Dining Out - The Hardwick Inn, Chesterfield

The Hardwick Inn at Doe Lea, Chesterfield

The Hardwick Inn at Doe Lea, Chesterfield - Credit: Archant

Home-cooked food served in friendly and relaxed surroundings at a historic inn near Hardwick Hall

Main course of pot roast lamb shank

Main course of pot roast lamb shank - Credit: Archant

Nestled at the southern gateway to Hardwick Park, at the foot of the steep slope to the National Trust’s imposing Hardwick Hall, lies the Hardwick Inn. Built from locally quarried sandstone, this 15th century building was constructed almost 100 years before Elizabeth Shrewsbury – known as ‘Bess of Hardwick’ – constructed the nearby hall, and the inn’s handsome exterior, with its charming mullioned windows, certainly evokes a sense of history.

Chocolate and hazelnut truffle torte

Chocolate and hazelnut truffle torte - Credit: Archant

Inside, third generation owners Peter and Pauline Batty, aided by their two daughters Sarah and Jenny and son-in-law Stuart, maintain a warm, welcoming and relaxed country pub environment. Despite the inn’s impressive size, the layout of several cosy eating areas with dark wooden furniture and decorated with interesting memorabilia, helps to create an intimate atmosphere. An open fire enhances the traditional bar area in the winter and in warmer weather, the vast outside seating areas are the perfect place to relax with one of the inn’s locally brewed cask ales.

When it comes to food, the extensive à la carte menu of traditional British dishes – all of which are homemade by head chef Paul Booth – includes a huge choice of pub classics such as pies, handmade burgers, grilled meats, local game, bar meals and seafood (a delivery of fresh crabs had just arrived on the weekday of our visit). There’s also a salad bar where diners can choose from a selection of cold meats, fish or mixed cheese before helping themselves to a mouth-watering range of fresh produce. A specials board offers delights such as fillet of red snapper or homemade wild boar and cider pie. For smaller appetites, some dishes are available as ‘light bites’.

To complement all of this, the varied drinks offering includes the aptly named Bess of Hardwick and Chatsworth Gold cask ales, a good choice of ciders, a tempting wine list and over 200 malt whiskies.

On the lunchtime of our visit, my friend and I were seated in the charming Garden View Restaurant, which overlooks the lovely green space at the rear of the inn. This more formal eating space opens at noon each day and offers an almost identical menu to the bar areas. It is also the site of the popular three meat carvery which is served from Tuesday to Sunday.

Following some helpful guidance from Pauline, I started with the honey roast smoked salmon served with fresh salad and a hunk of bread (£5.50) – a simple but delicious combination. The neat wedge of salmon had been smoked on-site – a sign of the inn’s commitment to fresh food – and the light seasoning of herbs and cracked black pepper ensured the focus was on the tasty meat.

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My dining companion’s choice of baked field mushroom and goats’ cheese (£5.25) was declared equally delicious. Served in a miniature frying pan, the warming dish was topped with a generous serving of sizzling cheese and surrounded by garlic sauce.

No sooner had our plates been cleared than the main courses arrived. My pot roast lamb shank, served in a rich casserole of shallot, onions, red wine and rosemary (£14.95), would have satisfied even the largest appetite. The tender lamb was served on the bone with vegetables, boiled potatoes, watercress garnish and brown bread for mopping up any leftovers.

My friend’s lighter choice was leek Wellington encased in golden flaky pastry, served with a sweet and sticky port and redcurrant jus and roast potatoes (£9.25). Much of the kitchen produce is sourced locally and the dish was a perfect showcase for the inn’s use of fresh ingredients.

We finished with chocolate and hazelnut truffle torte – comprising a dangerously moreish topping with a crunchy biscuit base – and a refreshing strawberry pavlova of meringue and whipped cream, both £4.75.

Dining here is a satisfying experience. Portion sizes are gastronomic and if you’ve worked up an appetite on a walk round Hardwick Park, a visit to this traditional inn would be just the ticket.

Hardwick Inn, Doe Lea, nr Chesterfield S44 5QJ. Tel: 01246 850245 www.hardwickinn.co.uk