday or Saturday evening catch up with friends over a refreshing beverage. 

Derbyshire rarebit - a perfect starter

Derbyshire rarebit - a perfect starter - Credit: Nathan Fearn

However, my stomach brings me back to the here and now and both my wife and I are pleased with our starter choices – Bec choosing the chargrilled halloumi sticks with Vietnemese dressing (£5.95) and myself the Derbyshire rarebit on toasted sour dough (£6.95). 

Both arrive in good time and Bec quickly devours hers. My starter is more substantial and takes a little longer. I find myself sharing bits with Bec by means of providing proof that it is as delicious as I am making out. 

The rarebit is beautiful and perfectly balanced but my biggest surprise is the accompanying salad and dressing. I’m not the biggest salad fan but this is wonderful and perfectly balances the more robust flavour of the rarebit and rustic sourdough. 

Suitably impressed, we wait eagerly for our mains. Bec, a vegetarian, opts for the Giardiniera pizza (£12.50), which includes spinach, red onion, artichoke, buffalo mozzarella, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and black olives. 

The Tickled Trout's pizzas are thin, crispy and delicious

The Tickled Trout's pizzas are thin, crispy and delicious - Credit: Chris Mapp

The pizza is perfectly thin and crispy with a generous helping of all the ingredients promised. There’s no grease and the pizza looks and tastes fresh and appetising – worth noting too that the Tickled Trout has a ‘2 for £20’ deal on pizzas Monday through Thursday.  

I am tempted with the calzone but decide it might be a bit of a carb-fest after the sourdough so go with the Tickled Trout Beef Burger, which I am informed by the waitress is a ‘good choice.’ 

As it arrives in all its glory I realise I have already reached the ‘Man vs Food’ stage - 240g of 24-hour marinated burger, slow braised pulled short rib, onion jam, salad and chunky chips for a generous price of £14.95. 

By now I have well and truly adopted a ‘when in Rome’ approach and gleefully accept the offer to upgrade my chunky chips for truffle-laden skinny fries.  

This proves a wise call on taste alone, although admittedly I am unable to finish them after grazing on the substantial and flavoursome burger which certainly does not disappoint. 

The Tickled Trout beef burger with truffle-laden fries

The Tickled Trout beef burger with truffle-laden fries - Credit: Nathan Fearn

By this point, Bec and I are suitably stuffed and fully relaxed in our comfortable surroundings which ooze class but also warmth. 

Feeling a little like Dawn French’s Geraldine Grainger in the Christmas special of The Vicar of Dibley as she continues accepting food even after she is fit to burst, we scan the dessert menu. 

Bec goes for the delectable apple crumble (£6.50) and I am torn between the chocolate brownie with salted caramel ice cream and the sticky toffee pudding with toffee sauce – both £6.50. 

However in the I go with neither as Chris recommends I try a dessert new to the menu - vanilla panna cotta, blackcurrant, toasted hazelnuts and honeycomb (£7)… who am I to argue? 

Delicious apple crumble

Delicious apple crumble - Credit: Nathan Faern

As Bec tucks into her apple crumble, I am found mentally congratulating myself for allowing my decision to be influenced by the chef – despite the high bar set by the starter and main, my dessert is without question my star dish. 

The panna cotta is a perfect, light pallet cleanser and the honeycomb and hazelnuts add delightful texture. The blackcurrant sorbet lifts it up still further with a perfect burst of flavour that tickles the tastebuds. 

I’m stuffed, but I could eat another one. I’m not one to often stray into hyperbole but it’s genuinely one of the best desserts I have tasted. 

It’s worth noting that The Tickled Trout has a dedicated menu for children for those visiting with a young family, whilst there’s a very appealing sandwich menu and salads for those wanting a light option, whilst the vegetarian and gluten-free options are plentiful. 

Vanilla panna cotta, blackcurrant, toasted hazelnuts and honeycomb

Vanilla panna cotta, blackcurrant, toasted hazelnuts and honeycomb - Credit: Nathan Fearn

Access to the restaurant is good and there is an on-site car park. There’s also the option to hire out space for private parties. 

The website states: ‘If your experience with the Tickled Trout ever falls short of your expectations, please let us know and give us the opportunity to make things right! We never ever want an unhappy customer to leave our pub.’ 

Going by our experience, it’s difficult to envisage anybody leaving the Tickled Trout anything other than happy – with the added satisfaction of knowing you’re supporting local producers too, which are so championed by Chris Tapp and his enthusiastic team. 

A must-visit for me. 

The Tickled Trout at Barlow

The Tickled Trout at Barlow - Credit: Chris Mapp

For further information, including the full menu and opening hours, visit or call 0114 289 1111.